Series: Jonah and the City
Here am I…Send Someone Else, Pt. Two
Last week I preached the first half of this message but in order to get you all to lunch on time, I cut it off where we will pick up this morning. Last week we looked at Jonah’s call, this week we’ll be looking at…
Read Vv. 1-3
Jonah’s fall was…
Jonah’s fall from the Lord was calculated. I mean, can you imagine what it must’ve been like for Jonah? God chose him, of all people, to carry His message to Nineveh. What an honor! Jonah must’ve felt like the luckiest man in all the land.
But verse 3 paints us a different picture. It begins with two words that very well could be the saddest words in the entire book, “But Jonah.” Instead of being thankful, Jonah ran from God’s call. But remember, before we shake our heads in disgust at Jonah’s actions, we aren’t any better than him. There have been times when many of us have ran away from God’s call. Some of you might be running right now. Maybe you’re like I was and God is calling you to surrender into the ministry, but you’re on your way to Tarshish. Maybe you’re living in sin, but you refuse to repent.
The Bible tells us that he went down to Joppa. He found a ship. He bought a ticket. This wasn’t just a spur of the moment type deal. This was a calculated decision on Jonah’s part.
When we run away from the Lord, it’s always calculated. We know the difference between right and wrong but we choose to do wrong anyway. Tarshish was about as far west as one could go. It’s believed to have been in Spain, which is over 2,000 miles west of Joppa. Nineveh was to the east. When people run from God, they always go as far away as they can. Remember the story of the prodigal son? When he left his father’s house, the son went to the “far country”.
A lot of us have a Tarshish out there somewhere. It’s that place where we think we can minister just as effectively as we could in Nineveh. But remember, when we go to Tarshish and God has called us to Nineveh, we go without His blessing.
We could sit here and speculate all day long why Jonah would’ve went to Tarshish instead of going to Ninevah. I mean, think about it…if God called you someplace else what are some of the excuses you could come up with? Maybe Jonah was afraid. What if God called you to go to Iran today and share the Gospel? A lot of us might be running to Tarshish because of fear.
Maybe Jonah went to Tarshish because he was worried he would become unpopular. I believe a lot of people are running away from the will of God because they are too concerned with being popular. It could’ve been that Jonah left God’s will because he simply didn’t care about the people of Nineveh. After all, he held some animosity toward them. They were Gentiles, he was a Jew. They were known for their brutality. They burned children alive and tortured adults by skinning them and leaving them to die in the scorching sun. No wonder he went to Tarshish. If I were to be completely honest, I wouldn’t want to go there either.
That’s because it’s not unusual for us modern day Jonahs to want to run away from our Nineveh, or our difficult situations. It’s much easier for Christians to get a divorce than it is to go to Nineveh and be in the center of God’s will. So many people think the route to Tarshish is so much easier… until they board the ship. But the real reason Jonah fled is found in the first verses of chapter 4:
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm (Jonah 4:1-2).
Jonah couldn’t believe that God would shower His grace on the Gentiles, especially those who had been so ruthless with the Jews. Jonah wanted no part of that. We see a lot of the same spirit in the prodigal’s brother who “became angry and refused to go in” when his wayward brother returned (Luke 15:28).
So Jonah ran from the Lord. His fall was a calculated. He knew where he was going, and he knew what he was doing. When we’re on the run, we seem to forget the truths of Scripture. Jonah seemed to forget the words of David that he had probably read a thousand times:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me (Psalm 139:7-10).
Jonah knew better than to think he could flee from the presence of the Lord, but his sin had blinded him to the truth of Scripture. The same thing happens to us when we’re on the run from the will of God. We find ourselves doing things that we know we shouldn’t do. We forget what we know when we run from God.
Jonah wasn’t the first or the last person in the Bible who tried to flee from the presence of the Lord. Adam and Eve tried to flee from God’s presence. Just like Jonah, they disobeyed, and God came to fix the broken relationship. But the first thing they did was try to hide:
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8).
It was the same with Cain after he killed his brother Abel. He deliberately rebelled and the Bible says,
Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden (Genesis 4:16).
On and on we could go throughout the Bible. And it’s the same with so many people today. In our rebellion, we think we can hide from the Lord — but we can’t. God said,
Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the Lord; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord (Jeremiah 23:24).
It’s also interesting to me how the Bible says he “found a ship.” Now you have to understand, Jonah didn’t just stumble across this ship, he was looking for it. It’s a dangerous thing when we try to justify our rebellion simply because things seem to fall in place. Some people think that just because they “find a ship” then it must be ok. Someone leaves God for a life of sin and says, “I’m doing just fine, look how everything turned out.” Hear me out folks: You might very well find your ship, and it may sail out right on time, but if you are on your way to Tarshish when God has called you to go to Nineveh, a storm is brewing and sooner or later you’re going overboard.
It’s amazing how skilled Satan is with his manipulative powers. A woman leaves her husband because she found a ship to Tarshish. There was someone else who was always there for her and was so kind and understanding. A man gets himself into some legal trouble because he found a ship to Tarshish. He was in a financial bind and thought, “just this once, I’ll misreport this financial statement to our shareholders”. A young Christian woman marries an unsaved man because she found a ship to Tarshish. She’s thinking, “Oh, he’ll get saved after the wedding”. We can play out a million different scenarios but the truth is, any time we want to run away from the will of God, one thing is certain…we will find a ship to Tarshish, and the devil will make sure that it’s sailing out right on time. Satan will always make sure that transportation is provided for those who are running from the will of God.
Jonah’s fall was calculated and Jonah’s fall was…
I want you to notice Jonah’s ongoing downward detour beginning in verse 3. He went down to Joppa. He went down into the ship. He went down into the lowest parts of the ship; he laid down and went to sleep (v. 5). Four times we see the word down in these verses. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think they were placed there as a vivid picture of a life fleeing from God.
Once we ever step foot on the pathway of disobedience, the road begins to spiral downward. David started going down when he watched Bathsheba take a bath. He went down further when he sent for her. He went down even further when he committed adultery. He went down even further when he had her husband killed. He went down even further when he tried to cover it up. Do you see this progression taking place? He just kept going down, down, down, until he repented.
When we start to fall away from God’s will, it comes with feeling that we can’t stop. I remember the first I ever tried to snow ski. We got to the slopes and rode the ski lift to the top of the mountain. Forget the beginner’s slope, I was going for it all. Little did I realize that once I got going, the faster I went…and the only way I knew how to stop was to just crash into the ground. It’s a wonder that I didn’t kill somebody, or myself, that day.
But that’s how it is when we leave the will of God. Everyone of us would be a lot better off if we would just learn this simple lesson: No one ever goes up while living in rebellion against God. A fall is exactly what it says it is. You ever notice that people never fall up? They fall down! When we fall from His will, not only is it a calculated fall…it’s a continuous fall until we crash. Finally, Jonah’s fall was…
Our text says that Jonah “paid the fare”. Anytime we run from God, we pay the price for it.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap (Gal. 6:7).
The rest of Jonah’s story will show us that this little trip of his was more expensive than he ever imagined. That’s the way it is with sin. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Have you ever considered the cost of running from God?
I’ve seen instance after instance of people who are paying the fare for their life of rebellion against the will of God. I know men who’ve left their families, and they’re paying the fare. I know some who are hooked on drugs, and they’re paying the fare. My best friend growing up left the will of God, and he’s in prison paying the fare. I can ride through the streets of Waynesboro and see it in the faces of people who are paying the fare. The prodigal son, when he was out in the far country feeding the swine, was paying the fare.
When we fall from God’s will, it’s costly. Ask the man whom God called into the ministry who instead went to Tarshish. Ask the prostitute down the road who is 40 and looks 60. Ask some of the people who will be lining up at the food pantry here in less than a month. Each one is somebody’s son; some of them are somebody’s daddy. We don’t have to look very hard, or very long, to see people paying the price of running from God. That is the most expensive thing a person could ever do. It costs some people their jobs, others their families, some their reputations, others joy and peace.
The fall from God’s will is a calculated fall, a continuous fall and a costly fall. But the good news is that Jesus paid our fare for us when He shed His blood on the cross at Calvary. A moment ago I quoted the first part of Rom. 6:23, but I want you to hear the second:
…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:23).
How wonderful is it that Jesus took our sin that we might take his righteousness. He died our death that we might live His life. God may be calling you toady. Don’t be like Jonah. Don’t say to God, “Here am I…send someone else!” Instead be like Isaiah and say, “Here am I…send me!”
Let no one hear you idly saying
There’s nothing I can do.
While the souls of men are dying
And the Master calls for You.
Take the task He gives you gladly
Let His work your pleasure be;
Answer quickly when He calleth
“Here am I, send me.”