“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.”
A mate of mine is a Christian biker. He once suggested that I go with him to visit a well-known outlaw bikie club. Call me a coward, but I was not all that keen! Luckily it fell off his radar and he never repeated the offer, or maybe he saw the look of terror in my eyes and decided to have mercy on me. The idea was just to visit and keep a low profile.
Jonah was told to preach against Nineveh, a city renowned for its wickedness. Elsewhere, God spoke to the city of Nineveh through Nahum the prophet:
1 Woe to the city of blood,
full of lies,
full of plunder,
never without victims!
2 The crack of whips,
the clatter of wheels,
and jolting chariots!
3 Charging cavalry,
and glittering spears!
piles of dead,
bodies without number,
people stumbling over the corpses—
4 all because of the wanton lust of a prostitute,
alluring, the mistress of sorceries,
who enslaved nations by her prostitution
and peoples by her witchcraft.
As you can see, God’s offer to Jonah would not have been an attractive one. “Just go and tell those bikers they’re all going to hell, will you?” I can understand Jonah’s reluctance.
The Bible tells us he “ran away from the LORD”. We’re not quite sure where Tarshish was in those days, but probably somewhere in Spain. It’s as though Jonah walked out his front door, looked left towards the city of Nineveh some 1100 kms away, shook his head and went “Nah, not doing that!” and headed right instead.
Did he rationalise his decision to disobey? “I know it looks like God said go to Nineveh but he couldn’t have meant that”. Was he just making a statement by heading in the opposite direction, or did he really think he could physically run away from God? We don’t know, but he would soon realise that you can run but you can’t hide.
King David sang:
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
God of all nations, thank you for the promise that you will never leave me nor forsake me. Amen