Previously we met a prophet by the name of Jonah, who was called by God to go and preach the Word of the Lord to the people of the wicked city of Nineveh. Today we learn how Jonah responded to God's calling.
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
Jonah 1:3 (New International Version)
Verse 3 tells us that Jonah ran away from God's call and went to the port of Joppa, which is near what we now know as Tel Aviv, to board a ship bound for Tarshish. There is some uncertainty as to where Tarshish is, but a city in what is now Spain seems to make the most sense. If the origin of Jonah's journey was his home town of Gath Hepher then Nineveh would have been over 500 miles to the east. However, Jonah's destination for Tarshish would have been over 2000 miles. Some interpretations indicate that Tarshish is a generic term to represent any destination that is far away. This is the real point that is made in this verse--Jonah wanted to go far away to escape from God.
What was this prophet thinking? He of all people should have had an understanding of God's nature. Jonah should have known that there was no escaping God and yet he goes out of his way to make an effort to do exactly this. "Jonah ran away from God", and he goes to the closest major port--Joppa--and buys a ticket on a ship going to a place that was very far. The journey would have taken many days and would have been difficult. He would have been spending a great deal of money for his travel-- I have no idea where he got his money--and he would have been relocating to a strange land. If he had been trying to escape other men or shirk some kind of earthly responsibility his plan might have worked and even been worth the difficulty. However, Jonah was trying "to flee from the Lord". How can anyone flee from God?
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:7-10 (New International Version)
Have you ever tried to flee from God at some time in your life? What made you realize that fleeing from God was impossible? Are you running from God now?