Today as I write this post for the blog I am actually sitting in Tarshish!
Tarshish is eastern Spain from Cartagena (New Carthage) to the province of Almeria. And it has got me thinking about Jonah, and the preparations God made for him.
“Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17 (KJV)
The Book of Jonah gives us an insight into what it is like to run away from God’s will. In the pages of this book we can observe four things the Lord prepared for Jonah
The word “prepared” is mentioned four times. There were four things God prepared for Jonah in order to keep Jonah from straying too far, and to ensure Jonah was in His plan. (Perhaps I’ll share the other three things next week).
First of all, Jonah plotted his course. He had made his own plans. And he had made them carefully and thoughtfully.
Jonah didn’t just go down to the port and find the first ship that was leaving the harbour. He knew just where he wanted to go. He had made his plans. And his plans were in complete opposition to the plan of God.
God wanted Jonah to go east, to Nineveh. But Jonah was planning to go west, to Tarshish.
“But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” Jonah 1:3 (KJV).
Do you see that? It is not only that we will not obey the Lord’s plan for our lives; it is also that we want to follow our own plans.
We ignore the Lord. And that is simply foolish. When we ignore the Lord we lose His favour. Jonah soon saw that: “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope (of steadfast love).” Jonah 2:8 (ESV).
And also we are guilty of pleasing ourselves.
Then he paid his passage.
Do you see that? He paid his fare. He was no stowaway. He was not breaking the law. But he was breaking God’s heart.
What we are doing with our life may not be wrong, but if it is contrary to God’s will we are grieving the Lord.
He felt good as he paid the fare. But it was not too long before Jonah “paid the price.”
He had paid not only to get to Tarshish, but also to get away from God. It was the presence of the Lord that he wanted to avoid. But how he longed for that presence when he was alone in the deep!
He planned his new career. And being a preacher wasn’t part of his plans. His plans were for profit, not for a prophet!
There is probably more here than meets the eye. Tarshish was a merchant port.
“For the king’s ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.” 2 Chronicles 9:21 (KJV).
Had Jonah decided on a life in the business world?
As I sit here in Tarshish today, it is a bit of a run-down forgotten part of Spain. But in Jonah’s day it was a great trading place. And so Jonah plotted his new career.
Is there anything wrong with that? No, not really, unless, that is, God has called you to the ministry!
God had called Jonah to prophesy in Nineveh.
“Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” Jonah 1:1-2 (KJV).
But as Jonah planned his outward journey, God prepared his return journey
“Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17 (KJV).
My friend, do not fear the will of God. Paul told the Romans that God’s will is good – acceptable – and perfect.
We do not need fear God’s will for our lives.
But we must fear if we are out of God’s will, because He will spare no effort to bring us back to the place He has called us to be.
For Jonah God prepared a great fish. What do you think He will prepare for you in order to bring you back?
It may not be all that pleasant. It certainly was not pleasant for Jonah. It was fearful. It was foul. The fish made Jonah pray, and Jonah made the fish sick!
But worst of all, it was lonely. Jonah had wanted to be out of God’s presence until he was out of God’s presence. We may despise God’s will, but only in God’s will can you and I encounter God’s presence.
Here is the good news. For Jonah there was a second opportunity to get back into the will of the Lord:
“And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.” Jonah 3:1-2 (KJV).
Perhaps God is talking to you today – the SECOND TIME!