Daily Reading: Jonah 1
“But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord…”Jonah 1:3 (NASB)
The Bible college I attended required weekly street evangelism as part of its curriculum. The first day out, a mentor accompanied me. We were on a public university campus, and my mentor thought it would be a great idea if we just sat down in the middle of a group of young people that were smoking marijuana. I was excited to see how this would go outwardly, however inwardly I was like Jonah; I wanted to flee to the restroom to get away. That day, no one accepted the good news of the Gospel, however I learned a tremendous amount. First I learned about not fleeing from difficult spiritual situations. Second I learned how to deal with various personalities and still take the opportunity to share the gospel.
There certainly is a time to flee. Paul told pastor Timothy to, “flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim 2:22). The book of Proverbs exhorts the prudent young man to flee from the harlot waiting in the streets. What we should never flee, however, is the Word of the Lord and the direction of the Lord. As disciples of Jesus we should not flee from truth or obedience. As with this story in Jonah, Korah’s rebellion (Number 16), or Achan’s sin at Ai (Joshua 7), and many others, our disobedience to the call of God affects not only us, but those around us. God always takes His words seriously, they are never frivolous.
We don’t know exactly what Jonah was afraid of. Perhaps it was the wickedness of the city, or the fact that he was a Jew. It may well have been the size of the city, for the end of the book tells us that the young children alone numbered 120,000. Whatever the reason, Jonah feared man. It is this same fear which many times causes us to be disobedient. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” You see a glimmer of this fear in Acts 9. Paul has been converted by and appearance of Jesus Himself. He is instructed to go tot he house of Ananias, yet Ananias knew who Paul was. Although there may have been fear in the heart of Ananias, he was obedient to God and met Paul.
The narrative of Jonah, of course, reveals his eventually obedience to God in going to Nineveh. Futhermore the people accepted the message and did not try and kill Jonah. His fear was misplaced. Sometimes you and I will be called to places and go through processes where we will not be accepted. Our step of faith may feel like a failure; consider however that a step of faith in obedience to God is never a failure regardless of our perceived outcome. We should always remember to flee from sin, but we should never flee from the leading of God and His Spirit!