The story of Jonah is so well known that there are few people who haven’t heard of his underwater adventures in the belly of the whale. But that is not what I want to focus our attention on in this Seed of the Kingdom. The second verse of Jonah’s book highlights his plan to run away from God and escape the difficult assignment he had been given, to preach repentance to the wicked city of Ninevah – an unwelcome assignment for God’s man of the day.
Heading for Tarshish became both his downfall and his opportunity to discover God’s extraordinary grace and mercy. It was his escape from obedience. He knew exactly what he was doing. Those two words, “But Jonah . . .” say it all. I’m old enough now to recall many prayer times with, usually tearful, people who were describing trips down to their own “Joppa” to buy a ticket to escape from God’s call on their lives. Every possible excuse under the sun had been in their hearts as they set out to defy the gentle whispers of God’s Holy Spirit, calling them to follow Him.
Some had come face to face with their own ‘great fish’ – others had just ploughed on into a wasted life and, sadly, were living to regret their failure to do what God had laid before them. Maybe it was fear of failure that held them back, or just plain selfishness or sinful choices as they weighed up the cost of following Jesus.
One chorus we sang at our youth group impacted me then, and still impacts me now. Those word “No turning back” have been a constant challenge throughout my life and even are today. I remember an occasion when I bought a ticket at my personal Joppa and set sail for my Tarshish. I remember with horror, even now, what I knowingly did to run away from God’s best for my life and how, like Jonah, it very nearly cost me my life. Oh, how great was the merciful intervention of a loving God who dramatically intervened to save me from myself and teach me one of my life’s great lessons.
Perhaps it would be worth meditating for a little while on those words “But Jonah. . .” – try putting your own name in place of Jonah’s and ask the Lord to show you those occasions in your own life when you might have set sail for your own personal Tarshish. God’s forgiving mercy is the most gracious and tender of healing balms. His arms are wide open to minister His love and help you back to the place He really wants you to be, at this moment of your life.
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