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. Jonah 1:3 (NIV).
What’s the point of this foolishness? Jonah tried to run from God, forgetting that there is nowhere on this Earth to run where God is not already there.
This verse refers to Tarshish, which was a city founded by another of Noah’s descendants, this one a great-grandson. We don’t really know where Tarshish was. It may have been in Spain, or Sardinia, or Carthage in Africa, or maybe what became Tarsus, in Turkey, where the Apostle Paul came from. What we do know is that it was a place that was far from Ninevah, and far from where Jonah found himself. He got on a boat to take him to Tarshish so that he could (he thought) get as far away from God and Ninevah as possible.
Fat lot of good that did him.
There is no hiding from God. He is everywhere; He is in everything. Psalm 139 says it best: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” God made everything by speaking, and he knows every thought of every heart who has ever lived. He knows the blades of grass in every field. He knows the clouds in the sky; the stars throughout the universe. Everything is under him.
Jonah knew this, but fear makes us do stupid things…like running away from God. Only Jonah wasn’t stupid. In fact, he had good reason to be afraid. Ninevah was known throughout the Mesopotamian world as a brutal, sinful place. And God had just personally told Jonah to go there and call out its inhabitants. Imagine if God told you to go to Tehran and denounce radical Islam in the center of the city: would you immediately go, or would you be afraid? For most, you know the likely answer.
That means we aren’t so different from Jonah.
So, it makes sense to, again, ask “what’s the point of this foolishness?” Maybe God hasn’t asked you to preach His word to sinners, but is there something in your past you run from? Anything you don’t want to admit, or are hiding? God sees it; God already knows it. He loves us and wants only His best for us, and that means He wants us to face our fears, confront our sins. He wants us to face our own Ninevah’s.
For further reading: Genesis 10:4, Exodus 4:13, Joshua 19:46, Psalm 139:7-8, Jeremiah 20:9, Jonah 1:4
Lord Jesus, help me to face my fears today, to not hide from You.
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