Are you like Jonah?
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 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. (Jon. 1:1-3 ESV)
The book of Jonah is one with which most of us are familiar. It recounts God’s commissioning of Jonah to go to Nineveh. This calling is not the first time Jonah has been called by God to deliver a message (see 2 Kings 14:23-28). It is, however, the first time he has been called/commissioned to take the message of God to pagans. He is to go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it for (because) their evil has come up before me (God). Nineveh was a large city (120,000+ people we find out at end of Ch. 4), a great city the text says, and it was evil, and God calls Jonah to go and call out against it.
Jonah, however, had other plans. Rather than listen to God and obey, Jonah decides it is better, it is wiser, to flee to Tarshish in an effort to get away from the presence of the LORD. The text tells us, “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.”
Friends, from these three verses, consider the following points:
- “The word of the LORD” came to Jonah. Should this very fact alone not been sufficient for Jonah to respond in obedience? You say, YES! Absolutely! How about you? Is it sufficient that God tells you to do something? Anything? Think about it this way. Suppose you have been ministering in your local church and serving the body of Christ faithfully and God comes to you and says “Arise, go to ____________ (fill in your large evil city of choice), that great city and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” What is your initial response? Better yet. God says go to the relative you have not spoken to in years due to some family battle and call out against them for their evil has come up before me. What is your response? What about the co-worker you might even say you hate? Neighbor? Spouse? Would it be sufficient for God to say to you arise and go?
- In his commentary on Jonah, John Calvin states, “Whenever then God demands any service from us, and we at the same time see that what the discharge of our duty demands is either difficult or apparently impossible, let this come to our minds, that there is not anything in the whole world which ought not to give way to God’s command: we shall then gather courage and confidence, nor will anything be able to call us away from our duty and a right course, though the whole world were fighting against God.”
- Jonah thought he knew better than God, so he goes in the opposite direction of what God told him to do. Go back and read verse 3 again. Notice all the steps Jonah takes:
- rose to flee to Tarshish (opposite direction from Nineveh)
- went down to Joppa
- found a ship going to Tarshish
- paid the fare
- went down into it
- to go with them
- Each step is a step away from what God told him and, at each point, he could have decided differently. Not only did he initially reject the call of God, but he also confirmed himself in it with each step. Do you see the same pattern in your life? Jonah made specific decisions to go further and further away from God’s command. Do you see how this same pattern is present in your sin? God commands and you foolishly think you know better, so you go in the opposite direction and, as you go, you make one “small” decision after another in order to try to escape the presence of God. God says do not lust, but you rise and take a long look at a young lady, then watch a show or movie with sexual content, then you watch a movie with nudity and so the pattern goes. What about sinful anger? You want something and do not get it, so you mumble under your breath. Your desire is denied again, and you respond with sarcastic words. You get “frustrated” (milder form of anger) and then you become angry. You see, friend, like Jonah, each decision is a step away from the presence of God and, at each step, you could have chosen to obey God.
Friend, please consider the story of Jonah and ask yourself “Am I like Jonah?”
By His Grace Alone,