The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ 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 1:1-3 (NIV)
Read: Jonah 3
Consider: I was struck by the use of the phrase ‘the word’ when reading through the book of Jonah. Right at the start of the book we are told: The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai (Jonah 1:1). In this instance Jonah chose to disobey God and take a boat bound for Tarshish. Although Jonah decided to run away from God, he couldn’t escape and God revealed himself to him a second time by calling him to fulfil the task for which had chosen him (to preach against Nineveh). We can probably understand Jonah’s decision. Nineveh was a very powerful city and part of the Assyrian empire (part of modern Iraq). The Assyrians were renowned for their merciless treatment of nations they conquered, so Jonah probably feared for his life. In his mind Jonah could imagine how he would be treated by the Ninevites if he went there and spoke God’s message to them.
In Jonah 3:1-2 we read: Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you’. This time Jonah obeyed God and went to Nineveh. The response of the Ninevites is recorded in Jonah 3:5, where we are told that the inhabitants of the city believed Jonah’s warning. What Jonah was saying finally reached the king and in Jonah 3:6 we read: When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is translated in the ESV as follows: The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. This was God’s word reaching the king through the words spoken by Jonah.
If God asks us to do something, we have a choice to make: to obey or disobey him. What we can’t do is run away from him and end up beyond his reach. Like Jonah we may run away and try to escape God’s call, or we can share the good news with those who need to hear of God’s mercy.
Paul puts it this way: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (Romans 10:14-15).
Pray: Father, give us the courage to share the good news with those who need to hear your message of forgiveness. We pray that your Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of those that you have called to believe in you. Amen