Sunday, 28 September 2014

The God of Second Chances

The weekend has been perfect for some gentle surfing. The sea is seasonably warm, the sunshine unseasonably strong and constant and the waves clean and gentle: just enough for a little run in towards the beach on a longboard or bodyboard.

It has felt good: the sun on my face, the salt water silky on my skin, turquoise depths rolling gently around my body.

I catch the first wave, leaping up as it approaches just in time. The wave rushes me into shore as I shift my balance to make the most of the water's energy.

The wave spits me onto the sand. Like Jonah, I tumble breathless onto the shore, scrambling to my feet. Like Jonah, I head back again to ride the waves a second time. He heads off to Nineveh, carrying God's message, obedient at last. I head back towards the waves, missing the first good one as I am too far in to shore; then there is another: I still miss it. And another, which I catch.

There is always another wave. There is always another chance. Just like God's grace: always, always another chance when we turn back, head out to sea again, looking for opportunities to be obedient. I think of all those in the Bible who had a second chance, who God did not write off: Moses, murderer, coward; David, adulterer; Peter, deserter...

The wave carries me in again. It is like God's love carrying me: the wave urges me forwards, bringing me to the safety of the sand beneath my feet in shallow water. The tide, just off its peak height, is surging out, but I am safe. It will not sweep me out to sea. Our tides here are vast, the range reaching ten metres on the full moon, among the largest in the world.

The sweep of life is vast: joy and sorrow, gain and loss, life and death...God's grace carries us through. We are not overwhelmed.

I go back out, again and again. I  catch a wave, again and again. Sometimes I miss the chance; sometimes what looks promising, is not; sometimes what looks unpromising, is, carrying me further and faster than I anticipate.

I have more than a second chance. I have many. I just need to keep my eyes open, my heart ready and my ears listening for the roar of the surf.

Postscript: I shared this, and then some more - see below:

Second chances

I've been thinking of second chances recently. Jonah: given a second chance to obey God.  Jacob: reconciled with Esau, after tricking Esau out of his inheritance (Genesis 32 - 34). Jacob sent Esau gifts before their meetings, afraid Esau would destroy his family, but was given a second chance at a relationship. Moses: a murderer and an exile whose countrymen turned against him, given a chance as leader. Samson - got revenge on the Philistines, given another chance to defeat the enemies of Israel. Naomi - given another chance, through Ruth, to be a grandmother. Peter - given another chance to be restored in his relationship with Jesus.

Given another chance. Over and over again.
Notice what happened in these lives before God gave them their second chance:

Jonah “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
and he answered me.
called to you from the land of the dead,
and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.

“I sank beneath the waves,
and the waters closed over me.
Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
I was imprisoned in the earth,
whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
I remembered the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you

in your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods
turn their backs on all God’s mercies.
But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise,
and I will fulfill all my vows.
For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”

Then God saved Jonah from PHYSICAL death when he 'ordered the fish to spit Jonah up onto dry land.'

Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”  (Jonah 3:1 - 2)

And Jonah did. God gave him a second chance.

Moses, too. In more than one way. A murderer, he had fled from Egypt, fearing for his life, but God took him back there again. The fugitive had become a leader who would confront the very man who had power over life and death.  Not only that, even when carrying the stone tablets, "the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets", he lost his temper so badly that he threw the work of God on the ground. The tablets broke. Nevertheless, after the Israelites suffered various punishments and consequences, God gave Moses and the people a second chance. God gave the rules all over again.  "...he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." Then Moses, at God's direction, wrote down God's commandments. (Genesis 34:1, 28)

God gave Moses - and the people - a second chance. He gives us second chances, too.

These people experienced: all hope gone - desolation; desperation; restoration.

So what do we do, when we regret something we have done, or something we should have done, but didn't?

It's never too late. We have a God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, loving, forgiving...

We can, like Jonah:
Remember that we have a loving and gracious God and cry out to him, as needily and humbly as small children.
Ask God, like Jacob did, to save us from the consequences of our actions, doing our best to put things right.
Be obedient, as Moses was, listening to God and doing what God tells us to, not knowing where this will take us.

With God, it's never too late. God says in the book of Joel: "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm —
my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;

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