I was driving home one day after spending the weekend out of town on a business trip. I was getting close to home. I pictured getting home, kicking my shoes off, and plopping myself down on the couch to watch TV. I could practically feel the remote in my hand. Yet, up ahead of me I could see taillights … and lots of them. I was soon in the middle of traffic. I began to grow frustrated as I inched along. I began to grow really frustrated as I eyed the clock realizing that it was getting late. I desperately wanted that remote in my hand. I wanted the comfort of home. I finally decided that at the next exit ramp I was going to exit and ride the access road all the way home if need be. I inched along with anticipation of making my move. Finally, I saw it coming. I inched closer and closer and then I was off. I was extremely proud of myself as I sailed along passing other cars at what seemed liked NASCAR speed. Yet, I found it odd that other cars were not following my lead. I soon found out why. See, this exit did not lead to the access road. It led you to a barricade. A barricade that forced you to take a left and then another left. I was now going the opposite direction from home.
I was going fast in the wrong direction.
I was inadvertently headed in the wrong direction. Yet, there have been times in my life when I have been purposefully going fast in the wrong direction. There have been times in my life when I was just like Jonah.
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
Jonah heard a word from the LORD
When we think of Jonah, we often think of a children’s story. I hope to change that perception, because when I think of Jonah I think of my life. I think of the times that I have been going fast in the wrong direction.
Jonah was told by God to go and preach to the city of Nineveh, yet he took off going fast in the wrong direction. I think we can all relate. We can identify with Jonah.
But you might say, “Hey – I’ve never received a word from the Lord.” I believe you have. For those of us with a Bible in our hands … we’ve heard from the Lord. I also believe you’ve known the right thing to do and done nothing. I also believe you’ve known the right thing and done the opposite.
Not only a word but a word from the LORD. This is God who …
- Said “let there be light” and there was light
- Told Noah to build an ark
- Called Abraham to be the father of a great nation
- Appeared to Moses in a burning bush
- Parted the red sea
You get the idea. He’s your Creator, Sustainer, and Provider.
But Jonah headed in the wrong direction.
Honestly, you can’t blame Jonah for not wanting to go to Nineveh. Nineveh is near modern day Mosul Iraq. Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, was Israel’s worst enemy. The Old Testament is filled with references to Israel being attacked by Assyria.
Jonah had an excuse to head fast in the wrong direction. I think we can identify with Jonah because we are so good at coming up with excuses: Surely, God doesn’t want me to forgive that person! Surely, God doesn’t want be to go out of my way to help that person! Surely, God doesn’t want me to give that up, it brings me such pleasure! What are some of your favorite excuses for heading in the opposite direction from where God is calling you? How many times do we have to repeat these excuses to ourselves until we finally believe they are true?
Jonah, with his excuses in hand, goes fast in the wrong direction. Instead of going to Nineveh, he goes down to Joppa and boards a ship to Tarshish. Tarshish was on the southern end of what is modern day Spain. For the Israelites, this was known as the westernmost place in the Mediterranean world. Jonah was headed as far away from God’s call as he could get. I love the detail that the Scripture writer provides: Jonah paid the fare for the boat ride. He spent his hard earned money to flee from God!
It is funny the lengths we will go through to please our desires.
We often choose disobedience over obedience
Are you headed to Nineveh … or Tarshish? Are you heeding the word of the LORD or heading fast in the wrong direction? Are you living in obedience or disobedience? I pray that you choose obedience.
Fight addiction rather than giving into it.
Seek the LORD rather than seeking your own passions and desires.
Lean into God rather than your own strength.
Maybe God is calling you to be a Godly husband or a better wife. Maybe God is calling you to be a Godly father or a better mother. Maybe God is calling you to stand up for what is right in your workplace. Maybe God is calling you to reach out to your neighbor. I don’t know your situation, but you do. I don’t know your situation, but God does.