In the Book of Jonah, God wants us to know an important fact: that the prophets were not of a different nature but were people "with a nature like ours" (James.5:17), having weaknesses, shortcomings and faults, and it was possible for them to fall like us.
The only thing was that the grace of God worked in them and gave them
power. It was not their power but the power of the Holy Spirit working
in their weakness, that the power may be of God and not of us,
according to the Apostle's words (2 Cor. 4:7).
Jonah the Prophet was one of the weak persons of the world whom God chose to put to shame the mighty ones (1 Cor. 1:27).
He had faults and he had virtues, and the Lord chose him despite his
faults, worked through him, in him and with him, and designated him to
be a great and saintly prophet, the dust of whose feet we are unworthy
of. In so doing God also shows us that He can work with us and use our
weakness as He did with Jonah.
Falls in Jonah's Fleeing
We shall see some of Jonah's weaknesses in his attitude towards the Lord's call. The Holy Bible says:
the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amity, saying, 'Arise, go
to Nineveh, that great city, and cry, out against it; for their
wickedness has come up before Me'. But Jonah arose 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 from the presence of the Lord" (Jon. 1:1-3).
Here we see the Prophet Jonah falling into a number of lapses. The first lapse was disobedience and rebellion.
was not able to obey the Lord in this matter, whilst he was a prophet
whose work was but to call people to the Lord's obedience.
fall into the lapse of disobedience we ought to have compassion on
those who fall into disobedience, putting before us the Apostle's
"Remember the prisoners as if chained with them"(Heb. 13:3).
God, the Holy One, who alone is without sin, has compassion on those
who fall, how much more ought we who similarly fall do so. Even so,
Jonah fell yet he did not have compassion!
fall of disobedience into which Jonah fell bid behind it a more serious
fall which was pride, typified in his high esteem to his word. He was
too aloft to say a word that would be disproved and not carried out.
His esteem to his word was what induced him to disobey. Truly one sin leads to another in an unending sequence.
knew for sure that God was merciful and compassionate, and that He
would forgive the city if it repented. Here is the root of the problem!
In what way will it ail you, Jonah, if God is merciful and forgiving?
will greatly ail me: I will say something to people and my words will
be disproved. I will cry out that the city will be overthrown because
of its sins, but the city will not be overthrown. My word will be
disproved and I will be stigmatised. I cannot walk with this Lord all
the way. If He abided by His warning I would have remained with Him. I
shall cry out against the city, the city will repent, and God will
return and show compassion and spare the city, and my word will be
disproved. Therefore, in order to safeguard my own honour, my
reputation and the awesomeness of the prophecy, it is better for me not
such an extent was Jonah self-centred! He was not able to abnegate
himself for the sake of people's salvation.
His reverence, honour and
word were more important to him than the salvation of a whole city!
had no objection to working with the Lord on the grounds that the Lord
would preserve for him his honour and the awesomeness of his word. That
was why he fled from the presence of the Lord refusing to carry out
this errand that would hurt his pride.
He was honest with the Lord in revealing his inner feelings. For when the Lord upbraided him afterwards, he said: "Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country?
I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and
merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, One who
relents from doing harm" (Jon. 4:2).
Jonah's fleeing from the presence of the Lord carried within it other sins, namely, foolishness and lack of faith.
one who flees from the Lord, to where will he flee when the Lord is
omnipresent? O great prophet, do you not believe that God is present in
every place to which you flee? God is present in the ship which you
will board, and in the sea which will bear the ship, and in Tarshish to
which you wish to escape. So where do you wish to hide from the
presence of the Lord?
Rightly did David the Prophet say to the Lord: "Where
can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of
the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hands shall
hold me"(Ps. 139:7-10).
Jonah was like his forefather Adam who thought that he could hide from the presence of the Lord behind the trees!
Jonah think that God was not present in the ship or in the sea and that
he could slip out of His hand? Was this not utter foolishness, and lack
of faith in God's infinite omnipotence? Or was it a childlike behaviour
of a helpless confused person who did not know what to do'? He did not
know that God's command would pursue him everywhere. Indeed, sin
extinguishes the light of perception in a man, making him forget even
matters of intuition.
In Joppa, Jonah found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare and went down into it.
How amazing that sin cost Jonah both money and effort;
he paid the fare for the journey to accomplish his sin.
As for grace,
we obtain it free. It is amazing that we toil for our own hurt,
expending money and effort. Perhaps it would have been a blessing to
Jonah if he had not the money at the time to help him travel and
When Jonah paid the fare of the ship, he suffered a double loss. He lost his money, his obedience and purity of heart. This is a glimpse of Jonah's faults when he fled and disobeyed. What was God's attitude?
It is amazing that God used Jonah's disobedience for good. Indeed God is able to use all things for the glory of His name.