Jump Start # 2125
Jonah 1:3 “But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
In our Jump Start yesterday, we saw the pagans were praying to their gods while Jonah was sleeping. A great storm caused the sailors to fear for their lives. The pagans were doing what Jonah should have been doing.
There is another powerful scene in these opening verses of Jonah. Given the commission by God to go to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and preach, Jonah, instead went down to the docks to find a boat that would take him to Tarshish, which is the opposite direction, near Spain. We are not told what was running through Jonah’s mind, other than he just didn’t want to see a foreign nation receive the blessings of God’s forgiveness. The Assyrians were not God’s people. They were not of Abraham, nor did they have the law of Moses. Jonah didn’t agree with God. Jonah wasn’t going to do it. You can’t make me, must have run through Jonah’s mind.
Maybe Jonah thought if he got to Tarshish, it just wouldn’t be practical for God to send him. Maybe God would pick another prophet and Jonah would be off the hook. Maybe, Jonah thought that God wouldn’t find him. He certainly wouldn’t expect the prophet to be over there. Whatever the reason, Jonah disobeyed God and went the other way.
Now, some obvious and practical lessons:
First, when a person wants to disobey God, Satan will always have a boat waiting for you to go the other way. Imagine Jonah went to the docks and every boat was heading toward Nineveh. That wasn’t the case. Imagine Jonah went to the docks, but he didn’t have enough money to go to Tarshish. There was a boat waiting and Jonah just happened to have the right amount. But there was another trip that Jonah took before he boarded the boat to Tarshish. He had left God in his mind and his heart. Like the prodigal in Luke 15, the boy was in the far country long before he ever approached his father about the inheritance. Jonah that thought this out. He had made up his mind that he was not going to do what God said. His thoughts turned to planning his escape.
Often our sins work the same way. Long before we actually commit a sinful act, our hearts and our minds have planned things out. Impulsive sin happens, such as anger, saying offensive words, even violence. Crimes of passion are different than premediated crimes. Jonah thought this out. He had to take money with him for the trip. He planned all of this.
Satan will do this for you. If you want to leave your marriage, Satan will put someone in your life to have a sexual affair with. He will build the reasons, fill your mind with excuses to justify it and even have an opportunity for you to carry out your lustful thoughts.
If you want to steal from your company, Satan will open doors of opportunity for you. He make it possible for you to do this. He’ll give you the moment when you actually do this. He’ll fill your head with reasons why this makes sense.
If you want to leave the people of God and worship with a modern church that doesn’t follow the Bible very closely. It may be edgy, hip and really exciting. You’ll find a place like that, if you are looking. There will be a reason for you to go. You’ll blame the boring and lifeless church you have been a part of. You’ll be convinced that there is very little difference between the two. All the time, you are sailing away from God and heading toward Tarshish.
There is always a boat waiting for you, if you want to leave God.
Second, even though Jonah was getting farther and farther away, God did not change what He expected of Jonah. Jonah was the prophet of God’s choice to go and he would go. There are times when we may want to walk away from our responsibilities but we can’t. Once you’ve said, “I do,” you don’t change that. You don’t say, “I’m tired of being married, I want to be single again.” Once that little baby comes into your life, you can’t say, “I’m tired of being a parent, I don’t want kids any more.” You may not want the obligations that come with being a church member, such as fellowship, attending worship, helping others. You may not want all the comes with being a Christian any more. I don’t want to be holy. I don’t want to do what God wants me to do. There may come a time when jumping on that boat heading the other way seems so appealing. Just me and myself. No more headaches. No more responsibilities. No more answering to other people. I get to do just what I want. That may sound exciting and it may be the foundation of several movies, but the story of Jonah reminds us that God didn’t let Jonah off the hook. He was the choice to go to Nineveh and God expected that to happen. A great storm. A great fish. Three days in the belly of that fish. And, a second chance to get it right all reminds us that we have things that God expects of us.
Dropping the kids off at the church building on Sunday morning, while you go back to bed doesn’t get you off the hook of what God expects from a parent. It isn’t the church, the school or society that is to raise your children. It’s you. You may get tired. You may not want to be a parent any longer. However, this is where you are and this is what God expects of you.
Thirdly, some folks pour so much effort into finding that boat heading the other way, if they had just stuck with what God said, things would have been much easier in their lives. I remember all the trouble some went through in college to cheat on tests. One guy somehow gutted his watch, wrote the answers to what he thought was on the test in tiny strips of paper and put them in his watch. As he wound the watch, his answers would appear. If the guy had only poured that much time into studying, none of that would have been necessary. Another guy, wrote the answers on his arms, legs and fingers. Again, that took a lot of effort to do all of that. Just study for the test. Revenge is like that. Someone hurts you and you stay awake at night thinking of how you can get back at that person. Just forgive them as God wants you to. Proverbs reminds us that the wicked plans evil. This is nothing more that looking for a boat to take us away from what God wants us to do. Just do what God says.
Finally, God knew all of this. It was God who tells us this story, not Jonah. Jonah thought he was fleeing God. He never did. God was aware every step of the way. So, He is with us. There is no getting around God. There is no fleeing from God. Most times, the person who runs from responsibilities, finds their life messier than they ever thought. For Jonah, it was being inside the belly of a fish. I can only imagine what that smelled like and how dark that was. For the prodigal, it was wanting to eat what the pigs were eating. Neither ever saw that picture when they were leaving. It was grand dreams of a great time. That went away quickly. Misery, guilt and shame is what follows when we flee God. We need to see that God’s way is more than just right, it works. Both Jonah and the prodigal had too much of self in them. They wanted to do what they wanted to do. Like those run-a-ways, we can do exactly the same. We start saying, “I don’t want to…” or, “I never get to do what I want to do.” We sing, “Woe is me.” Me. Me. Me. That’s the first thought that leads to searching for a boat that is going the other way. Discipleship is denying self. It’s seeking first the kingdom of God. It’s putting the interest of others before you. When we get thinking too much about our self, our feelings, our way, we’ll soon be on a boat heading toward Tarshish. God will take care of you. Just do what the Lord says.
Maybe it’s time to get off the boat and get back to what God wants you to do.