Jonah 1:1-3, “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.”
Since early youth I have been fascinated with Jonah. Here was a man who had a stable and solid enough relationship with God. A man whom God spoke to, a man whom God trusted enough to commission for what some today might seem an international ministry, yet a man who refused to go where he was sent.
In my younger days, long before going into ministry, or even coming to America, I would reason to myself that if God ever told me to go and do something as important as what he asked Jonah, I would not hesitate. I would be on the first plane to wherever He sent me, and with boldness and courage cry out against the city warning them of God’s impending judgment. I often smile at the thoughts and reasoning I used to have as a child, but I digress.
If anything the story of Jonah should serve as a cautionary tale to everyone who has ever received a calling on their lives, who has been called into ministry, or commissioned to be a defender of truth. Since we are all ambassadors of Christ on this earth, the story of Jonah should serve as a cautionary tale for us all.
So what were the sins of Jonah, this prophet commissioned and sent out by God? The first and most obvious sin that Jonah was guilty of, was the sin of disobedience. God’s instruction was a simple one: ‘arise, go to Nineveh, and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.’ Rather than submitting to the plan and the will of God, Jonah decided to run. In order to realize just how absurd and illogical Jonah’s decision to run really was, we must see his choice in the context of fact that there is no place on this earth, above the earth, or beneath the earth wherein one can hide from the presence of God.
Psalm 139:7-10, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.”
I’ve often considered what could have been going through Jonah’s mind, to think that he can outrun God, or to believe that if he got far enough away God would not see him. Upon further introspection however, I’ve come to the realization that we all have times when we resist the commands of God, the callings of God, and the commissions of God on our lives, and if we don’t try to outright run away from Him, we try to reason our way out of them. Like Moses of so long ago, we try to convince God of why we are not the right people for the job, why He could find someone better, smarter, more talented, and with a fuller head of hair. The older servants reason that they are too old to go and do the works of God, the younger ones reason that they are too young, and the work is left undone.
I am amazed and humbled at how many times I’ve considered fleeing to my own Tarshish, and how appealing that vessel that would take me away from my responsibility has gotten sometimes. Each time however, I would ask myself a series of questions: where can you go that God won’t find you? Can you endure all that God can allow to bring you back to the place where you ought to have been in the first place? Are you willing to pay the price for disobedience?
Jonah’s second sin was diminishing the power and ability of God by his very actions. For some unexplained reason, Jonah believed that God saw him, knew him, and was able to punish him only in His country. Twice in just one verse Jonah made his intention very clear, he desired to flee from the presence of the Lord. Jonah doubted God’s omnipotence, thinking to himself that if only he could get far enough away quickly enough, he could stay one step ahead of God.
Jonah’s third sin was absence of love. By his actions he proved that he did not care what happened to Nineveh or its inhabitants, their souls mattered not to him, and he could not be inconvenienced to travel to Nineveh and proclaim the message of God. Sometimes even the most faithful of servants are guilty of this selfsame sin, wherein they cannot be bothered to speak to someone about Jesus because they have more important things to do. There is nothing more important in this life, than helping to pluck one who was mired in darkness from the shackles of sin, and bring them into the light of God’s truth and righteousness.
Jonah’s fourth sin was his anger. Throughout the last chapter of the book of Jonah, God is dealing with Jonah’s anger, attempting to open his eyes to how baseless said anger truly was. Yes, God withheld his judgment for a season, He did not destroy Nineveh at the end of the forty days as Jonah had proclaimed because the city had repented in sackcloth and ash, they had turned from their evil way, but Jonah was not interested in hearing God’s reasons for not sending destruction. He was angry, and he didn’t care who knew it. In His limitless love, God simply asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Jonah’s fifth sin was that he desired to die. So distraught was Jonah over Nineveh not being destroyed, that he wished death for himself and said, ‘it is better for me to die than to live.’ How quickly we forget that life is a precious gift, how quickly we forget that death is the penalty for sin, how quickly we forget our lives are in God’s hands and none can add a day to their existence no matter how hard they might try. So many times, in so many ways Jonah overreacted, disobeyed, and sinned, yet God in His abundant grace was merciful with him. God reasoned with Jonah as a father would reason with an ignorant offspring, showing him the error of his ways, the sins he had committed, and continually reemphasizing the eternal truth that His ways are not man’s ways, and His thoughts are not man’s thoughts.
May we be wise, and learn from Jonah’s mistakes and shortcomings, and having learned from them not follow in his footsteps. When God speaks, listen; when God commands, obey; when God sends you, go.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.