The book of Jonah is one of those memorable stories in the Bible since it is short (just 4 chapters), dramatic (a big fish swallowing a man and spitting him out on dry land again!) and ends pretty abruptly (we did not get to see Jonah’s final response to the Lord). Some of us may have read the story of Jonah again and again since we were children.
Nonetheless, no matter how many times we may have read it, the Word of God is alive and each time we come to His Word, we can glean new insights from it.
One thing that stood out for me in my last reading of Jonah is how the writer emphasized Jonah’s defiance and wilfulness in running away from God’s command.
It is interesting that Jonah thought that he could escape from God by travelling away from where God had called him to go. He should have known that God is omnipresent. Yet, through the reading of the passage, we saw how determined Jonah was to go in the opposite direction of where God had wanted him to be.
Jonah 1:3 “But Jonah rose 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, away from the presence of the Lord.” (emphasis mine)
God had called Jonah to preach in Nineveh and call them to repentance. But, Jonah went in the other direction to Tarshish. In one verse alone, Tarshish is mentioned three times, and the act of fleeing and going away was repeated three times as well.
Jonah was not someone who did not know God deeply and disobeyed Him unknowingly. He knew God personally and knew exactly what God wanted him to do, and why.
Jonah 4:2 “…that is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
God had called Jonah to Nineveh so that the people there would repent and turn back to the Lord, resulting in God’s mercy and forgiveness to them. Jonah knew that and did not want the people in Nineveh to be spared from God’s wrath, and so he went the other way.
The irony is that while Jonah was wishing for the people in Nineveh to ‘get their just deserts’, Jonah himself had not received the punishment that he deserved for disobeying God. God showed His mercy on Jonah by rescuing him from the storm and the big fish and also taught him patiently about God’s heart for the lost.
We see that the people in Nineveh, and for Jonah, disobedience can be forgiven and God is waiting for His people to stop running away from Him and turn back to Him.
Are you running away from something you know God is clearly calling you to do?
Maybe it’s time to stop running and start submitting to Him.
You won’t regret it!
Sister Cherlyn Oh