Jonah 1 (NIV)
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
The Lord’s commands are clear. He tells believers when to act, where to go, and what to do. Most of the time we can’t hear Him because we are not listening like we should be. God does not scream at us. He tells us softly and if we are not asking or listening to Him, we miss what He is saying all together. Sometimes we are so busy doing what we want to do, that we don’t even realize that God might have something else in mind for us and our lives.
Not only does God give us clear directions, He also provides the means for following His directions. The prophet Jonah was told to leave immediately for a certain city and cry out this warning: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). Instead, Jonah did something foolish (and altogether human). He ran
Because Jonah was a prophet, we can assume that Jonah had studied the Scriptures and had a close and intimate relationship with God. Even so, displeasure over his assignment clouded his judgement, and he became convinced he could flee the Lord’s presence. Jonah was wrong. God sent a great storm and isolated him for three days inside the belly of a great fish. In other words, the Lord didn’t relent until the prophet agreed to comply with His wishes.
Jonah learned that running away from the Lord doesn’t release us from His commands. Whether we refuse outright or quietly choose to pursue our own agenda, we simply can’t silence His call in our lives. Our Father will neither forget a directive nor change his mind about it, and so the Holy Spirit continues prompting us until we do as God has instructed us to do.
People who run from God’s divine direction may attempt to silence the Spirit’s reminders by filling their lives with distractions. They know what God wants from them, but are too proud, stubborn, or scared to comply. What we must understand is that God will pursue us, stripping away diversions and crutches, to get our attention. If we are wise believers, we will choose to obey Him promptly rather than waste time, talent, and energy by running. Running only delays the inevitable.
God has a plan for us that is better than any plan we could ever hope to create for ourselves. The sooner we embrace and follow that plan, the sooner we can enjoy it.