Jonah’s four chapters have practical lessons for us in our service for the Lord. It’s easy to be critical of Jonah for what he did. He’s always been known as the prophet of God who decided to run. It’s a negative experience but it teaches us something. There’s a choice before us: face or flee. Don’t be like Jonah. Don’t flee. Face it.
Jonah 1:1 Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
I’m not sure how long Jonah had been a prophet. In contrast, other prophets were called to go to the people of Israel. Jonah was a Hebrew and he feared the Lord God of Israel. I’m sure he naturally thought that God would call on him to preach to Israel. When God spoke and said Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me, I’m sure it was a huge task for him to hear.
We believe God is in charge. The future’s not ours to see and it’s not up to us. It is God’s plan. Many people fool themselves. A man told me once he went over to Cherokee and spent $500 gambling and was praising the Lord that he won $50. He actually thought this was God’s plan. He was fooling himself. When our plan doesn’t agree with God’s Word, it is not God’s will. The Bible teaches us this. We are called upon every day to do God’s plan. It might not always be the easiest thing. It may take us into unexpected territory.
God wanted Jonah to go to unexpected territory and not only go but to preach against it. Nineveh was the capital city of Babylon. It was wicked King Nebuchadnezzar’s territory. The city was wicked and perverted. What if the Lord told you to go to the worst section of Chicago and preach to the people? It would be hard, wouldn’t it. Babylon is modern-day Iraq. Nineveh is still an active city. There is so much tension there. You get a sense of Jonah’s apprehension. See how quick we are to jump on him. God hasn’t called us to go over there, but he has called on us every day to face the enemies. What would have happened if David had turned tail and ran from Goliath? Was he afraid? David had a fear, but it was of God and it was coupled with trust in his God. He didn’t give it but went to fight the giant in the name of the Lord.
Jonah decided to run and go the opposite way. He was called to go east but went to the coast of Joppa to get a ship and head to a city in Spain, a long way from Nineveh. To Jonah, running from Nineveh was running from the presence of the Lord. God is in our challenges; he’s in our battles. Tomorrow we may be bombarded with something bad and think “what am I going to do?” We can’t run from it. Where would we go? In facing the bad times we must remember that God is there. Going to Nineveh wasn’t Jonah’s favorite thing to do but it was what God wanted. Jonah should have known that God would be there. Instead he ended up causing digestive issues for a whale. When he was vomited up and his feet hit the ground, he ran to Niveveh and simply did what God wanted him to do. When we face our challenges, remember it is God who gives victory. What happened in Nineveh? Jonah preached. God convicted them and the people repented and asked God to spare them and their city. So God spared them.
Let’s face it! Let our only fear be in God. He’s already got it figured out. When Jonah left Nineveh it was a saved city. Let’s stand up for Jesus. Face life. God will give us grace to stand. Let our only fear be in God and our trust in him. Jonah learned a hard lesson. When we run, life can only get worse. If I ran off to California to get away from what has happened with Nita, it wouldn’t change a thing. Things aren’t half as bad when we face them and flee to the Lord. Run to him so we can run for him!