Jonah 1:1-9 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. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, "How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish." Then the sailors said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity." They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, "Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?" He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land."
Jonah received a call to preach against Nineveh. But instead of responding, Jonah ran--in the opposite direction! He had his reasons for not responding to God's call. One of which was he didn't like the people there (Assyrians) because they were enemies of Israel. Also, possibly, Nineveh was too far away--it would have taken Jonah one month just to get there, not to mention another month to get home. The third reason is given in Jonah 4:2, "I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." Jonah knew that if he preached his message of judgment and the people repented, then God would relent and the people would be spared divine punishment. He didn't want the enemies of Israel to be spared from God's judgment. He would rather they were destroyed.
So, Jonah tried to evade his responsibility by boarding a ship heading for Tarshish because he didn't relish the job description given to him by the Lord. He wanted out. But the Lord would not have it, and caused a storm to hit the ship where he was in. The final outcome of this act of disobedience was that Jonah was thrown out of the ship and swallowed by a big fish.
The more we run away from God's call, the more troubles we will get because the safest place on earth is inside God's will. Psalm 91:1-2 says, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." As Christians we sometime find ourselves in difficult situations. Before we blame the devil or the Government, let's first ask: "Am I doing something or living a lifestyle that is against God's call on my life?" Like Jonah, if we refuse to submit to God's will and way, we will end up in troubles we do not anticipate.
Again, I need to state again that for those who have responded to God's call to become His children, divine discipline is a manifestation of divine favour and love, not divine wrath. Jesus told the Church at Laodicea, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent" (Rev 3:19). Those who say otherwise are indulging in wishful thinking that is unbiblical and unrealistic. God does not punish His people because He hates us--he does so because he loves us and wants us to turn from self-destruction.
Let's not be like Jonah: when God calls, let's respond in obedience. When God calls, we cannot run.
Father, we thank You that You are a God who knows the end from the beginning. When You call, You call us to blessing, not cursing. But when we disobey, we face Your discipline to restore us onto the right path. Amen.