I am leading a Sunday School class this quarter on the Book of Jonah and we are using a study guide by Dr. David Jeremiah called “The Runaway Prophet”. Now we all know the story of Jonah and the great fish, but for many Christians that’s really all they know about the book, and in some cases it’s viewed with some skepticism by both believers and non-believers. Today I thought I would share some thoughts with you on what we have discussed so far in class.
In Jonah 1:1-3 it reads, The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." 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.
Ninevah was a huge city, very populated and very well fortified. It had caused great harm to the people and nations around it, and they built their wealth by destroying and plundering others. God called His prophet Jonah to do a specific thing; go to Ninevah and preach against it. It was a direct and simple word from God and it should have been a relatively short trip for him, but Jonah didn’t like God’s idea and disobeyed.
Jonah’s actions are a warning for all of us. It doesn’t make any difference what our circumstances are, if we have a clear word from God about a subject we need to follow it. Jonah thought differently. He decided to go the exact opposite direction that God called him to go. He ran toward Tarshish as fast and as far as he could from God. Jonah thought he could outrun God. Maybe he was thinking God would go away if he hid and didn't acknowledge Him. Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t like what God was telling you, so you ignored him hoping that you wouldn’t have to do it?
Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah because he didn’t like them. He didn’t want to show any compassion to the Ninevites. He thought they should be destroyed. He didn’t see any good in them and he didn’t understand why God would want to save them.
That leads me to some thoughts for all of us. Who or what is our Ninevah? Who do we have in our life that has caused us some pain or distress and we don’t care what happens to them now? Maybe it is someone that we don’t like the way they live their life. See God loved the Ninevites so much, that He was willing to give them an opportunity to change their ways in spite of their evil and sinful nature. Are we willing to show that same compassion to those people in our lives who have harmed us or are living in way that we disagree with?
What about Jonah’s act of disobedience. Have you ever pulled a Jonah 1:3? Have you ever questioned why God would want you to do a certain thing? Maybe it’s helping out in some capacity at your church? Perhaps it is reaching out to an enemy, or a less fortunate person, or sharing your faith with your family or friends. Whatever it is, God has you right where you are for a reason and although it may not be clear to you, it will do you no good to run to your Tarshish! We need to seek God’s wisdom and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. We need to start looking for the blessing that God wants to richly bless us with. When we disobey God, He will pursue us just as He did with Jonah. He will correct us to get us back on the right path.
This week I challenge all of us to acknowledge what our own personal Ninevah is and run to it instead of away from it. We need to reach out to those that have hurt us and show them the same compassion that God has shown us. If your being called to do something for the Kingdom don't get on a boat, get on with serving our King. It won’t be easy, but when God calls us to do something for His Kingdom, we need to do it with the understanding that He loves us and we were made to serve Him.