Jonah probably feels his refusal to go to Nineveh is a reasonable limit on his obedience to God. After all, the Assyrians (Nineveh was their capital) were monsters. Any sane person would want to see them fall under God’s wrath. So Jonah represents a negative example; he’s the classic example of what not to do. We can compare him to Jesus who insists on obeying God when it’s hard.
Why do we, like Jonah, find ourselves attempting to put limits on our obedience? We might think God will leave us in the lurch. Or maybe we just don’t feel confident in our ability to do what God asks. It might be uncertainty about God’s calling, or a fear of suffering. And sometimes our agendas don’t align with God’s.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night he was arrested, Jesus shows us the alternative. While he’s desperate to avoid the ordeal of the cross, he’s committed to God’s agenda. “Not my will, but yours be done,” he prays. Even though he wants to do something–anything–else, Jesus decides to follow God’s will no matter what.
And so we have these two role models, Jesus, who runs towards God’s will, and Jonah, who runs away from it. So when it comes to obeying God when it’s hard, do we respond, “Not my will, but yours be done,” or do we set sail for Tarshish?
Questions for Reflection
- What sorts of things do you think we fear God might ask us to do?
- What is Tarshish for us? i.e. What are the places we go and excuses we give for our unwillingness to follow God’s direction to do things we don’t want to do?
- Has God ever called me to do something I didn’t want to do? How did it turn out?