On the Run
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because of its wickedness has come up before me. But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. (Jonah 1:1-2)
Jonah was on the run. He was on the run in four different directions. However, these directions were not north, south, east or west. Jonah ran AWAY from God. Jonah ran TO God. Jonah ran WITH God. And Jonah ran AGAINST God.
When God commands Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah protests and runs in the opposite direction AWAY from God to Tarshish.
Jonah learned a lesson after he was swallowed by the great fish. Then he runs TO God.
While Jonah was obeying God he was on one accord WITH God.
After Jonah had done what he was commanded to do, he turned AGAINST God by complaining about the salvation of the Ninevites.
In what direction are you running today? AWAY from God? TO God? WITH God? or AGAINST God?
Going in the Opposite Direction
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. (Jonah 1:1-3a)
Has God called you to do something; yet you are going in the opposite direction? Learn the lesson that Jonah learned when God sent him to Nineveh. Instead of going where he had been commanded to go, Jonah went in the opposite direction while ignoring God's command.
If you are a modern day Jonah, know that God will not ignore what He has called you to do. God will not forget what He has told you to do. God will not sweep what He has told you to do under the rug. God WILL have the last word!
It is definitely wise to do what God tells you to do the first time unless you enjoy being thrown overboard and ending up in the belly of a great fish. Ultimately you will do what God called you to do anyway. So, why not spare yourself from being vomited up on dry land.
Away From the Presence of the Lord
But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3)
Sometimes God commands us to do certain things and for various reasons we go in the opposite direction away from His instructions and away from His presence. Let's learn a great lesson from Jonah who did exactly that.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah saying, "Go at once to Ninevah and cry out against it." Jonah heard God. Jonah understood God. But Jonah went in the opposite direction. Jonah went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
Notice how easy it was for Jonah to go away from the presence of the Lord. (1) A ship just happened to be there at the right time for Jonah. (2) The ship just happened to be going in the opposite direction. (3) The ship just happened to have room on board for Jonah. (4) Jonah just happened to have enough money on him for his fare. See how easy it was for Jonah to go away from the presence of God.
Sometimes it is easier to go away from the presence of God than to do the assignment He has given you. Keep in mind that it might be earlier at the time, but God will not give up on you. Like Jonah, he will cause you to be willing to return to him. Be spared from having to go into the belly of the big fish or something worse. Go at once and do what God has commanded.
Just the Opposite
The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Elijah went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (I Kings 19:11, 13). The word of the Lord came to Jonah, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it." But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish (in the opposite direction). (Jonah 1:1-3)
Have you ever told a child to do something, and the child did just the opposite? Have you intentionally done just the opposite of what you were supposed to do? It is sin when you do just the opposite of what God says.
In the Bible, two prominent cases stand out among those who did just the opposite of what God said. And both cases involved God's own prophets. God told Elijah to go out and stand on top of the mountain. Elijah did just the opposite by standing at the mouth of the cave. Jonah was told to go to Nineveh. He went in the opposite direction to Tarshish.
Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked (Galatians 6:7). You might think you are fooling God, but God knows all. He did not forget what He told you to do. Your doing just the opposite will bring destruction to your own life. Elijah's ministry ended shortly afterward because he did just the opposite of what he was told to do. Jonah ended up in the belly of a great fish before he came to his senses and went to Nineveh as he originally had been instructed.
When we do the opposite, bad things happen and we still have to end up doing what God told us to do. It is so much more rewarding to do what we are supposed to do the first time.
Our Disobedience Affects Others
Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard and the raging sea grew calm. (Jonah 1:15)
When Jonah was commanded by God to go to Nineveh to save God's people, he quickly boarded a ship going in the opposite direction. He and the others on board experienced great hardship because of Jonah's disobedience. Jonah was finally thrown overboard where he was swallowed by a great fish. The sea became calm because the disobedient man was being dealt with. How many people are in danger because of your disobedience?
Leaders who work in the kingdom of God must be extremely careful to be obedient to God because what they do affect others in spiritual and natural ways. Leaders must be good witnesses for God if they are to lead others to the saving power of Jesus Christ.
God wants us to have clean hands and a pure heart as we work in His kingdom. God prefers that we don't end up in the belly of a great fish. However, we stand the chance of being swallowed like Jonah, and those around us might experience calamity if we are not obedient.
Let's learn an important lesson from Jonah. It is better to obey God than to experience God's wrath.
Spiritual Road Blocks
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17)
God supernaturally blocked Jonah's way so that Jonah would repent and obey God's call. Jonah had tried to run in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to go. Jonah did not want to preach the Word of God to a pagan nation. Jonah tried to run from God's call by going to sea; but God caused a storm to rise up, and Jonah was thrown overboard, only to be swallowed by a great fish.
God may not cause you to be swallowed by a great fish if you refuse to obey His commandments, but you may find yourself in a series of adverse situations that have been designed by God to get you back on the path He wants you to follow. Doors may be shut, jobs may end, finances may dry up, and relationships may go sour as part of God's way of getting you to come to your senses. That's what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15:17. God wants to lead us all back to His purpose for our lives. Avoid the supernatural road blocks by obeying God the first time.
God's Way is Best
But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17)
It is to our advantage to follow God's orders. When God gives you a dream, a vision or a direct word, you are not to directly oppose the order and go in the opposite direction as Jonah did. When Jonah ran from the presence of God, his life immediately started going downhill: down to Tarshish, down into the ship, down into the sea, and down into the belly of the great fish. God will still provide grace for us, but God is not obligated to protect us when we remove ourselves from under the umbrella of God's safety. Make sure you are always in God's presence, and when God gives you an order, it is best to follow it instead of going in the opposite direction. Resolve today to rid yourself of the "Jonah" syndrome.
Caring For Things More Than For People
But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this vine. But Nineveh had more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. (Jonah 4:10-11)
Some of us have the same problem Jonah had. What was that? Jonah cared more for things than he cared for people. Let me explain.
God sent Jonah to Nineveh to preach salvation to the Ninevites because they were so wicked. Instead, Jonah went in the opposite direction until he ended up in the belly of a great fish. After Jonah prayed, the fish vomited him up on land and he ran to Nineveh to do what God had told him to do initially. When Jonah told the Ninevites they would be destroyed in forty days, they immediately repented and were spared.
Jonah became angry and went outside the city to see if God was going to destroy Nineveh. But He didn't. Instead, God provided a tall vine to shade Jonah as he waited. Then God provided a worm to eat up the vine. Jonah continued to be angry. Then God asked Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine? (Jonah 4:9) God reminded Jonah that he cared more for the vine than he did for the 120,000 people in Nineveh.
If you have a Jonah syndrome where you care more for things than for people, expect to be rebuked and taught a lesson by God as well.
Not Just Another Fish Story
But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" (Jonah 4:10-11)
The Book of Jonah is more than just another fish story. Almost everyone knows the fish part of the story of Jonah, but there is more. Even some Christians don't focus on the real meaning of the Book of Jonah. Most people tell the story of a disobedient prophet who goes in the opposite direction from where God sends him. He gets thrown overboard and falls into the belly of a big fish (the book never says whale). Jonah prayed, was released and did preach to the pagans at Nineveh. The entire city repented, and Jonah sulked in anger because Nineveh escaped God's punishment. Most people end their story there. Let's continue for the real meaning of the story.
Jonah should have been rejoicing over the salvation of Nineveh; yet he was so angry he had to sit down. To teach Jonah a lesson, God raised up a plant to shade him from the sun, then allowed a worm to eat it. A hot wind from the east added to Jonah's misery, and he whined and he complained about the missing plant. Then God reminded Jonah that He was a God of compassion who had the right to love and forgive the pagan people of Nineveh or any other people who turned to Him in obedience and faith. Jonah had been fretting about a plant, while God was concerned about people. God had a more important matter in mind: the salvation of people.
So, then what is the real meaning of the Book of Jonah? The Book of Jonah is more than just another fish story. It is a beautiful account of God's love, mercy and compassion for ALL people.