Jonah was an amazingly successful missionary. At the same time, he was also a very reluctant one, at least at first. Whatever Jonah was doing, God’s call interrupted his life in a big way. Instead of taking God’s yoke upon his shoulders and discovering for himself that His yoke is easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:30), Jonah decided to find his own “rest,” and that was by running in the opposite direction from where God was calling him to go.
Where was Jonah hoping to find peace and rest from God’s call? How well did it work for him? Read Jonah 1:1-1:16.
Jonah sets off in the opposite direction to where God called Him. He doesn’t even stop to reason with God, as had many of the other Bible prophets when called to be God’s messengers (see, for example, Exodus 4:13).
Interestingly enough, this is not the first time that Jonah has been called to speak for God, as suggested by 2 Kings 14:25. In that case, however, Jonah appears to have done what the Lord had asked him to. Not this time, however.
Historical and archaeological records document the cruelty of the Neo-Assyrian overlords who dominated the ancient Near East during the eighth century B.C., the time that Jonah ministered in Israel. About 75 years later, the Neo-Assyrian king Sennacherib attacked Judah. Israel and Samaria already had fallen about twenty years earlier, and King Hezekiah apparently had joined a local anti-Assyrian coalition.
Now the time had come for the Assyrians to settle accounts. The Bible (2 Kings 18, Isaiah 36), historical Assyrian documents, and the wall reliefs of Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh all tell us the cruel story about the fall of Lachish, one of the most important and well-fortified southern border fortresses of Hezekiah. In one inscription, Sennacherib claims to have taken more than two hundred thousand prisoners from 46 fortified cities that he claimed to have destroyed. When the Assyrian king took Lachish, hundreds or thousands of prisoners were impaled; hard-core supporters of King Hezekiah were flayed alive, while the rest were sent to Assyria as cheap slave labor.
The Assyrians could be incredibly cruel, even by the standards of the world at that time. And God was sending Jonah into the very heart of that empire?
Is it any wonder that Jonah didn’t want to go?
|Fleeing from God? Have you ever done that before? If so, how well did it work out for you? What lessons should you have learned from that mistake?|