I know Jonah to be the man God called to call Nineveh out of their wickedness, only to turn the opposite direction, be swallowed by a whale, spit back up, sent again to Nineveh. Eventually, he goes and does God's work. That is what I came to Jonah's story with.
Jonah, then, does not really provide me with a story I can relate with. I've never been swallowed by a fish, have you? Jonah's story relates to me when I listen to it; I am able to relate to Jonah when I pay attention to his journey. For this to happen, we have to shed our assumptions and listen. (It would serve us well to do this with the people around us, too.)
Jonah's journey away from God is something I can relate to.
God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh in 1:2 and in the very next verse, Jonah says he's going to Tarshish, which is 2000 miles in the opposite direction. He just happens to find a boat going there.
What are the chances?
Isn’t that an amazing coincidence?
It’s a long way from Joppa to Tarshish. It’s not like they had a boat leaving for Tarshish every day. Think about that.
When we decide to disobey God, there is always a boat going to Tarshish.
And there is always room for one more passenger.
We all flee from God at some point or another. In his life, in this story (actually just in the 1st chapter) Jonah went "down" somewhere 4 different times.
He went “down” to Joppa (v. 3).
He went “down” into the hold of the ship (v. 4).
He went “down” into the sea (v. 15).
He went “down” into the belly of the great fish (v. 17).
This was not a coincidence. It’s a statement about what happens when we disobey God’s call, when we run away from God. Any time you run from God, you never go “up"; you always go “down."
It's easy to go "down." There is always a way to run away from God. When we do that, God still has the grace to let us disobey. God will not strike us down, God will always give us a way back, even if it is more painful. God will be there, always. Praise God!
See you Sunday.