Summary: Having received the commission from God to go to Nineveh to preach against it, Jonah decided instead to rebel against God and flee to Tarshish instead.
# 2 - The First Rebellion
Jonah 1:3a - “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord...”
In verse 1, God clearly told Jonah to go and preach against Nineveh as it's wickedness had come up before God. Verse 2 begins with the word, ‘But.’ The verse could have begun with the word, ‘So,’ but it didn’t. The word, ‘So’ would have meant that he decided to obey the Lord and go to Nineveh. By the verse beginning with the word, ‘But,’ we immediately get a sense that something’s amiss. It creates in us a sense of curiosity, as to where this story could be going.
Rebellion seems to be wrapped up in the heart of man and is evident in us humans, right from our childhood. It began in the Garden of Eden and it hasn’t changed since. It’s almost like something comes alive inside of us when we hear an instruction to do something, and we immediately question it, and even before we have a reason to disobey, we decide to do so. Once we decide to rebel, it’s easy to create reasons for the rebellion. Jonah was only doing what most of us do best, and in his case too, he had a reason for it and we’ll look at that in another devotion.
It’s the same with the Church today. We the church have been commissioned to make disciples of all nations, and though the early church began really well by making disciples of all nations, over time, gradually and steadily, the church rebelled against this commission by Jesus to disciple the world and we’ve become comfortable with merely making converts and celebrating the birth of new believer, as if it were the end. In fact it’s really just the beginning of their journey with the Lord, which, without help, they would find it difficult to undertake.
We’re all supposed to be making disciples, but (note the word ‘but’) a large percentage of the church has relinquished that personal responsibility and palmed it off to a very small percentage The Church. Paul, the apostle refers to these leaders in Ephesians 4:11 as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. What’s even stranger, is that these five categories of leaders were actually supposed to equip, train and release the 95% to do the work, but they’ve ended up doing it all and most of the others have taken a back seat. Little wonder the church is on the decline in several countries and many church buildings have even been converted into anything but places where the people of God can gather together. It’s that small word ‘but’ that makes all the difference between the world being saved or lost.
2. Jonah Arose
By the words, “Jonah arose,” it appears that Jonah was not in a standing position. We don’t know the position he was in, but we do know that he arose. The words ‘Jonah arose’ adds to the suspense of his impending course of action, a glimpse of which we've already seen through the word, 'But.' It's obvious that his course of action is most probably going to be resistive and rebellious. We now want to know what he decides to do.
Whenever we, the Church sit in the presence of the Lord at home, church or elsewhere, and He speaks to us through His Word or directly through His Spirit, and we are convicted, corrected, envisioned, instructed or directed, in time we arise, but the question is, What do we do when we arise? Do we continue to do what we've always done as if nothing just happened and make the Lord’s voice to us of no effect, or do we arise to walk in obedience to Him? What we arise to do makes all the difference between us fulfilling God’s will (desire) in our lives or not. Let’s decide to arise to obedience.
During this Global Pandemic, the Lord is speaking to all of us in no uncertain terms, but the question remains whether we are listening enough to hear what He’s saying to each of us and to all of us. And then, are we willing to arise to do what we’re told or reminded to do? The Church will certainly come out of this crisis, but how we respond to the voice of God during this time of crisis, will determine how we come out of it – better or bitter, stronger or weaker, overcomers or defeated, refined or polluted., envisioned or not. That outcome is in more ways than one is in our hands.
3. To Flee
Jonah didn’t just arise, he arose to flee. It’s amazing the energy, enthusiasm and determination we work up when we don’t want to do something as opposed to when we want to. There seems to be an extra adrenalin rush when it’s connected with rebellion than when it’s connected with obedience. The word, ‘flee,’ gives us the impression of a movement that’s faster than walking or running – it was a quick escape from the scene of the conversation with God. In today’s world, that word would mean taking a flight to go someplace far away from where one’s being asked to go.