The great boxer, Joe Louis, was once told how his opponent, Billy Conn, intended to beat him with quickness, to which the Brown Bomber replied, “He can run, but he can’t hide.” Louis knocked him out. In a much greater way, Jonah found out that you can’t run away from God. That is the lesson in the first chapter of Jonah.
He tried (v.1-3). The Lord commanded his prophet to go preach a message of repentance to the citizens of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, and he boarded a boat to go the opposite direction. Before we shake our heads and judge Jonah’s folly, let us take personal inventory. Some who read this are out of fellowship with God—fleeing from His will in some way or another.
Jonah acted on reason rather than revelation; by fear and not faith. His intended audience was a cruel and evil people. Jonah knew the danger of his assignment. As much as he feared that, an even greater fear was that perhaps his mission would be successful! He wanted the Assyrians to be judged—after all their brutality he thought they deserved it—the filthy pagans! Have we not too often—like Jonah—leaned on our own logic, rather than trust in God’s way? Nineveh needed to be confronted—and so does our culture today.
The disobedient prophet found out that God disciplines His defiant child (v.4). The seeming fair weather circumstances Jonah enjoyed were suddenly interrupted by a storm that God sent to arrest him. The storm was bad, but the sin was worse. Whatever it takes, if you continue to run from God, He will hunt you down—for your own good and His glorious purpose.
If we are in a storm in our life today, we should pause and seek the reason. Sometimes trials come out of the blue sky like a summer thundershower. They may be inexplicable. Faithfulness to God is no assurance of immunity from trouble. Facing such is part of living in a world under the curse. There are other instances where we are reaping what we have sown. Another prophet, Hosea, wrote, “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind” (8:7a).
Not only did the sin of Jonah affect him—bad as that was—but it threatened to sink the sailors on board with him (v.5-17). We may decide that our disobedience is our business—that it is between us and God alone. As dangerous an attitude as that is—it is also wrong. We do not know how far-reaching the results of our sin may be—the lives we will bring down with us.
Jonah is unconcerned. He is asleep! Sin has that kind of deadening effect. The pagan mariners meanwhile are desperately trying to save themselves. There was a man who knew the problem and the solution, but had not told them. This is a picture of the grim reality in our world today. Our world seeks a solution to the problems faced—and it is futility—while the church sleeps on in sinful disobedience to the Great Commission mandate to share the Gospel! Jonah is cast out—which is what Jesus said would happen when the salt of the earth lost it seasoning potency. It is branded, “good for nothing but to be thrown out,” (Matt.5:13b).
God was not through with Jonah. He persistently pursues His erring child. What will it take to bring us into surrender to God’s will?