I, Like Jonah – Part One
Posted in Comfort
Scripture: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, ‘Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.’ But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish….” – Jonah 1: 1-3
From my childhood memory of the “Jonah and the Whale” story, I never considered this prophet’s accounts relatable to my life. First, Jonah is a prophet, and I am not. Second, Jonah heard God’s voice audibly, and I have not. Third, Jonah physically ran away from God’s directive by boarding a boat sailing 2,000 miles away, which seems overly dramatic… and I am not. However, a recent deep dive into these four chapters has helped me see Jonah as one of the most relatable characters in the Bible.
As an Israelite overseeing the people God put in his midst, Jonah felt an allegiance toward his hometown fellows. He felt responsible to protect them from the sinful neighboring Assyria, whose capital city was Nineveh. So, I cannot say I blame Jonah for sensing the need to stay where “his people” were. Let’s take a closer look….
Observation #1: I, like Jonah, feel a responsibility for people– like my family and friends — whom God has put in my midst. If I sense God nudging me to leave them to serve others outside my “circle,” I very well may question that nudge and justify all the reasons God wouldn’t ask me to do something out of my comfort zone. But I must pause here, ponder, and pray, “Lord, have I become complacent among the comforts of my people? Are you calling me to speak to, interact with, or serve others outside my comfort zone? If so, Lord, my heart is open to follow You.”
Let’s read further. In Jonah 1:9, he tells the pagan boat travelers who he is by stating whose he is. “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” From this verse, we can safely assume Jonah’s work as a religious leader was his labor of love. His prayer that follows proves his familiarity with Old Testament scripture, as it carries the words of a Psalm: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me” (2:1). Don’t these verses point to a man who knows God?
Observation #2: I, like Jonah, am a follower of God and familiar with scripture. But whoa! Lower your anchors at this comparison because here’s where we can get into some deep water. Are we showing what we believe or just saying what we believe? There’s a huge difference. Although Jonah was Word-wise and an avid pray-er, he was reluctant to walk the walk. Considering this I, like Jonah, must make sure my actions match my words. What do others learn about God as they watch the way I live?
Next in the story, we see that Jonah ran far away from God. While towns like “Tarshish” or “Nineveh” tend to glaze over any apparent comparisons to Jonah, focus instead on what he was running from. Jonah fled “from the presence of the Lord.” Oh my.
Observation #3: I, like Jonah, can “flee from the presence of the Lord” in a multitude of ways that can go unnoticed by those around me… or even me! When my mind wanders from good and holy thoughts, I’ve allowed my mind to flee from God’s presence. When my heart grows cold, I’ve allowed my soul to flee from him. When my body is not present in Small Group or Sunday Worship, I’ve allowed myself to flee as well.
Are you running from God’s presence? How are you responding to life’s interruptions that very well may be God’s interventions and better plans? Are you, too, like Jonah?
Prayer: Lord of the land and sea, thank you for showing me how I, like Jonah, can run from you. Instead, help me respond to your call by running toward you, daily. Amen.
Submitted by Caroline C. Bennett