“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2)
Now, we have to put this word from God to Jonah in perspective, particularly JONAH’S perspective.
Weren’t the problems in the northern kingdom, where God’s chosen people lived, more important than those of a pagan city?
Of what use is a country boy from Amittai in a pagan city like Nineveh? Doesn’t God know that birds of a feather flock together?
And the message … am I really the guy to “go negative”? Seems like I’m more of the “prosperity gospel” kind of guy based on my last experience, God.
None of it made sense.
How do you typically respond when you are asked to do something that doesn’t make sense? I typically do something that DOES make sense to me, and I think that’s exactly what Jonah did.
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 1:3)
The question is, “Why?” Deep down, why did Jonah flee?
I don’t think he was scared of traveling to a foreign country. Tarshish was a lot farther away than Nineveh.
I don’t think he was embarrassed about the act of preaching in general. It was, after all, his profession.
I don’t think he was afraid that what he preached might not come to pass. He knew firsthand that God was merciful and that his message of judgment might lead to acts of mercy by God.
In fact, maybe that was it. Maybe Jonah fled because He didn’t want God to be merciful toward the people of Nineveh.
What if he preached his message (3:4 — Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!) and they believed him? What if their consciences were pricked by the spirit of God and they, quite unlike the Israelites in Jonah’s day, repented and become people of God’s favor?
Yes, that was it. Jonah fled, and he fled because he only wanted a certain kind of person to know God’s mercy … God’s compassion … God’s love.
Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.