Opening Prayer

As I come to read your Word today, Father, I don’t want to simply read. I ask that you use it to penetrate my heart with life-changing truth.

Read JONAH 1:1–16

Jonah Flees From the Lord

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

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.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

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New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?’1 How does this thought comfort you? Or make you uncomfortable?

Think Further

The book of Jonah begins with the customary formula of prophetic books: ‘The word of the Lord came to Jonah’ (v. 1). Two verses later, the story takes off in an unexpected direction when Jonah takes off toward Tarshish in the west instead of heading east to Nineveh (v. 3).

Jonah flees from ‘the presence of the Lord’ (vv. 3, 10, NRSV)—but it is unthinkable that this prophet, who professes faith in the all-powerful Creator (v. 9), would have imagined he could escape from God’s presence! Desmond Alexander suggests that ‘by fleeing from the Lord’s presence Jonah announces emphatically his unwillingness to serve God.’2 Jonah isn’t running from God’s presence so much as refusing to serve his purposes. Under Jeroboam, the extension of Israel’s borders had protected Israel’s national interests. Since this happened ‘in accordance with the word of the Lord … spoken through his servant Jonah,’3 it would also have furthered Jonah’s career as a prophet. Should we conclude that Jonah was prepared to serve God’s purposes only so long as this furthered his own? Even the unbelieving sailors are appalled by Jonah’s disobedience. Their outraged ‘What have you done?’ (v. 10) echoes God’s question to Eve after humanity’s rebellion in Eden.4 These sailors seem to be more sensitive to the things of God than God’s own prophet (vv. 6, 14, 16)! As Jonah runs, God relentlessly pursues, ready to move heaven and earth—and literally moving wind and waves (vv. 4, 11)!—to reach his runaway prophet. A great wind is ‘hurled’ upon the sea, cargo is ‘hurled’ overboard, Jonah is ‘hurled’ into the sea (vv. 4, 5, 15, ESV). All this hurling and raging is like a wrestling match between God and Jonah! Unlike Jacob, who wrestled with God because he yearned for God’s blessing,5 Jonah wrestles with God’s desire to bless Israel’s enemies.


Are you running from God? How might he be pursuing you?

Closing prayer

Lord God, thank you that when I am tempted to turn from your will, you remain faithful; you love and care for me. Help me to be more faithful, more loving, caring more for those things that concern you.

Last Updated on March 1, 2024 by kingstar

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