Running from God
by: Rev. David Bast
If Jonah’s commission to take God’s word to Nineveh would have been shocking to his contemporaries in Israel, then what comes next in the story is even more disturbing. Jonah simply disobeys. He doesn’t just hesitate or make excuses as other prophets sometimes did. He does what no prophet in the whole Bible ever did. He runs away.
Jonah went down to Joppa and boarded a ship for Tarshish, an area in southern Spain at the opposite end of his world. Instead of heading toward Nineveh, Jonah traveled as far as he could away from it. It was like a person in America being told to go to Africa and instead flying to Australia.
Why did Jonah try to run away? Did he really think that going to Tarshish would let him escape from the presence of the Lord? (Not if he had ever read the 139th Psalm!) Was Jonah afraid? Did he feel like the mission he had been given was a hopeless one? Was he just lazy? We’ll have to wait until near the end of the story to find the real reason, but for now, let’s just say that Jonah’s problem wasn’t in his backbone. It was in his heart. What he lacked wasn’t courage, but compassion.
The lesson Jonah had to learn was to get his heart in tune with God’s heart and to care as much about lost people as God does. It’s a lesson many of us have trouble with.