“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.’ But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” (Jonah 1:1-2a)
Most of us would feel anxious if God asked us to head to the most violent, drug-infested, pimp-controlled neighborhoods of our inner-cities, and stand on a street corner taunting the gangbangers and hustlers. That’s not for me, thanks. Yet, Nineveh posed that kind of threat to a Jew in the ancient world.
Maybe we’d head the opposite way, too.
However, two things leap from the opening verses of this story. On the one hand, Jonah knew the Lord well enough to know His voice. On the other hand, Jonah thought he could out-run God. It’s strange.
Perhaps that’s what endears him to me.
I’m drawn repeatedly to Jonah’s story because it mirrors our stories in so many ways. Faith and fear. Prayer and despair. Obedience and selfishness. Wonder and anger.
Fickle Jonah reflects so many of us. And yet, in the ups and downs, the good and the bad, the triumphs and the failures, the plan and the Presence of God winds its way relentlessly in the background. That was true for Jonah. It’s also true for us; all of us.
Feel like running away? Afraid of what Christ might be asking of you? (“Go here, say this, do that.”) Facing enemies who seem ready to smite you at a glance? Look to Jonah.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai. And the word of the Lord continues to come. It comes to specific people with specific names and specific families. And it’s a specific message. It comes to each of us. What do you hear?
The four chapters of this tiny book, nestling between Obadiah and Micah in the Old Testament, reflect what happens when we run from God, run to God, run with God, and run ahead of God. The seasons of our own lives seem to vacillate between these chapters.
For a little while, I invite you back to about 800 B.C. to ponder the life of a hawkish prophet whose name means “dove.” Let’s Journey with Jonah.