Have you ever known anyone who tried to avoid a calling as much as Jonah? The word of the Lord came to Jonah commanding him to call the people of Ninevah to repentance. We don’t know if “the word of the Lord” came to Jonah directly through the Holy Ghost or through his priesthood leader, but he rejected this home teaching or mission assignment in a major way.
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
Why didn’t Jonah just stay home and ignore the prompting, like the rest of us do?
Did Jonah have a wife? Did she encourage or disapprove of running from God? I wonder if staying home wasn’t an option because of her or other family members who knew of God’s command and pressured Jonah to go to Ninevah.
Obviously, running away from God and taking that ship enabled the huge plot twist in Jonah’s story. I’m grateful he ran to the sea.
It seems like Jonah was financially well off enough to find a boat heading the other direction, pay the fare and climb aboard. Jonah fell asleep and stayed asleep during a violent storm sent by the Lord to awaken him to his sense of duty. He slept through the storm until the sailors woke him up and told him to start praying.
Am I Asleep?
These 5 verses (Jonah 1:1-5) make me shudder and examine my own life.
- Can I hear the Lord’s voice? If I can hear the Lord’s voice, do I?
- Am I following the Lord’s will for me—all of it? Even if it’s a time committal, self-sacrificing, soul-stretching, or boring thing?
- If I am doing what He asked, have I asked Him how He would like it to be done? Jonah eventually went to Ninevah, preached and everyone repented. But instead of rejoicing, Jonah sulked in bitterness of heart. If I’m doing what the Lord asked, am I doing it wholeheartedly with the Spirit?
- If I am not doing what He asked, where did I flee to? Why didn’t I do it? Could anything motivate me to change?
- Am I spiritually, and physically, asleep?
I used to think, wow, despite it all, Jonah must have felt confident enough in his decision to sleep that soundly. And maybe he was. Or maybe he was so exhausted from running away that he was catatonic.
But the fact that he slept while others fought desperately for their lives implies, in my reading of the story, that he first ignored the Lord, then he secondly ignored his neighbor. He neglected both great commandments to love and serve the Lord and his neighbor.
In doing so, he slighted his covenant “to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death…” And by slighting his part in the covenant, he rejected the Lord’s part in the covenant promising “…that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life”
Wake Up, Jonah!
The sailors, incredulous that Jonah slept at such an inappropriate time, woke him up.
“O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.”
Jonah awoke and finally saw the awful chains that bound him. His awakening, though, included facing a gulf, the deep, as a captive in a prison where only the Lord could hear him. He could not rescue himself. No neighbor could come to his rescue. The Lord, with grace and mercy, rescued Jonah when he turned to the source of rescue willing to be rescued.
I’m grateful for God’s mercy to Jonah and to us. I wonder all the ways the story would have differed had Jonah gotten up and said “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
Maybe we would have never heard of Jonah at all. Or maybe his story wouldn’t have ended with him whining under a vine, maybe it would have ended in other glorious triumphs instead.
I’m not here to judge brother Jonah’s actions, but I am here to learn from them.
This part of his story teaches me to:
- Listen for the Lord’s voice
- Hear the word of the Lord
- Act according to the Lord’s will
- Recognize the Lord’s hand in my rescue and in completing His will
If I truly trust in the Lord, then He will know that He can trust me to do His will and build His kingdom, even when He says, “Arise, go to Nineveh….”
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.