Running Away from God

KEY VERSE: “Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” —Jonah 1:3

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Jonah 1:19, 15-17

THE BOOK OF Jonah has been often assailed by critics of the Bible. They have ridiculed the story of Jonah being swallowed by a fish, and consider it merely a fable. On the other hand, the prophecy of Jonah as a doctrinal lesson seems to have been a mystery even to God’s people. However, it has obvious practical lessons which have been appreciated by many. Some such lessons are: God’s love to the repentant Ninevites; his patience and gentleness in reproving the murmuring prophet, Jonah; and it also shows how God sometimes uses even very imperfect and unwilling instruments to carry out his designs.

“The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1,2) Jonah was not pleased with the prospect of a mission in which he was to offer pardon to such evil-doers if they were willing to repent. The Israelites dreaded the Assyrian people, whose capital city was Nineveh. The Assyrian army was the most cruel of that day and wherever they went, ruin, suffering, and death followed.

Jonah was distressed at receiving the Divine commission to preach repentance to the Ninevites. There was only one thing to be done, Jonah thought—he must run away as far as possible. To accomplish this goal, his first step was to go to Joppa where he found a ship sailing for Tarshish. He paid his fare, and immediately went deep down into the hold of the boat, thinking that he could hide there, and eventually escape “from the presence of the Lord.”

Soon after the ship set sail “the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.” (Jonah 1:4) Despite all the clamor and confusion of the dreadful storm, and the activity of the sailors to batten down the ship, Jonah lay fast asleep. A sailor shook him awake and urged him to call upon his God that they perish not. “They said every man to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is come upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.” (vs. 7) Since the die fell upon Jonah, he was forced to admit that he was running away from a service which his God wanted him to perform. The men of the boat became exceedingly fearful because they knew that Jonah had “fled from the presence of the Lord.”—vs. 10

Jonah offered to be cast into the sea but the men tried to row as hard as they could to reach land. Being unsuccessful, they finally agreed to cast Jonah into the sea. When this was done suddenly the storm ceased.

“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17) Jesus regarded this account as a historical fact as well as a prophetic reference to his own life. He “said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”—Matt. 12:39,40

From the belly of the large fish, Jonah called upon his God. “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me.” (Jonah 2:2) How merciful is our God! “The Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”—vs. 10

Jonah’s repentance brought about a change in his life. Because of the mercy of Jehovah, Jonah’s new and better attitude opened up an opportunity for the Prophet Jonah to be obedient to God and to serve him faithfully.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |