Jonah 1:1-3 (NKJV)
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
Jonah isn’t just an average believer; he’s a prophet. So, what’s up with him thinking he can flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD? Fleeing to Mars wouldn’t get him away from the LORD.
Jonah is familiar with Genesis and Exodus. He knows that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He knows about Noah and the flood. He knows about the plagues in Egypt. The idea that’s God’s power is regional simply isn’t in his library. What is he thinking?
Nothing. He’s not thinking at all. His actions are totally irrational. His hatred of the Ninevites trumps everything else.
And so begins one of the most illuminating books in the Bible. This book isn’t just about Jonah; it’s about you and me.
As we walk through this wondrous book, try to see yourself in Jonah. Don’t just think about the plot; think about what’s going on in Jonah’s heart (which is full of hate) and his mind (which is pretty much empty at this point).
He’s already gotten the first of many wake up calls.
God is the great teacher. Sometimes we learn the easy way—He explains things and we gain wisdom. That’s what the Bible is for.
But other times we learn the hard way. Our sinfulness interferes with our open mindedness, and the lessons don’t penetrate.
Learning often involves admitting we’re wrong and that doesn’t come easily. We’re too tense. Even though a big part of becoming a Christian is recognizing that we’re sinful, that’s not the same as embracing the concept. We’re happy to tell you how sinful we are, but don’t ask for any specifics.
In a sense we don’t really know the things we think we know. We’ve just memorized some lines in a creed. We can even explain these doctrines, and we intellectually assent to their truthfulness, but something’s missing. When push comes to shove, we’re not ready to bet the farm.
So sometimes the LORD has to jam lessons down our throats.
That’s what’s about to happen to Jonah.
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