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.
Lesson 1 – Rebellion.
As the story of Jonah opens we see the prophet being called by the LORD to get up and go to Nineveh. Well, Jonah got up, and he went – to Tarshish. We learn from the scripture that this was no misunderstanding on Jonah’s part, it was an outright, deliberate act of rebellion.
Let’s open our study of “Lessons From Jonah” by looking at three aspects of Jonah’s rebellion:
- Jonah refused God. God said “go” (v.1) and Jonah said “no” (v2). Before we judge Jonah too harshly, we may want to step back and look at our own lives. How many of us (all?) have heard God calling us to serve and said “no”? Oh, we have our reasons; other commitments, too busy, unqualified, unprepared. The truth is, we’re no different than Jonah. The reality is, we just didn’t want to.
- Jonah resisted God. (v.3a) It would be funny, as they say, if it wasn’t so sad. We have this picture of a prophet, handpicked by God to deliver the salvation message to a city on the brink of total destruction; and he’s thinking he can escape the LORD. How ridiculous is that? Did Jonah not think God could show up in Tarshish? God had a plan for Nineveh but Jonah didn’t like God’s plan. (We have to at least give Jonah points here for his faith. Jonah knew that God was going to bring salvation to the Ninevites and he didn’t want them saved.) The hate for these ungodly pagan Ninevites which had carried across the generations, fueled anger and resentment in Jonah’s heart. All these years the Ninevites had shown nothing but disdain for God and now that same God wanted to save them – and he wanted Jonah to be the messenger. And so we must ask ourselves, to whom has God called us to take the gospel message? It’s easy to want to see salvation come to our loved ones, I dare say we pray daily for God to deliver them. But what about our enemies? How open are our hearts, no, how broken are our hearts, for those who hate the God we love?
- Jonah reviled God. (v. 3b) Harsh word, reviled. It means reproach, contempt. None of us want to believe that we hold any contempt for God, but if we rebel against Him, that’s exactly what we’re doing. God told Jonah to go one way, but he went the other way. Jonah displayed outright contempt for what God wanted him to do. Jonah must have somehow felt he knew better than God. He reviled God’s will in favor of his own desires. I can almost hear him now, arguing with God. “LORD, I hear what you’re saying but do you really know what you’re doing? These people don’t deserve Your mercy. LORD, I want to serve you, but I would really be more useful somewhere else. Besides, I don’t even like these people so how can I be an effective voice?” Sound familiar? Isaiah was another prophet of God. We read in Isaiah 6 that when God needed a preacher, rather than running, Isaiah volunteered.
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
Much different from Jonah wouldn’t your say? Where is God calling you to serve? How will you answer Him? Will you, like Jonah, argue and try to run away, or will you be an Isaiah and step forward boldly saying “here I am LORD, send me”?
God has given each one of us a gift for ministry – a talent that He intends for us to invest in His eternal kingdom. If you sense God calling you to a ministry of loving the unlovable, you don’t need to be afraid of where He wants to take you. God will always go before you, preparing the way. He requires only one thing from you, your obedience.
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)