Running from God’s Call
Jonah chapter 1
There are times when we think something is an uncertain future when God calls us to go somewhere we prefer not to go. We think it is uncertain but we miss the point which is “God never calls us to an uncertain future because He knows exactly what He wants us to accomplish with His call.”
What would you do if the Lord called you to go share the Gospel with someone you hated and despised? Would you go or would you refuse?
Jonah was a prophet of the Lord. God had called him to be a prophet to the nation of Israel. He served the Lord. But, God called Jonah to leave his homeland and ministry to go to a people he did not like and he did not want them to repent because he wanted the judgment of God to fall on them.
2 Kings 14:23–27 ESV “14:23 ¶ In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years.
14:24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.
14:25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.
14:26 For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel.
14:27 But the Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.”
Jonah, God’s servant, spoke the Word of God to Jeroboam. He was a faithful servant of the Lord. But when God called him to go Nineveh, he decided to go the opposite direction.
Called to go where you do not want to go
Jonah 1:1–3 ESV “1:1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
1:2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
1:3 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.”
The call was unmistakable. Go to Nineveh.
Shook Jonah to the core of his being. Why would God call me to go to Nineveh and bring a message of judgment? Why would God call me to leave my home and His people to carry a message to a heathen people?
Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire. They ruled the known world with cruelty and heartlessness. When they invaded a land, they would overrun a city and kill all the children and men, then take the women captive. How they extracted information out of enemies was horrific. They were known to makes mounds of severed heads to mark a city they defeated. Bury a man up to his neck in the sand and leave him in the burning sun to die a slow and painful death.
Jonah had no desire to see the Ninevites saved. He knew God was merciful if Nineveh repented of their sins, God would spare them. Jonah hated the Assyrians.
Why did he hate them so much?
1. He knew of their cruelty.
2. He knew God’s message of judgment would be accompanied with mercy if Nineveh repented.
3. He knew God would use the Assyrian nation to judge Israel for their sins.
Why did God want Jonah to go to Nineveh? Because their wickedness had reached the place of judgment if they did not repent. There comes a point in time where one’s wickedness must be judged. Nineveh had reached the crossroads where if they continued in wickedness, the judgment of God would be poured out upon them.
God wanted Jonah to carry the message of judgment so they would repent and be saved. His message of judgment was a call for repentance.
He rebelled against the Lord and went the other way. For Jonah to go to Nineveh, he had to travel east. Jonah went west. Going in the opposite direction of where God was sending him, he was out of the will of God.
He ran from God. He wanted to leave and go where he would not hear the call of God on his life. Even though, he had faithfully served the Lord as a prophet, this call was too much for him, so he fled hoping to escape.
He did not want to leave his homeland and go to Nineveh, but he was willing to leave his homeland and flee from the Lord’s call.
Jonah travels to Joppa and pays his fare to travel by ship to the city of Tarshish.
Tarshish – “The name of a place which first comes into notice in the days of Solomon. The question as to the locality of Tarshish has given rise to not a little discussion. Some think there was a Tarshish in the East, on the Indian coast, seeing that “ships of Tarshish” sailed from Eziongeber, on the Red Sea (1 Kings 9:26; 22:48; 2 Chr. 9:21). Some, again, argue that Carthage was the place so named. There can be little doubt, however, that this is the name of a Phoenician port in Spain, between the two mouths of the Guadalquivir (the name given to the river by the Arabs, and meaning “the great wady” or water-course). It was founded by a Carthaginian colony, and was the farthest western harbour of Tyrian sailors. It was to this port Jonah’s ship was about to sail from Joppa. It has well been styled “the Peru of Tyrian adventure;” it abounded in gold and silver mines.”1
Tarshish was the furthest known western harbor the sailors sailed to during Jonah’s time. He was going as far away from the Lord as he could.
Jonah ran from God’s will. Even though he had served the Lord in the past, he had no desire to serve God in the place where God was sending him. He ran from God because he could not stay in Israel, God’s nation. He had to leave. He had to go somewhere where he was not reminded Jehovah was the Lord.
To a foreign land where they did not serve Jehovah, he ran from God’s presence.
Too often, Christians do the same thing. God is calling them to a new ministry or deeper walk with Him, but they run from God. They withdraw and try to leave the presence of God by leaving church and anything associated with God. They try to ease their conscience and heart by not being around God’s people. They run away just like Jonah.
But, just because one runs away from God does not mean God runs away from them. He is ever present to work in their lives to bring them back to Him and His call on their lives.
Hebrews 13:5 ESV “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.””
Decided to run and not follow
Jonah 1:4–16 ESV “1:4 ¶ But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.
1:5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.
1:6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”
1:7 ¶ And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
1:8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”
1:9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
1:10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
1:11 ¶ Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous.
1:12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”
1:13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.
1:14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.”
1:15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.
1:16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.”
Jonah had no trouble getting the passage to Tarshish. He traveled to Joppa with no issues. After buying the fare, he got on the ship and went fast asleep. Everything went smooth as silk, he was getting away from the presence of the Lord.
So comfortable running from God, it did not hinder his sleep. He slept like a baby, even in the midst of a violent storm, he stayed asleep.
Two very important aspects of wisdom must be realized. Just because everything is falling into place and there is not trouble does not mean you are in the will of God. The devil can be making your way smooth so you keep going away from the Lord.
Just because there is trouble in your life does not mean you are out of the will of God because when you are doing what God has called you to do, the devil will fight against you.
When life is smooth and easy does not mean you are in God’s will and when life is hard and difficult does not mean you are out of God’s will. God’s will is when we are obedient to His Word. Jonah was not obedient, and he ran from God.
Notice these verses.
Hebrews 11:32–39 ESV “11:32 ¶ And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—
11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
11:34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
11:35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.
11:36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
11:37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—
11:38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
11:39 ¶ And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,”
Jonah gets on the ship and goes to sleep. While he is sleeping, a storm descends on the ship. But, it is no ordinary storm because the seasoned sailors are so frighten for their lives, the captain wakes Jonah to ask him to pray for their safety.
The sailors through their cargo over the side of the ship to keep it afloat. They sacrificed their profits to secure their lives. When this did not work, they prayed to their gods.
Captain of the ship woke Jonah because the situation was so dire they realized the would be saved only if God intervened. These sailors were heathens who believed in many different gods.
They cast lots to see who was at fault for their troubles. Lot fell on Jonah so they asked him who and what he did.
Jonah answer brought fear to the sailors.
“I am a Hebrew.” They knew what a Hebrew was – ones who worshipped one God and not idols. Hebrews worshipped the Creator of the heavens and earth. The heathens knew the Hebrews were monotheistic, worshipping one Lord.
He shared with them that he fled from the Lord and they wanted to know why. Why did you bring this calamity upon them?
How many times have our actions affected other people? No man is an island to himself; his life does affect those around him.
Jonah’s rebellion against God’s will endangered the lives of those sailors.
Sailors asked the question, “What can we do to calm the sea?” Jonah replied if they would throw him overboard, the sea would be calm.
He tried to assure them this was the right thing to do because he was responsible for getting them into this situation. He was the cause.
However, the men continued to sail to the land in order to save their lives and his. Only when there was no hope of survival did they cry out to the Lord for them not to perish for Jonah or have his blood on their hands when they threw him into the sea.
When they threw Jonah overboard, the sea immediately calmed.
Sailors proved to be honorable men because they did not want to throw Jonah overboard, but tried every way possible to spare his life. They prayed to the Lord to forgive them of throwing him into the sea.
When the sea calmed, they realized Jehovah was the true God. They did not fear their gods, but Jonah’s Lord. Their lives were transformed and made a vow (promise) to serve the Lord.
Even in the middle of Jonah’s rebellion, men came to worship the Lord.
Living Principle – When God sends you and you are not sure about going, remember God is reaching out to those where He is sending you.
Also, remember that when your future looks uncertain, it is not uncertain with the Lord. He knows what will transpire in your life and your calling.
Thought – an uncertain future for you can be an answer to prayer for others.
1 “Tarshish,” Easton’s Bible Dictionary, paragraph 6971.