If Jonah was a prophet, then he must have been a very discouraged and disillusioned one. You know how it goes. Serve, serve, pray, pray, but nothing seems to change, except maybe to get worse. You’re misunderstood, misrepresented, laughed at (at best), ignored, shunned, or shut away. Serving the Lord God Almighty was not a particularly easy, stress-free job. It had few perks this side of eternity, and in some cases got you to that eternity faster.
I’m thinking that Jonah was fed up, worn out, emotionally (if not physically) bruised. So this time, when God called, Jonah ran the other way—
“But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish.”
Really Jonah?? Did you really think you could actually get away from the Creator of the Universe?
Not that I can legitimately criticize him though. I mean, c’mon, I have it in me to do the same thing only dress it up in other ways:
- Maybe God is telling me to teach Sunday School but I choose to play on the worship team instead.
- Maybe God is telling me to stay in my current job when I want to just walk away (or run, depending on the day) and write my little posts.
- Maybe God is calling me to restoration in a relationship, to ask forgiveness, or better yet, to forgive without waiting for a response in return, when I’d rather carry a grudge and nurse my well-earned hurt.
As the account progresses, our exhausted hero ends up on board a ship, and his disobedience put others in mortal danger. With a storm threatening to tear the boat apart, the sailors find Jonah fast asleep in the hold. Now, either he is like my husband, who has been known to sleep through a campus fire alarm, or else he really was just that worn out—emotionally, mentally, spiritually, all of which takes a toll on us physically.
Most of us know the rest of the story, which has many other lessons applicable to today. Like how God “arranges” to have creative transport to his repentant servant, like how God gives us other chances to obey, like how God loves sinners and sends us to them. (Personally, I’m thinking Jonah’s assignment was equally for his restoration as well as for Ninevah, but all these are for other writings, ‘cuz I’m almost at my word-limit!)
Suffice it to say: best to do what God calls us to do when He calls us to do it, or we get ourselves—and others—into a (yeah, here it comes) whale of a lot of trouble.
Jonah 1:3 Tyndale House Publishers Inc (2008-06-01). The One Year Bible NLT (One Year Bible: Nlt Book 2) (Kindle Locations 41452-41454). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.