The story of Jonah has been one known off and on for many over the years. Especially the detail about him being swallowed by a fish. (Not a whale, a fish..he Hebrew says fish, not whale). Jonah had been given clear instructions by God. Go to Nineveh. Preach against it. Jonah on the other hand ran down to a city port called Joppa and booked a ship heading to a place called Tarshish in order to run away from God.
Here’s the thing, Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. The nation of Israel was at war with Assyria. Nineveh was the capital of the enemy. It was roughly 500 miles away as the crow flies. Tarshish on the other hand is to believed to have been far away as a coastal port city somewhere in the Mediterranean. So, yeah, way the other way from where God was calling Jonah.
He ran away from God.
As I’ve been pondering God’s calling, what it means to live by God’s call, I wonder how often do we try to run away from God’s calling in our life. How often does God call us to do something that isn’t that far away from us or highly not unfeasible (double negative?) yet we run away to someplace that’s far away from what God wants?
How often does that hurt us? How often does this make things worse?
When Jonah ran away from God, he booked passage on a ship. While on the sea, the ship was hit by a huge storm. He put others in danger. His unwillingness to serve God and answer God’s call in his life caused danger for others. How often do we put others in danger for not following God’s call? How often do we do more harm than good by not listening to God?
Now here’s the kicker, God sent a fish (again, not a whale) to take Jonah to Nineveh. The darn thing vomited him out onto the land. No going back. And Jonah heard God’s call again. He answered it this time. And Nineveh repented of their evil and turned to God.
We could end with “Awesome. Amen.” But it doesn’t end there.
Jonah get’s peeved that God didn’t do what Jonah wanted God to do. He was angry that Nineveh wasn’t smited (smote? smoted?) by God. Instead, God spared the whole city because they turned to Him.Jonah didn’t like that. He wanted fireballs from heaven to wipe out the enemy.
There are so many ways you could go with this. Jesus says to love your enemies. The biggest thing here is that Jonah still wasn’t living up to his calling. He ran away. And then he half-heartedly answered it expecting God to do something on Jonah’s terms not God’s.
How often do we do that? How often do we not answer God’s calling in our lives. Or if we do, we do so half-heartedly and then get frustrated that God doesn’t act the way we wanted him to.
God’s calling in our lives isn’t about us. It’s about God. It’s about Jesus.
Paul tells the church in Ephesus
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Ephesians 1:1
We’ve all received a calling from God to do something for him. Each one. And in Jesus, we have received this calling. We can choose to answer it or we can choose to run away.
Please don’t run away.
Answer this call. And do it with all your heart. Be worthy of the call you have received.
I don’t know what you’ve been called to do. It could be something as easy as getting to know your neighbors more. It could be bringing cookies to someone. It could be offering a shoulder of grace for someone to cry on. It could be more. It could be to start a Bible study. It could be to start something new at church. Or it could be really hard. Regardless of the call, God has called you. And He will not leave you unequipped.
When you hear God’s call, and you will or even you have, please don’t run away. Hear it. Accept it. Live it. Live worthy of the calling you have received.