I thoroughly enjoy the story of Jonah. It’s not just about the extraordinary fish or the image of the prophet staggering onto the beach, his skin potentially bleached white by digestive acids, and proclaiming his astonishing prophecy that, in a way, never transpired: “Yet 40 days!”
It’s a significant encouragement for prophetic ministry in our day. Perhaps the message of Jonah is radical for today, especially given the rage of the nations, the wars, rumours of wars, and all the other apocalyptic rumblings that leave us second-guessing our place and role in history.
You’ll see where I’m going with this shortly, but in the story of Jonah, we do not see a God of mere chances, but rather a God abundant in grace. This account is a vivid drama of human disobedience, divine mercy, and profound transformation.
From Jonah’s initial defiance against God’s directive, through an unparalleled experience within a great fish, to his eventual journey to Nineveh, a city beyond the customary reach of Israel, a critical, profound, and stirring message emerges: God’s merciful reach knows no bounds, whether geographical, cultural, or related to stubborn human will. God is not like us, and we are not like God. In this narrative, a prophet waits for a people to be destroyed, while God waits for them to be spared.
Jonah’s encounter urges us to rise above our cultural biases, moral superiority, and apparent privilege, underlining the universality of God’s redeeming love. This love, like a giant, heavy blanket thrown over all who gather before Him, summons everyone to repentance, bestowing reconciliation through grace, not just offering second chances. The story resonates deeply with us if we dare to see ourselves in it—it’s a tale of unending grace, even amidst adversity, revealing the depths of God’s kindness.
Growing in intimacy
Today’s prophets must embrace an encounter of intimacy with God that goes beyond mere knowledge of the Lord, delving into a profound understanding of His justice, mercy, and immense, incomprehensible, immeasurable compassion. This grace and compassion isn’t merely a truth desperately in need of an audience in our war-torn, troublesome, postmodern, innocence-poisoned era; it’s an eternal truth, transcending our individual ‘realities’ that are but myths of the imagination.
A key can lie for ever in the place where the locksmith left it, and never be used to open the lock the master forged it for.—Ludwig Wittgenstein
It also vibrates at the very core of our contemporary journey of faith and obedience. God is speaking, calling and reaching out to His Church. Angels will find it an awesome thing to witness. This cherished, divine echo, a second whisper, is not merely a repetition; it’s an amplification, a further revelation—an invitation to understand the heart of God more deeply and, perhaps, to reconcile with a purpose we have either misunderstood or openly resisted.
God speaks, a second time
Jonah, the prophet who’s more renowned for his sojourn in the belly of a great fish, presents a narrative far more complex and comforting than often preached from the pulpits. The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time (Jonah 3:1), not after a period of success, but following moments of intense resistance, despair, and what can be described as a profound existential confrontation within the confines of a maritime creature. It was a literal and metaphorical darkness. Yet, the Word came again, a second time.
It’s not a solitary incident within the expansive narrative of God found in our Bibles. Elijah, exhausted and discouraged, hid himself away in the cave at Horeb; he had been zealous for the Lord, yet felt utterly isolated and defeated (1 Kings 19:9-18).
The cave man
It was in the cave, in the aftermath of a violent wind, an earthquake, and fire, that the voice of the Lord came anew in a low whisper, a gentle sound. At the mouth of the cave, Elijah heard God again, not in the grandiose, but in the intense quietness of the wilderness—an imperative message for today’s prophets who may feel their sensitivity to God’s whisper has been drowned out by the 70db cacophony of television and media, life, or the discouraging silence of their own spiritual deserts, created at times by their own choices.
Personally, I’m anxious about what I see and hear in some church quarters, perhaps selfishly, because it also affects me. Today, many mature believers, rich in experience, wisdom, and genuine calling, feel sidelined due to the twilight of their years. In a culture that often elevates youth, innovation, and newness, the church has, at times, neglected the very vessels seasoned by trials, time, and testimony.
Yes, we have to pass the baton on, but scripture features many individuals who are long in the tooth, growing older every day, just as we all are. Some of our key assets in the kingdom are those who have enough time ahead of them to plant churches, lead evangelistic teams, and preach powerful sermons with fiery conviction.
Rising to our challenge
The God who speaks again with renewed calls isn’t seeking the vigour of youth but the faithfulness of heart—a heart poised to receive and ready to act, whether in the vibrancy of youth or the reflection of older years. It would be prudent for us to consider that the answer to some of the needs we have in the church today for leaders (and let’s acknowledge our need for vibrant, Christ-exalting, Spirit-led visionary leadership) is found in and among those to whom the Word of God has come a second time.
I was distracted there; the issue at hand is prophetic ministry, recovering, being reinvigorated to hear God’s voice that graciously comes again and again. However, it seems to me the issues can merge. God has a great purpose for all of us, and it is fitting that we encourage each other to do everything as unto the Lord, and that may mean giving opportunities where we can. Character issues are another matter, and that is where godly leaders come in.
Returning to prophecy, away from Jonah and Elijah, consider the apostle Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians: “So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy…” (1 Corinthians 14:39). This eagerness is not the pursuit of novelty, but an earnest search for the deep things of God; a heart yearning to edify, encourage, and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3). In a generation where ‘my own truth’ voices abound, and where the prophetic can be misconstrued as mere prediction or personal elevation, the second call – much like that for Jonah and Elijah – often leads directly to the heart of God’s compassion, justice, and remarkable redemptive plan.
Be encouraged – God is not silent
God’s providence, His extraordinary capacity to bestow favour in famine, light in the deepest darkness, and a way in the wilderness, is as true today as it was in the days of the scriptures. Let your heart be taken hostage by the assertion of Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
There will be obstacles, both human and demonic, but God will laugh at them both and prevail. God will speak a second time. Wake up, cheer up, chin up. Things may seem difficult, but the ‘omnis’ of God are insurmountable – omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. These set God in a place of indomitable power and Lordship. He has the knowledge, power, and presence to do all he wants to, and nothing, no one can withstand Him. Not even…
Our vision can be myopic, and our understanding may seem limited, but the challenge is seen in football legend Lionel Messi, who might appear to wander aimlessly with his gaze downcast, yet he has an inherent awareness of the play around him. When the ball finds him, there’s purpose and precision. He knows where he is, where others are, and a goal is imminent. In our walks, the ball is God’s will, His word — it may come once, it may come again, but it always requires our response, our movement in faith.
In moments of divine silence, when God seems to be saying nothing, we’re offered an intimate space for reflection, an Elijah-esque cave experience where the absence of noise reveals the profound presence of God. Sometimes, it’s not about what God is saying, but what He’s doing within us, the character He’s forging, the trust He’s cultivating, as we navigate the football pitch of life with our hearts attuned to His slightest whisper.
God speaks a second time. Not in noise, hype and flashing lights, but He does speak. Prophets know not just how to listen, but how to hear.
To the discouraged prophets, the sidelined servants, the questioning hearts: the Word that comes a second time is no less powerful, no less drenched in love, than it was the first. It’s an invitation to see afresh, to listen anew, to respond with the wisdom that has been forged in the fires of past trials and the assurance that His purposes prevail, even when our plans falter. Set your gaze upon Him, with a periphery vision that’s attuned to His presence and providence.
And if you are a prophet, you’ll know what I mean.