Jonah has tried to run from God, but it’s just not possible to hide from the God who is everywhere. 1:3 ‘Jonah ran away from the LORD’, and ‘sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.’ There is nowhere can we go that is beyond the reach of his Spirit, nowhere we can go to escape his presence. Whether we try to reach the highest heights, or plumb the deepest depths, he is there. He is the inescapable God. No matter how far, or how fast, we run, we can’t hide from him. Don’t try to run from God, or you might end up as fish vomit!
The word of the Lord comes to Jonah a second time (v1). Such a simple phrase, but full of grace! God is giving Jonah a second chance. God is so gracious, patient and merciful towards his people. He could have said, ‘Right, Jonah, that’s it, you’ve blown it. You’re no use to me anymore.’ But he doesn’t.
We shouldn’t take God’s mercy for granted, but the grace of God is given not grudgingly or reluctantly, but lavishly and abundantly. There is a limit to God’s mercy, but he does not withdraw it hastily. The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. He’d messed things up, made a mistake, but he’d learnt from his mistake; he hadn’t learnt everything; he still had more to learn, but he has learnt something from his experience in chs. 1 & 2.
He has learned that you can run from the Lord, but you can’t hide from him. When his word comes to you, you don’t turn away from it, rather you obey it (v3): when God says, ‘go to Nineveh’, you don’t go to Tarshish, you go to Nineveh; when God says, ‘proclaim the message I give you’, that’s exactly what you do.
Jonah preaches God’s message, and the people of Nineveh repent; they turn away from sin and wickedness, and God turns away from his anger. They repent, and he relents.
God is totally pure, totally holy; he will not tolerate sin and wickedness indefinitely, whether in his people, or in world in general. He sees and knows it all, whether it’s done in public, or in private. But God is also loving, merciful and gracious – if we repent, he will relent.
Thank God for Jonah! He was far from perfect; he was foolish in thinking he could hide from God; he was reluctant to obey; he was more concerned for his own comfort than for the people of Nineveh. But God used him to bring forgiveness.
Thank God for someone greater than Jonah, who willingly and selflessly gave himself for his enemies. Jesus didn’t run away from cross, but embraced it. He endured the cross, for the joy set before him (Hebs. 12:2) – the joy of bringing forgiveness, salvation, acceptance and reconciliation to people like us. Thank you, Lord!