Scripture Reading: Jonah 1:1-4:11 / Romans 2:1-16 / Psalm 85:1-7
Have you ever run away from home? As a child you may have gotten as far as the end of your street only to turn around and go back home. Even in returning, running away was a great accomplishment because you at least made it to the end of the street! Sadly, there are some teens, young adults, spouses and even parents who “run away” from families and relationships.
Why do people run away? Sometimes they do so because they live in dangerous or life threatening circumstances/relationships. Others run away from responsibility while many run away because of rebellion. Jonah ran away from God because he didn’t agree with God’s call for him to preach judgment upon Nineveh….”Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because its wickedness has come up to me.” (Jonah 1:1)
You would think Jonah would have jumped on the first ship going to Nineveh to deliver the doomsday message. Nineveh was the enemy of Israel and their destruction would be advantageous to Israel. Instead, Jonah ran away from the Lord and boarded a ship to Tarshish, the opposite direction of Nineveh. It says, “After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. (1:3)
This trip cost Jonah more than just the fare…it broke the bank of Jonah’s pride and will. After thrown overboard, God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah and rescue his life. It was during that three-day and night stay in the belly of the great fish, Jonah prayed for forgiveness and deliverance. God answered Jonah’s prayer and the fish vomited him on land, God called him again to preach to Nineveh…this time Jonah went and delivered the judgmental message.
Led by their king, the entire city of Nineveh humbled themselves, repented and asked God for mercy. God responded by forgiving and withholding His judgment on Nineveh. Jonah’s response, ”This is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (4:2)
It is easy to criticize Jonah’s heart and attitude…he was controlled by hatred, anger, selfishness and pride. Jonah’s response often gets a lot of attention yet God’s response should speak volumes to us. God was gracious, compassionate, loving and desired to have Nineveh turn to Him in repentance. God did not want to destroy Nineveh but save them! We have the same assurance today, God desires to save and give hope to all men. The choice is ours, we can respond like Jonah or Nineveh… Jonah ran away from God and Nineveh ran towards God. Thankfully for both of them and us…God never runs away!