Jonah Runs Away

Jonah 1  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 5
A message beginning with the little word “Go” was given to Jonah from God. But something inside of Jo-nah immediately said, “I don’t want to go.” God’s message was very clear that Jonah was to go to the city of Nineveh and shout God’s special announcement there. But Jonah chose not to obey.
Of course, Jonah had a reason for not going. We all do when we refuse to do what God says. Jonah liked God’s announcement to Nineveh because it was an announcement of judgment to a city full of people he thought were no good anyway. Jonah’s problem was that he was afraid the people would repent, and then God would not send the judgment he had announced. Jonah felt they really deserved the judgment.
Now isn’t that very selfish! Jonah wanted those sinners to be punished, and God wanted them to repent and be saved! That’s the reason God was sending Jonah to Nineveh. And that’s the reason God sent His dear Son into the world - to save sinners. And that’s the reason He is sending you this announcement right now. He wants you to repent and be saved from the punishment you deserve.
But, Jonah did not obey God. He went the opposite way. He went to Joppa, got on a ship going to Tarshish, and climbed down around the cargo to have a good sleep.
Of course he paid his fare. Trips like that are not free. But salvation is free, and God is offering it to you right now. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:2323For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)).
God had more to say to Jonah, so God sent a mighty storm into the sea. It was so terrifying that they thought the ship was going to break apart and sink. Every sailor cried to his god for protection. But Jonah slept on. The captain awakened him and cried, “Call upon [your] God, [perhaps He] will think upon us, that we perish not.”
Then they cast lots, which means that they chose a name by chance to see who had been the cause of the storm. Jonah’s name was drawn first. In that terrifying moment, Jonah knew that escape from God is impossible.
How much terror will it take to teach you? If you learn now, God has His way of escape for you. Remember that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -to save you.
Even though suicide was no escape from God, Jonah told the sailors, “Take me up, and cast me  .  .  .  into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you; for I know that [because of me] this great [storm] is upon you.”
The sailors didn’t want to throw him overboard, so they tried rowing very hard to get to land. But it didn’t work. The fierceness of the storm made it impossible.
“The wages of sin is death.” Jonah had sinned in disobeying God. He must be thrown overboard, and so this is what they did. Then the sea became calm. “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:4141And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41)). Because of this the sailors feared the Lord greatly and offered a sacrifice and made promises to Him.
For you today the sacrifice has already been offered since Christ died for sins. If the sailors’ lesson has reached your heart, you will fear the Lord greatly. His kind and loving announcement to you is, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:1313For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)).
The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. That seems awful, doesn’t it? Just imagine being crowded into its hot, oozy stomach, waiting to be digested for three hopeless days and nights of darkness.
No, not quite hopeless. Eternity in hell is hopeless. But in Jonah’s awful fish prison he was able to pray, and his hope grew into certainty that God was hearing him pray even in the fish’s stomach at the bottom of the sea. In full confidence Jonah said, “I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving..  .  . Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:99But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. (Jonah 2:9)).
This prayer was prayed in the awfulness of a fish’s stomach. Where are you right now? Maybe alone or in a crowd. Maybe having fun or in trouble. But if you pray in faith as Jonah prayed, God will hear you and answer you, because Christ is the Savior of sinners. It is not too late right now.
God heard Jonah’s prayers from the fish’s stomach. He spoke to the fish and it vomited out Jonah onto dry land.
Our next story tells how Jonah changed his mind.