“Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” Jonah 1:1-3 (KJV)
In the presence of the LORD, there is joy, peace, hope, and life. Out of His presence, there is fear, dread, and chaos.
Jonah was an actual man who lived during the reign of Jeroboam 2 of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 14:25). He is also mentioned in a teaching by Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 12:39-41), and Jesus was not referring to a parable, but using Jonah as factual history, and his being in the belly of a great fish/whale.
The central character of the book of Jonah is not Jonah. It is God.
Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. It as a foreign nation which he knew did not believe in Jehovah/YHWH: and Jonah was a patriot of Israel; so he fled, and “went down to Joppa” hopped on a ship going to Tarshish, paid his fare, and “went down into it.”
It is quite possible that Jonah sold all his possessions to flee. He was leaving any family he may have had, friends, home, etc. behind to flee from God’s will for his life.
This was one time when this prophet had no intention of obeying God. Did he know about God’s richness of mercy? Most certainly he did. It is probably why he chose to flee. He did not want to see a hated enemy repent and experience the mercy of Jehovah God of Israel.
Notice the common thread of all who “flee from the presence of the LORD”. The “presence of the LORD” is the only place of contentment, peace, rest, and fulfillment. The “presence of the LORD” is the will of God for our lives (those who are in the faith of Jesus Christ).
Please notice the path of fleeing from the presence of God: Every step is a downward step:
- “Went down to Joppa” (v. 3);
- “Went down into it [the ship] (v. 3);
- “Was gone down into the sides of the ship…” (v. 5)
Just for further thought on this: Jonah was then cast down into the sea, and went then, down into the belly of the “prepared… fish” (Jonah 1:17). Down. Down, and down. The path out of God’s will and direction.
Twice in verse three, it says, “…from the presence of the LORD”. There is warning there for everyone who would step out of God’s will for any reason; no matter how reasonable it may seem.
It is shocking to find how easy it is to find the means to flee from God’s will for our lives. A ship was at Joppa. It is very possible that Jonah purchased the whole use of the vessel – he, possibly being the only passenger, and the other men being the captain and the crew. We can always find means to flee, but we rarely find the time and means to do His will.
Did Jonah think he could go someplace where God could not find Him? It is not likely. For Jonah to flee was pure rebellion against the sovereignty of God in his life. For anyone who openly rebels against God’s will they flee “…from the presence of the LORD”. We all must learn that where God calls us is going to be the place where we are content, at peace and joyous in the LORD. That all begins by believing what God tells us about His Son Jesus who died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day. Call on Him and begin your life living in the presence of the LORD.