WEEK 1: Opportunity of a Lifetime
“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before Me.’ But 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 down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.” (Jonah 1:1-3, ESV)
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and “call out against it”, because their evil had “come up before Him” (1:2). Yet Jonah fled in the opposite direction to Tarshish. From a purely human perspective, self-preservation made Jonah consider the consequences of going to a heathen city (that was at war with Israel) as a Jewish prophet. He knew his life may have been in danger, not only from Nineveh but also from his own countrymen, the Israelites who would surely punish him for extending God’s grace towards a heathen nation.
Nineveh was also not a small, random city, but the largest in the known world at the time. Consider God calling you to preach against Tokyo in Japan, the largest city today. It would seem to be an impossible task. One against 37 million!
“But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (1:3). Twice in verse 3 it says that Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord. Jonah deliberately chose to flee from the calling of God to go to Nineveh. Not only that, but he also paid his own way onto a boat sailing to Tarshish. All believers should have one desire, and that is to grow closer and closer to our Lord, in order to be in His presence. This closeness to God comes at a price and often the cost is too high, yet we still long for that closeness. Often, when it comes to the things of God and partaking in the calling of God upon our lives, we jump at the opportunity, saying “if God supplies, I will go.” But what if God’s supply is not an upfront sufficiency, but a lifelong journey of dependence?
“So he paid the fare” (1:3). Jonah was not willing to risk his life, to have faith that God would provide once he set out on the journey to Nineveh. However, Jonah was willing to use his own money to pay the fare to go to Tarshish for personal reasons of safety. Are we not doing the same when we present ourselves as willing servants to the call of God as long as He provides? Keeping our possessions to ourselves, willing to pay our own way for the things that we want, wasting precious time and money on selfish ambitions while we wait on God to “provide” before we “step out in faith”?
Choose today to be unconditional and unreserved in your service to God. Seek His presence no matter the cost. And remember that when God says “arise and go”, He’s presenting you with the opportunity of a lifetime, to partake in the miracle that is ‘one against 37 million’.