Jonah 1:1-4 (NIV) The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. 4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.
Jonah received divine instruction to go the city of Nineveh and preach to its inhabitants about the impending judgment to come upon them because of their rebellion.. Nineveh was a principle city of Assyria the greatest enemy of Israel. Jonah’s divine design is actually reflected in the meaning of his name: “Dove”. God created and designed him to be a messenger of grace. God’s choice of Jonah is also a reflection of divine sovereignty. God could have sent somebody else.
Jonah decided to run away. That’s not what good prophets do! But why did Jonah run away from God? I would like to propose three reasons:
- Theology: Jonah knew, and rightly so, that God is compassionate; therefore He would spare the Assyrians if they repented (See Jonah 4: 2). He had the right theology, but obviously applied it wrongly in this particular situation.
- Nationalism: Jonah was a nationalist. If the Assyrians repented, God would forgive them and they would attack and destroy the nation of Israel. He had previously prophesied that Israel would defeat Assyria, which actually happened in 2 Kings 14:23-27. He perhaps feared that if the Assyrians were saved they would attack and defeat Israel again.
- Personal: Jonah probably feared the loss of face incase his words about God’s judgment did not come to pass.
But core of Jonah’s problem was self-centeredness. Whenever we approach life from our own perspective other than God’s we are bound to being frustrated. There is always a fear that we encounter, whenever we are faced with obeying God’s will. It could be fear of leaving our comfort zones: friends, family, job security, routines; the list is endless.
What is it that is hindering you from obeying God’s will?
- God is Sovereign: Nineveh was a pagan city but under God’s sovereign control. Yahweh is not a territorial or even a national God. He is the God of the whole universe. Our human problem is that we tend to localize God and his activities. But God is gracious and sovereign: He has mercy on whomever he has mercy. We don’t tell God what to do; it is Him who tells us what to do.
- God is Gracious: He provided a fish to swallow Jonah (1;17, 2:1). The fish was not only a “sign”, to Jonah but to the nation of Israel and Nineveh as well. God is a God of second chance. He always provides us ways to reflect on our failures so that we come back to him.
- God Speaks: He sometimes speaks to us in quiet whispers and at other times through storms (1:1-12). Either way he wants us to obey. The storm was a learning aid that God used to teach Jonah about His concern for the people of Nineveh.
How is God trying to get your attention?