Knowing from 2 Kings 14:23-25 that Jonah was a servant for the LORD and a speaker (prophet) for Him, we have expectations as we come to the book that bears his name.
“The word of the LORD came to Jonah….” Jonah is spoken to by the LORD. The LORD communicates to him and through him. What an opportunity! What a privilege to hear from the LORD!
Will he be as responsive as the young Samuel in the tabernacle and respond, “Speak LORD, your servant is listening!” Will he reflect the passion of the hymnwriter who wrote, “Lord, speak to me, that I may speak in living echoes of Thy tone….”
Jonah has been serving in Israel, the northern part of the divided kingdom. He predicts, at God’s direction, the restoration of the boundaries of Israel. But the people are complacent. They’ll accept God’s blessings but they don’t return to the LORD with all their heart.
The LORD is clear in His directions, “GO to the great city of Nineveh and PREACH against it, because it’s wickedness has come up before me.” The LORD is sending Jonah to the enemy. He is about to show compassion against the capital city of 120,000 if only they will repent.
Remember Jonah is a Hebrew prophet. He knows the stories of the Old Testament. The Flood. The Tower of Babel. The Plagues upon Egypt. The Conquest of Jericho. The LORD judges wickedness, does He not? Why preach to this group of rebels? Why not just strike them down in judgment?
We don’t know the ‘self-talk’ Jonah engages in, BUT he makes a decision. The LORD says “GO” and “PREACH.” I’m NOT GOING and I’m NOT PREACHING!
But Jonah ran away from the LORD….. He went down…. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
Running away from the omnipresent God? How did that work out?
Paying the fare. There’s always a ‘price’ to pay for disobedience. What a waste of a prophet’s salary!
But lest we get all ‘sanctimonious,’ isn’t there some ‘Jonah’ in all of us? What are we running from? Where are we headed and why? This book calls for some serious self-examination not just for runaway prophets but for any, who knowing the will of God, clearly choose rebellion. We sin, in ignorance at times, but often with full knowledge of the ‘evil’ of our behaviour. What high-handed defiance before our God who has been so gracious to us!