If a true believer, a child of God, rebels and rejects God’s call to service, he can still be used of God if he repents. We have a beautiful example of this in the case of Jonah. In Jonah 1:2 we read, “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.’” Here we see “God’s call to Jonah to service.” How did Jonah respond? Verse 3 gives us the answer: “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish.” Jonah surely “rebelled and rejected God’s call” by fleeing from His presence and GOING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION from Nineveh!

God, in love for His servant Jonah, did what He often does when His child rebels against Him; He chastened Jonah. God loves His children too much to let them “go their own way” so in His love He will punish them in order to stop them dead in their tracks and restore them back into fellowship with Himself and into active service for His glory. We are told in Hebrews 12:3, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’” Jonah 1:4-15 tells us the well-known story of how Jonah’s presence in the ship led to a vicious storm threatening the lives of everyone aboard and they were forced to “throw Jonah into the sea.”  In verse 17 we read, “Now the LORD prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” This led to Jonah repenting of his rebellion and rejection of God’s call which is beautifully expressed in Jonah’s prayer (while in the belly of the fish) in 2:1-9, “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, and He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice. FOR YOU CAST ME INTO THE DEEP, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me. Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; YET YOU HAVE BROUGHT UP MY LIFE FROM THE PIT, O LORD, my God. When my soul fainted within me, I REMEMBERED THE LORD; AND MY PRAYER WENT UP TO YOU, into Your holy temple. Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. SALVATION IS OF THE LORD.”

This “prayer of repentance” was real. Jonah truly acknowledged his sin (which is what repentance involves) and it is remarkable that he doesn’t even ask for deliverance, yet he expects it because “salvation is of the LORD.” One has said that his prayer “consists of thanksgiving (verses 2-6), contrition (verses 7-8) and rededication (verse 9)” and that it is “really a psalm of praise.” Again, repentance will be manifested by a prayer like this where one is humbled before God, acknowledges his sin, and trusts in God’s mercy to deliver him. I would encourage you to read a similar “prayer of repentance” in Psalm 51 where King David poured out his heart to God after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba.

How did God respond to Jonah’s prayer? Verse 10 says, “So, the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Here we see the Lord’s “DELIVERANCE from chastening.” And then we read in 3:1-2, “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah THE SECOND TIME, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.’” Here we see the Lord’s “DESIRE to give Jonah another chance to serve Him.” And then in verse 3 we read, “So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.” Here we see Jonah’s “DESIRE to serve the Lord by immediately obeying His call.”  (DO)  (531.5)