Jonah was a prophet. Think old school preacher. One day the Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh (a city that is located 200 miles north of modern day Bagdad, known throughout the world for it’s wickedness), and to preach against it. Jonah feared that if he preached to the city, that the people of the city would repent of their sins and God would show compassion to them. So, instead of being obedient to the Lord, the bible says the “Jonah ran from the Lord” to Tarshish (Spain).
It is easy for us to look at Jonah and express internal grief and disdain for his sin. His sin is very obvious, his disobedience was very willful,and the consequences of his sin were greatly felt (Jonah 1:4-17). If we only look in disdain at Jonah and do not purpose within our hearts to examine our own sin, to look at how at times our lives reflect more of Jonah than Jesus, than we miss the true gift of the Jonah narrative.
Running to Tarshish was Jonah’s outward behavioral sin. It is important to we recognize that when ever there is a behavioral sin, there also tends to be an inwards sin of the heart, some idol that is screaming for attention. Martin Luther said that whenever we break any of the 10 commandments, that we first and always break the 1st commandment (Exodus 20:3). Jonah’s internal sin was that he hated the people of Nineveh. So he though if he could get as far away from Nineveh he would be ok. So he chose to go to Tarshish, the furtherest known place in the world away from where he was called to go.
How are you running from the Lord? What has God given you instructions to do that you are not obeying? What truths and commands in scripture are you not believing? How have you decided to chart your own path apart from the Lord?
As a pastor there tends to be a list of things that I commonly see people running from, the church, a spouse, family, responsibility. Though there are common things that people tend to run from you must also ask the deeper question, Why? Why are you running.
What is comical is that we can never outrun the Lord no matter how hard we try. There is no place we go that he can not get to us. There is no place to far that his arm does not reach. Jonah tried to run and the Lord sent a storm to stop him and a whale to capture him, all with overall purpose to capture his heart and to bring him back to Himself. What storm has Jesus sent your way to bring you back to him.
You can run, but only for a limited time. Either the Lord captures you, or you get just what you want in the end, to be away from God.