Lessons from Jonah: Costly Disobedience


“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
(Jonah 1:3)

Did you know Jonah is the least popular book of the Bible? I know, it surprised me, too. Perhaps it’s because most of us feel very familiar with this story from our Sunday School years, or maybe it’s because it falls right in the middle of the minor prophets — you know, that obscure part of our Bibles we always struggle to find during the sermon.

But as I’ve studied these 48 verses over the last several months, I’ve realized they’re about much more than one man’s three-night stay in the Fin Inn; these four chapters paint a stunning picture of God’s mercy and grace, given freely to the repentant sinner and the erring saint. This post is the first of a multi-part series where we’ll take a fresh look at an old story and explore the profound truths it contains.

So let’s start at the beginning.

When God commanded Jonah to “go to Nineveh” (1:2), his response was overt disobedience. Not only did he refuse to go, but he promptly boarded a ship in Joppa and sailed for Tarshish. Jonah wanted nothing to do with God’s will and clung tightly to his own. 


According to tradition, Tarshish was located in modern-day Spain, about 2,500 miles from Joppa. Nineveh, on the other hand, was only about 550 miles to the northeast. To put things in perspective, imagine Jonah living in New York City and receiving a divine commission to evangelize upstate Maine. Rather than hopping on the nearest northbound bus, he took the next flight to southern California — except in this case the buses were camels and the planes were ships.

Certain consequences of Jonah’s actions were irreversible.

Of course, travel was much more time-consuming and dangerous in ancient times. Sailing was especially treacherous. But Jonah didn’t mind. Anything but God’s will! He was willing to lose time, money, even his life, so long as he could keep his pride intact.

As we’ll see in the coming chapters, God eventually accomplished His will through Jonah. But all this running came at a cost. Time on the ship, money for the ticket, those unfortunate minutes with his head wrapped in seaweed (2:5)…these costs of disobedience could never be recovered. Yes, God’s grace ultimately prevailed, but certain consequences of Jonah’s actions were irreversible.

Fleeing to Tarshish looks different from person to person. But whatever God’s will for your life is, head for Nineveh! Go where He sends you, and go in confidence of Christ’s promise to be “with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Feel up to a challenge? Consider memorizing Jonah! Scripture Memory Fellowship has a great program to help you learn all 48 verses in 16 weeks. Click here to check it out.

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