Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose 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, away from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3, ESV)
Jonah’s problem in was not one of misunderstanding what God had commanded him. The prophet understood quite well what he was commanded to do. It wasn’t an issue with his hearing, nor in his comprehending, what it was that God was telling him to do. His problem was a moral problem. When God gave command to Jonah, we see that Jonah was at a crossroads. The plans of God and the plans of Jonah collided. Seems that Jonah had his own ideas how God should order the affairs of His universe! To be specific, Jonah had a wonderful plan in mind as to how best he could serve God. The problem was, that God didn’t need Jonah’s plan in order to effect His purposes! Jonah’s chief end to glorify God, he thought, lay in Nineveh, not Tarshish. Jonah sought to please himself, rather than to please God.
Paul speaks of this in Galatians 5 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5:16-17, ESV) There was a battle between the flesh and the Spirit here. We tend to think of the desires of the flesh as being unmentionable lusts, and such. It may be safe to say that 98% of our “desires of the flesh” are our ideas of what fulfils our perceived “hierarchy of needs.” A trip to Nineveh was no trip to Dreamworld! God’s command to Jonah would be the equivalent to our being ordered to walk in to the HQ of ISIS!
God’s commands shine into the dark crevices and recesses of our lives to show us our weakness, or our cherished sins. The commands of God to us expose our lack of having learnt to trust God’s great power and supply. The Word of God comes as that two-edged sword the writer to the Hebrews tells us about. In the Old Testament sacrifices, a priest used this instrument to examine sacrifices for internal blemishes. God’s Word penetrates our consciences between the limits of our willingness to obey Him and the point at which we may turn from God’s commands.
Sometimes we run from God because His call to obey Him involves threats our personal peace and affluence. Maybe it involves time and inconvenience. Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed with our present situation and to throw something else into the mix is the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. It is right to count the cost of serving Christ – but we mostly fail to see that the Lord also provides everything we need to serve Him – He has already bankrolled it! At times our hesitancy in serving Him tells us where we need some adjusting to His will – it is somewhat like when we have new shoes that may rub in certain places – they need breaking. Maybe we don’t particularly like the folks that God is bringing to mind and laying on our hearts. Who are we to object to God? Who are we to presume to tell Him how to drive the bus? If God wants to save them and bring judgment on those who have previously received his favours, that is His right. The Lord of all the earth shall do right.