Jonah the Runaway
Spirit of God, You are the Truth-teller and the Life-giver. I seek You now to receive Your instruction and guidance.
Read Jonah 1
1 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. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psa. 103:8). We all should be grateful for such an amazing gift.
Why, when the word of the Lord came to Jonah to go and preach against the city of Nineveh, did he get up and flee in the opposite direction?
Perhaps Jonah was afraid. He may have imagined that if he proclaimed God’s word to the Ninevites, he would enrage them and they would attack him, imprison him or worse. On the other hand, it is possible that Jonah simply did not want to go to Nineveh. It was a long way, its people worshiped a foreign god and it was the capital city of Israel’s enemy. Alternatively, Jonah may have had no logical reason for avoiding God’s command. The chapter does not speculate about his reasons. It may be inviting us to consider our own response to God’s call in whatever way it may come to us. Have we developed patterns of avoidance of which we are not fully aware but which keep us from obeying God?
Chapter 4 may provide insight into Jonah’s motivation. After God has spared the city, Jonah says, “That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (4:2). Jonah may have wanted to escape embarrassment. He knew that God would relent and hold back the catastrophe that he was to announce. He would then appear to have been wrong. It is most likely, however, that Jonah simply did not want God to relent. Jonah did not much like the Ninevites. He thought they deserved a fate worse than death and he objected to God’s merciful intentions toward them. Jonah had a problem with a gracious God and did not want to cooperate with him if it meant Nineveh would be saved.
In what ways could you be running away from God at this time? What groups of people do you like the least? In what ways does the book of Jonah make you think again?
Loving Father, You have shown me faithfulness and mercy. I desire to show You my love, now.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.