The Word of the LORD came to Jonah…Go
To the great city of Nineveh and preach
against it…But Jonah ran away from the
LORD and headed for Tarshish.
When I was eight years old, my mother and I bounced around in the top last row of a Greyhound double-decker bus from Michigan to Tennessee. Sliding left and right and jolting up and down for several hundred miles left a lasting impression on my stomach.
However, by day two at my grandparent’s house, my stomach returned to normal, and I was stepping on grandpa’s heels as he went about the business of working the farm. I kept noticing him tearing a piece of a dark substance off a block of something he pocketed in his bib overalls. He would put it in his mouth, chew, spit, and wipe his lips with the back of his hand. It looked good, so I kept asking, “Can I have some?” He continued to reply, “No,” until he became weary of my asking.
Finally, he tore off a small piece and handed it to me with careful instructions to not swallow either the juice or the plug of tobacco. I promised! Unfortunately, without thinking, I swallowed. I turned green. I gagged. I vomited. Grandpa smiled. He knew I would never again ask for a “chaw” of his tobacco. Lesson learned!
Jonah also learned a lesson. God called him to preach to the city of Nineveh “because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2) Apparently, Jonah did not like what the LORD had to say and chose to run rather than obey. He went to the port of Joppa, paid his fare and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish; according to maps of the then-known world, that was as far as he could go in the opposite direction.
God sent a storm, the crew threw Jonah overboard, a great fish swallowed Jonah, the seas calmed, and after three days in the belly of that great fish and a powerful prayer, Jonah was vomited onto dry ground. Again, the word of the LORD came to Jonah “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” This time, Jonah obeyed! The city repented, God showed compassion, and destruction was averted.
Sometimes we get what we ask for only to find out it is not good for us. Sometimes we run from God. Sometimes our disobedience impacts others. And like my grandfather's "yes" to my request for tobacco, God sometimes allows us to learn the hard way. But God is the God of second chances. There is hope when you run to Him rather than from Him. What is He asking of you?
© Joyce Powell