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Sailing on S.S. Tarshish

“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 1:2-3 (ESV)

At the age of twelve I boarded the SS Uganda for my first school trip.  It was to be an educational cruise and indeed we visited various cities.  But I do recall the Bay of Biscay, those little brown paper bags, and trying to sleep in the dorms on a hammock down in the former cargo area of the ship.  Two years after my trip the SS Uganda was called up for military service and became a hospital ship.  Jonah also boarded a ship, as we see from our above verse.

“Arise” is an invitation to join God in what He is doing!  Jonah was invited to carry out two specific things: first, go to Nineveh; second, call out against it – that is, rebuke them for their sin and call them to repentance.  “But Jonah,” the first two words of verse 3, are the saddest words in the whole book.  Jonah did just the opposite of what God wanted.  Nineveh was about 550 miles east of Jonah.  Tarshish was 2,500 miles west.  We are told that he went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.  Disobedience is always downward, never upward.  As you read the full chapter you can see the downward digression from God.  God tells him to “arise” but Jonah chooses to go down.  First he went down to Joppa.  Then he went down into the ship.  Then down into the sea, then down in the fish’s belly, then down into the deep.  When you choose to leave the sure path of God’s will, you begin a long downward trail that leads to disaster.

Running from God is a downward trip.  It is also expensive.  You get to pay the fare.  There is a high price for a Tarshish trip and a high price for disobedience, as it takes us from the presence of God.

As chapter one progresses, we see that Jonah has boarded a ship heading in the opposite direction from the will of God for his life.  Then a storm comes up which threatens not only Jonah but the rest of the crew as well.  His disobedience affected others.  We too impact others by our choices and behaviour. Rebellions has a ripple effect.  Jonah was running from God’s Word and God’s will for his life.  How about us?  What is God saying to you personally today through His Word?