Summary: Jonah refuses to follow God’s call and starts a steady downward trip away from the only One who could save him. He finds a city of escape; pays for his way of flight and winds up with the wrong crowd.
CIRCUMVENTS CLEAR COMPLIANCE
If w one word could describe one person then Jonah could be aptly noted as being “contumacious.” This is a big word but it really means “rebellious.” This certainly describes Jonah. God looked down from His throne in Heaven and picked out the one man who could do the most for His kingdom-Jonah. Yet, due to a myriad of fears, personal issues and the feeling of superiority over his supposed audience, the chosen man refused and did not want to obey God. Not only did he refuse to obey the Lord, but he set out on a course of fleeing from God, thinking that his actions would supersede God’s call and he would win in the end. How wrong he proved himself to be.
However, let us not be too critical of old Jonah. Let us not think that he was only one of his kind. The opposite is the truth. Jonah stands today as the “Patron Saint” of the many, the very many, who down through history, have said a big, “No” to God and have gone on their own way-thinking they knew better than God did concerning how do one’s own thing without obeying God. Like Jonah, the very many obstinate and rebellious people who have turned their back on God and refused to follow Him, have had to pay a dear price for their rebellion. Fortunately, Jonah realized his mistake, repented and then followed God. Yet there are many who never take advantage of the chance to repent and to follow God as Jonah did thus ending their lives being bitter, hurt and angry.
As I look at verse three, I see where Jonah set out on a deliberate path to disobey God never dreaming that the One who made him and all things in his world, could not be ignored nor rejected without paying a heavy price. Jonah knew what he was doing when he did arise as is stated in verse three, but he did not arise to follow God. He arose from his place of being and fled to a city where he thought God would not follow him. His plans were-to him-fool proof. He knew where to go to flee from the presence of God, so he thought. What he was not considering was that God’s omnipresence would encounter him where ever he would go. Jonah found out that the God of Israel was also the God of the whole world and he could not run away from the Spirit of God who inhabits eternity and this world.
As I study this verse, I note three things about Jonah’s actions. The first thing I note has to do with Joppa itself, the CITY where he went to begin his flight from God. The second thing I see in this verse relates to the CRAFT he chose to sail away from the all seeing eye of God. Lastly, I note his CREDULITY, his choice to go about his own way. All of these events were nothing more than crutches upon which he relied in his flight from God. Later, all of these things would turn to mock him when he finally came to the realization that he had best obey God and stop his rebellion.
I. CITY: The first thing I note about our man of the hour is his selection of the city of Joppa for his departure from Israel and his long flight away from God. This city was famous for centuries previously to the time of Jonah. It seemed to be one of those ports especially formed by the hand of the Maker. Its shallow water line allowed boats to actually broach the shoreline and unload/load their cargo without fear of becoming lodged on the banks. Another part of the city’s coastal line was higher and formed a semi-circle of barrier reefs which made it possible for self defense in case of being under a siege. At the time of Jonah, it was a bustling city and it was where he found a ship headed to Tarshish, probably a city in southern Spain, hoping to flee from God.
Another aspect of this city was that it was Convenient for the rebellious prophet to find. Its fame and popularity, with its location along the sea coast of the Mediterranean Sea, was famous in the area and Jonah did not have to wait long until he found the perfect spot to begin his exodus from the presence of God. I note the text says that, “He went down to Joppa.” This description of the topography of the land is more accurate than it seems at first glance. From his original spot where he heard God call him to his action of fleeing, he literally had to descend the hills of his land to go down to a place that was sea level.