The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord…
My sophomore year of college the Lord was challenging me to take a summer intern position with a youth pastor in Orlando, FL… I stayed in West Palm Beach and worked at a summer camp cleaning toilets. It’s amazing how low you’ll go in order to avoid something the Lord is calling you to do.
The Old Testament book of Jonah narrates a similar story. Jonah, the Lord’s prophet, was commanded by God to go to Nineveh (east) and “cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me” (1:2). As we see in verse three, however, “Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish (west) from the presence of the Lord…” Jonah had many reasons to resist going to Nineveh. It was the most important city in the Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s greatest enemies. Furthermore, they were known for their godless and violent ways. Even greater than his fear though, Jonah 4:2 reveals to us that the prophet’s heart was what caused him to run in the opposite direction. Jonah knew that the Lord was, “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” Jonah didn’t want to see the people of Nineveh come to repentance so he got on a boat heading in the opposite direction. As a result, his ship was consumed by mighty winds sent from the Lord. They tossed the ship until the sailors finally cast Jonah overboard and he was swallowed by a giant fish.
For three days Jonah sat alone in the belly of the fish to think about his decision. On the third day, the Lord had mercy on him and the fish vomited Jonah up on the shore. By this point in time he has decided that it might not be such a bad idea to go to Nineveh.
I wonder where you are in Jonah’s story right now? Are you resisting a word from the Lord? Has He asked you to do something that goes against the natural tendencies of your heart? Maybe you’re on the ship, being tossed around by the waves. Jonah missed this “wake up call” from the Lord and continued on in his rebellion? Will you as well? If you’re still in the midst of a storm, I encourage you to get off the ship as soon as possible. What if you’ve already passed this point? Maybe you find yourself, like Jonah, sitting alone in the “belly of a fish.” Jonah was so adamant in his rebellion that the Lord left him in silence for three days to think about his decision. How long will you sit, cut off from the Holy Spirit’s work in your life. Will you allow yourself to be rendered useless to the will of God for any longer? It’s a miserable existence and the enemy of your soul takes delight in your desolation. How long will you wait?
Regardless of your present situation, the dry land is as close as obeying God’s will. If you’re on the ship, repent, if you in the belly of the fish, cry out to God and find that He is faithful to those who desire to follow after Him.