There is comfort here for us as we consider the experience of Jonah. God was prepared to take whatever steps were required in order for his wayward servant to be restored. This is true for us as well. If we are beginning to backslide today, God is not ignoring it. Instead he will be already working through providence to bring us to restoration. God’s commitment to his people is not changed by their failures.
Yet there is also cause for concern as well because Jonah did not know what degree or form of divine chastisement it would take for him to be restored. In his case, it would involve being cast into the sea and spending time in the belly of a great fish.
Further, the backsliding of believers will bring consternation into the lives of other people. In Jonah’s case, his rebellion brought trouble for the sailors. Surely the possibility of others being affected adversely in providence because of our sins should keep us from backsliding.
Yet we should note that God’s response to Jonah’s backsliding led to the conversion of the sailors. They discovered through contact with Jonah that his God was the creator of the land and sea, that he was the controller of the elements, that he was in charge of their casting of lots. As they saw the severity of the way the Lord dealt with his erring servant, they ‘feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows’. God was working at different levels simultaneously. His path of restoration for his servant was also the crossroads in the lives of the sailors because they came in contact with the true God.