Jonah 1: 3 “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.”
3 But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
This is the only occasion in the Old Testament where a prophet refused to do the will of God. God told Jonah to “go” and he went all right – in the opposite direction. Jonah thought he could win a footrace with the Lord, the omnipresent Lord at that! He will never win that race! God has many agencies at His disposal, such as wind, storm and even a big fish. Jonah will face a harrowing experience because of his rebellion.
The word “but” is a right-about-face word. Jonah saw himself as a square peg in a round hole so he attempted to flee to Tarshish. Tarshish was 2500 miles to the West in the southern tip of Spain. It was a merchant city. Nineveh was 550 miles to the northeast while Spain was 2000 miles to the West. Jonah was willing to go four times as far out of the will of God as he was in the will of God!
He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish;
Jonah had no heart for the lost. He had a cold heart and feet to match so he went to “Joppa,” the present day Jaffa. He may have rationalized his situation by saying, “It is God’s sovereign hand that I found a ship just when I needed it.” No doubt Jonah rationalized his sin away.
We cannot hide from God by rationalizations.
The path of sin is always “down.” From Jonah’s first step down, every step thereafter was down. He went
- down to Jaffa,
- down into the ship,
- down to the sides of the ship,
- down to the bottoms of the mountains under the sea,
- down into the entrails of the fish
- and down to Sheol itself.
Down, down, down. There is nothing static in the path of defiance to God’s will.
As Jonah blinded his eyes to the omnipresence of God, so we blind our minds to God’s knowledge of our personal situation. We cannot run from the presence of God.
Ps 139: 7 “Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”