But Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found there a ship going to Tarshish. He paid its fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.Jonah 1:3 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
God had called Jonah to go to Nineveh, the great city. He was to warn them of their wickedness, and impending judgment. The wickedness of the Assyrians was renowned, they were a formidable people. I am almost certain that Jonah considered this service to God a sentence to his own demise.
Jonah instead chose to flee, in the exact opposite direction from Nineveh. As he writes it, to escape from the presence of the Lord.
Great calamity fell upon the boat Jonah booked passage upon. He tried to rest, but the sailors awoke him to help and to seek favor from his God. If they only knew the grace of God, and there was a man present who could tell them of it.
Jonah admitted his heritage to the sailors, and the real reason he was in their company. He implored them to throw him overboard… After their situation became direr they eventually did.
Before they did, they pleaded for grace from Jonah’s God.
Then they cried to the Lord and said, “Please, Lord, do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not make us guilty for innocent blood, for You, Lord, have done as it pleased You.”Jonah 1:14 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Jonah was tossed into the sea. The sailors sought reconciliation to God. The waves calmed for the sailors. And the ship continued to Tarshish without Jonah.
In the meanwhile, Jonah was swallowed by a fish sent by God.
In Jonah’s mind… Going to Nineveh would be a fatal danger for him. Who could really escape the presence of God?
The fatalism we encounter is stark. It weaves its way through the entire book. That is probably why he resigned himself to the watery grave. He was better off dead. (He attests to this later.)
Jonah is often called the reluctant prophet. In my opinion, he ought to be called the fatalistic prophet. Still, Jonah knew of the grace of God and sought it.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered the Lord;
and my prayer came to You,
into Your holy temple.
“Those who follow vain idolsJonah 2:7–9— Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
forsake their true loyalty.
But I will sacrifice to You
with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord!”
Jonah learned a valuable lesson. One that is for us. We can trust God, even when He calls us to do something daunting. Something that makes us so fearful we run the other way, and may even reckon ourselves as good as dead if we follow God.
What’s wrong with that?
Perhaps… a lot if done the wrong way.
Jonah instructs us that we ought not to live for ourselves, but for God. Seeking to relieve himself of selfishly perceived calamity, he brought himself right into it! He didn’t believe God. I mean, he didn’t trust God. Believe, put your faith to action and trust God. Trust that He has a plan.
Reckoning our lives as not our own is the very essence of Christianity. We have a reasonable service to worship… Doing what God asks us to do. We are not our own.
I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship.Romans 12:1 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Jonah learned the hard way. If God has a call on us, He means it. Jonah’s exploits are recorded for us.–they’re a quick read. Jonah couldn’t check out of this life without God’s permission. He was preserved by God explicitly for that mission of service assigned to him by God.
Instead… Jonah ran. He even tried to end his life on his own terms. God still had a purpose for him and sent a fish to intervene.
What are you afraid of that keeps you from serving God… Fear of dying?
Come on! Stop it. Stop thinking of yourself. Set your mind on serving God and others, it’s reasonable service.