The Refusal to Obey a God-Given Charge
Jonah 1:3
But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish…

Jonah sullenly resolved not to obey God's voice. What a glimpse into the prophetic office that gives us! The Divine Spirit could be resisted, and the prophet was no mere machine, but a living man who had to consent with his devoted will to bear the burden of the Lord. One refused, and his refusal teaches us how superb and self-sacrificing was the faithfulness of the rest. Jonah represents the national feelings which he shared. He refused because he feared success. God's goodness was being stretched rather too far if it was going to take in Nineveh. His was the spirit of the prodigal's elder brother. Israel was set among the nations, not as a dark lantern, but as the great candlestick in the temple court proclaimed, to ray out light to all the world. Jonah's mission was but a concrete instance of Israel's charge. All sorts of religious exclusiveness, contemptuous estimates of other nations, and that bastard patriotism which would keep national blessings for our own country alone, are condemned by this story. Note the fatal consequences of refusal to obey the God-given charge. Jonah only meant to escape from service. The storm is described with a profusion of unusual words, all apparently technical terms, picked up on board. No wonder that the fugitive prophet slunk down into some dark corner, and sat bitterly brooding there, self-accused and condemned, till weariness and the relief of the tension of his journey lulled him to sleep. It was a stupid and heavy sleep. Over against the picture of the insensible prophet is set the behaviour of the heathen sailors, or "salts," as the story calls them. Their conduct is part of the lesson of the book. Their treatment of Jonah is generous and chivalrous. They are so much touched by the whole incident that they offer sacrifices to the God of the Hebrews, and are, in some sense, and possibly but for a time, worshippers of Him. All this holds up the mirror to Israel, by showing how much of human kindness and generosity, and how much of susceptibility for the truth which Israel had to declare, lay in rude hearts beyond its pale. Jonah's conduct in the storm is no less noble than his former conduct had been base. The burst of the tempest blew all the fog from his mind, and he saw the stars again. His confession of faith; his calm conviction that he was the cause of the storm; his quiet, unhesitating command to throw him into the wild chaos foaming about the ship; his willing acceptance of death as the wages of his sin — all tell how true a saint he was in the depths of his soul. The miracle of rescue is the last point. Jonah's repentance saved his life. The wider lesson of the means of making chastisement into blessing, and securing a way of escape — namely, by owning the justice of the stroke, and returning to duty — is meant for us all. The ever-present providence of God, the possible safety of the nation, even when in captivity, the preservation of every servant of God who turns to the Lord in his chastisement, the exhibition of penitence as the way of deliverance, are the purposes for which the miracle was wrought and told.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid its fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh.

The Prophet's Disobedience
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