One day long ago, God’s Word came to Jonah, Amittai’s son: “Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They’re in a bad way and I can’t ignore it any longer.” But Jonah got up and went the other direction to Tarshish, running away from God. He went down to the port of Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went on board, joining those going to Tarshish—as far away from God as he could get. (THE MESSAGE)
Most of us have run away from a challenge at some time or other. We have avoided a confrontation, we have declined to take on an appointment, we have postponed that medical test, we have stayed put when we should have moved. Sometimes we have even done the opposite of what needed to be done.
Jonah tried to run away from God. He was given a seemingly tough assignment and didn’t want to fulfil it. He would have gone into enemy territory. And he didn’t even want to give them the chance of being rescued from God’s judgement. So he sought to get away not just from the assignment but from the one who gave it to him.
Nineveh was in modern day Iraq. Tarshish is in modern day Spain. So Jonah wasn’t mucking around: this was no minor deviation or side-track. God wanted him to go East, so Jonah went west. Sheer disobedience, and a reminder that sometimes when we say we have a problem with guidance, we really have a problem with obedience. We know what God wants; we just don’t want to do it.
And of course he couldn’t escape God who pursued him through storms and an oversized fish. Each of us can run away from God, but we can’t actually escape his presence. He is not left behind wondering where we are. He is alongside, encouraging us to come back home. We can run, but we can never hide.