Wow, what did you say? You’re kidding, right? They will die? Wait just a minute, I know you; you are a forgiving God and how can I be sure you won’t change your mind, and then what?
In defense of Jonah, it’s easy to understand his reluctance to go to Nineveh when God called him. I mean, what they did to false prophets in those days! Being impaled on a sharp stick and put on display caused him to pause. You can understand Jonah suddenly experiencing burnout and needing a vacation! That’s when he hopped the first ship to Tarshish.
Was fear of God the reason Jonah ran in the opposite direction of Nineveh? I think he stopped to consider “what if”…? God said, “go to the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it because its wickedness has come up before Me.” But, “what if” they don’t believe me or think I’m insane? “what if,” they impale me on a stick if God doesn’t destroy Nineveh?
When Jonah stopped to consider, the fear of “what if” gripped him so hard it rendered him useless. Fear drove him away from his source of strength.
As Jonah went into a deep spiritual sleep aboard this getaway ship, God went work in his life. Jonah did his best to ignore the violent storm God sent until the Holy Spirit (in the form of the captain) shouts “how can you sleep! Wake up!” The crew tried to lighten the boat to counteract the life-threatening condition to no avail. Confessing he was the problem’s source because he was running from God, Jonah decided to drown was preferable to facing his fear. Reluctantly, the ship crew threw him out of the boat.
It was when God prepared a great fish this wayward prophet allows God to speak. Deep within the belly of the whale, Jonah cries out to the God he was trying to escape. When there’s no place to hide, or run, at the bottom of the pitch black surroundings of a whale Jonah sees. Through fierce winds and heaving waves, the voice that bade Jonah wake out of sleep shows Himself as more significant and more potent than “what if.”
A man may run and hide or cast themselves into the sea to escape that still small voice, but God sends great love to find us…. and maybe a fish!
What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.