1Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. - Jonah 1:1-3
According to 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah was a prophet to Israel under Jeroboam the second. His name means “dove.” He may have lived up to his name when he tried to flee from God, but he was certainly no dove when it came to hoping God would wipe out Nineveh. Jonah prophesied about eight centuries before the time of Christ. The book that bears his name is a painfully transparent view of God’s dealings with a man.
The theme of Jonah is not the famous fish. When I was a little boy, I was more interested in what was going on inside the fish than what was going on inside Jonah. The fish is only mentioned four times and has a small supporting role. And Nineveh is not the theme. The city Jonah was sent to warn about God’s judgment is mentioned only nine times. In fact, the theme of the book of Jonah is not even Jonah. He’s mentioned only 18 times. The theme of the book of Jonah is God. God is mentioned 38 times in four chapters, 38 times in 48 verses. God is the central figure in Jonah’s story.
We learn from the book of Jonah that our God is a loving, merciful, caring, patient, pursuing God. And when He lays His hand on your life, it’s there for good. You can run, but you can’t hide. You may struggle and rebel, but when you do, God is coming hard after you.
We could subtitle the book of Jonah, God in Pursuit. That’s the big lesson from that minor prophet. God loves His children and won’t let them rebel and get away. He goes after them whether they fill a city like Nineveh and must be called to repentance or whether they are a single, stubborn prophet who knows God wants to give those evil people of Nineveh a chance but he doesn’t want to have any part in it. Isn’t that good news? I mean, it’s a thrilling thing to realize how God’s Word reveals God’s heart for each of His children. He loves us and He pursues us.
Prayer - Thank You, Father, for all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways You pursue me. Forgive me for all those times I insist on ignoring the evidence of Your pursuit and try to run a different way. In my moments of truth I realize I can’t outrun You or hide from You. And I don’t want to. Forgive me for believing the lie that You won’t welcome me if I turn with all my sin toward You and surrender. Thank You, Lord for the grace You have shown me every time I have stopped running away and started running toward You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.