I recently played volleyball with the Tuesday Night group at the church. I was serving and had a few decent serves (about the only thing I did well that game!). But I misjudged one serve and it shot up into the ceiling and landed on our own side of the net. To my surprise, the group said the first time you hit the ceiling, it doesn’t count, and you can try again. There’s a certain sense of relief in getting a second chance.
I’m not a golfer, but I understand golfers have a term for it: a mulligan. You get a bad hit, maybe while you are just learning, and by grace you are given a mulligan, a second chance.
Jonah is given a mulligan by God. Chapter two ends with “And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Every kid book I’ve seen about Jonah, and even every sermon I’ve heard, has Jonah vomited up at the outskirts of the banks of Nineveh. This ignores the geography of the region. Nineveh is a landlocked city, with the only water access through a river that leads to the wrong side of the ocean. Unless the sea creature took Jonah on a voyage around Africa and up a relatively small river in three short days, it’s likely that Jonah got vomited out just about where he first began.
“Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you,’” (Jonah 3:1-2). The second half of the book of Jonah begins almost exactly the same as the first half. All of Jonah’s strivings and rebellion, and he ends up right back where he began. And old preacher once said “Your arms are too short to box with God.” Have you been fighting and fighting God’s will, only to find that you keep ending up in the same place, hearing the same command repeated? Will you make today the day you submit to His leading?