December 5 I Wednesday
1 John 4
“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.”
The word of the LORD came to Jonah, a prophet of God, that said, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:1-2). But Jonah, who thought the Ninevites undeserving of God’s forgiveness, booked passage on a ship in the total opposite direction. En route to Tarshish, God sent a devastating storm, and when the sailors realized Jonah was responsible, they
reluctantly threw him overboard where he was swallowed by a large fish.
A few phrases in the opening verse have some interesting implications about what happens when we try to run from God. The first involves the direction that Jonah ran. Joppa is west of Israel on a map, but Scripture says Jonah went “down” to Joppa. The King James Version says he went down into the ship, and Jonah would later pray from within the fish, “From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help” (Jonah 2:2). When we run from God, there is only one direction in which we go. We may think we are running to a
better option, but the journey of disobedience always takes us downwards.
Secondly, it seems significant that the book of Jonah specifically mentions Jonah “paying the fare.” Scripture never talks about Paul paying fares when he went on his missionary journeys, though we can be sure he did. Perhaps the Bible is so specific about Jonah because when we run from God, there is always a cost; you always have to pay the fare. There is a cost to ourselves, but also to the people around us. It is simply not true that disobedience takes place only between us and God. The consequences of our disobedience will be felt in other people’s lives as well, just as the sailors experienced the storm along with Jonah.
Thirdly, the passage twice states that Jonah was running from God, yet this is impossible. It is true we are each free to disobey. God will never twist our arm or force His will upon us. We are free to run in the opposite direction as Jonah did, but we must not kid ourselves that we can outrun God. Anywhere we run, He is already. God sent the storm, God sent the fish and God was in the fish’s belly when Jonah finally repented. The journey of disobedience is downwards and costly, but thanks be to God that no matter how far we try to run from Him, He is always there, ready to forgive and get us back on track.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am overwhelmed by Your grace. Thank You that even when I try and run away from You, You are always near and drawing me back.