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...”

1. BUT

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.

How’s our response to the Great Commission going? Are we slowly meandering towards the goal of making disciples, are we running with all our strength with that purpose in mind or are we fleeing away from it with all the energy we can muster? Going by the global Christianity statistics, it’s quite obvious that not all of us are fleeing in the direction of making disciples – some are, but most aren’t. If we were all moving in the direction the Lord commissioned us to, our world would have been reached and discipled centuries ago. Let’s decide to walk in the direction laid out for us and not flee in any other direction. We'll see why not in later devotions.

4. To Tarshish

It’s not entirely clear where Tarshish was – some believe it was at the tip of present day Spain, while Josephus believed that it was another name for Tarsus, where the apostle Paul (initially known as Saul) hailed from. But wherever the place was, one thing is evident – it was not the place the Lord was sending Jonah.

I wonder which place we, The Church have set our sights on to get away from fulfilling The Great Commission. What’s our Tarshish? Is it a geographical location? Is it a profession? Is it a skill? Is it am ambition? Whatever it is, one thing is clear, it’s not where the Lord commissioned us to go. The Lord asked us to go into all the world to make disciples of all nations, but the question is, Where are we going and why?

5. From the Presence of the Lord

The thought of fleeing from the Presence of the Lord seems absurd to one who knows that God is omnipresent. Did Jonah not know that fact about God, or did he think that the place he was headed to, was one that God would not want to be present in for some reason? In Psalm 139:7-12, the Psalmist David says, “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. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” But whatever Jonah’s understanding of God was, he set out on his journey of fleeing from the presence of the Lord.

Have we, The Church, sought to flee from the presence of the Lord, so as to cease from hearing His voice reminding us that the reason we were saved was serve the Lord by making disciples of all nations? If that’s the case, let’s remind ourselves that we are on a futile pursuit - as we’ll discover later on in this story.

You will arise after reading this devotion, to do what you do daily– whether it’s continuing on in the privileged responsibility of making disciples of all nations or you will arise to do anything but what the Lord has reminded you to do. If you’re going to go about the former, then arise and go full steam ahead and do just that, right till the end, for your labour will not be in vain. But if it’s your intention to arise to do anything else but that, may I encourage you, to stop right now and ask the Lord to help you get a grasp on His purpose for saving you. And then, when you’re convinced that you were saved to serve, arise to do nothing but that and trust me, your labour will be richly rewarded both here and in eternity.

Have a Blessed Day

Michael Collins