“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.” (Jonah 1:1-3).
Who was this guy, Jonah? Why did he try to run from God? What happened to him when he tried to run from God?
Jonah was a real prophet. Jesus called him a prophet (Matthew 12:39). A prophet is one who speaks for God. He delivers God’s message to people. Foretelling the future is only secondary to the mission of prophets.
Why did he say, “No” To God?
God called Jonah and told him to go to the city of Nineveh and warn the people of that wicked city that if they did not repent within 40 days the city would be destroyed. Jonah didn’t want to go. He hated the Ninevites. Instead of obeying God, he ran from Him. He ran in the other direction, intending to go to the farthest end of the Mediterranean Sea – to Tarshish – which is better known to us as Spain.
Jonah didn’t want Nineveh to be spared from destruction. This capital of Assyria was a rising threat to all the smaller nations around them – a storm cloud looming on the horizon. Today Jonah would be considered a patriot! He didn’t want to do anything that would give them any comfort or help. If Israel were going to war, he would have been the most hawkish advisor in the president’s cabinet. Jonah knew the nature of God. He was angry with God and didn’t mind telling Him about it. Jonah said…
“I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:2-4).
Can you imagine being angry at God because He is good? Lots of people become “angry” with God because the wrongfully credit Him with some loss or for not giving them what they asked for in prayer. But angry because God is gracious and merciful? It is as though Jonah thought he was more just than God. If God really wanted to be fair He would just destroy Nineveh without warning! But God doesn’t operate like that. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).
God was too soft for Jonah! He would rather die than to admit that he was wrong and that God “who relents from doing harm” is good. He was not in the least “grace oriented” and didn’t appreciate that quality in God! He would rather die than to admit that he was wrong and that God “who relents from doing harm” is good.
What Can We Expect When We Say “No” To God?
We can expect a storm.
“But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.” (Jonah 1:4).
It may not be a storm at sea nor even on dry land, but things are naturally going to be tough without God to lead and guide, to comfort and correct.
Expect to put others in danger.
“Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” (Jonah 1:10).
Achan put Israel in danger when he stole some things from Jericho when God had told the people not to take anything. The case of David’s sin with Bathsheba is another example.
“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” (2 Samuel 12:10).
We can expect a great fish!
Should we try to run from God we can expect, like Jonah, a great fish. No, not literally, of course. The fish was God’s disciplinary method in Jonah’s case. It may be something else in our case, but we can expect chastening from the Lord if we are disobedient to His will.
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:5-6).
He will employ whatever corrective measure (chastening) He deems necessary to bring us into compliance with His will. And remember – the reason the Lord disciplines us is because we are His children! He corrects us because He loves us!
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6).
When the Lord is done with chastening us we can expect the same assignment. Jonah didn’t get out of anything. He had only made things hard for himself. But when the fish deposited him on the seashore it has been said that Jonah “hit the ground a-runnin’.”
“Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.” (Jonah 3:1-3).
“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29)
There is only one way to keep from doing the will of God for your life… Just stay in rebellion. Every day and in every way you refuse to do the will of God you are in rebellion to Him. Stop running away from God! Run to Him instead!