Jonah 1:1:3 (NLT)
1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” 3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
Amittai was Jonah’s father’s name. His name meant truth; so Jonah was the son of truth to be sent to the people of Nineveh. God’s words to Jonah were clear; go to Nineveh and announce God’s judgement. But Jonah bought a ticket and headed off in the opposite direction towards Tarshish hoping to escape God.
When you look at a historical map you can see Joppa on the coast of Israel. Tarshish was far to the west across the Great Sea. It was as far away as all your money and a boat could take you. Nineveh on the other hand was north east from Joppa along the Tigris River. Why would Jonah want to head so far away from where God wanted him to go? Nineveh was in the nation of Assyria. The book of Nahum tells us some about those in Nineveh. Murdered bodies lay on the street and there were so many dead that people had to step over the bodies. The city was wealthy, but the people were wicked indulging in sins of the flesh. They would take enemies captive and dash the heads of their children against the rocks. They were godless; practicing magic and witchcraft among themselves. These people tried to act god like showing they power, displaying their wealth and overpowering their enemies. Jonah did want the Lord to give these people a chance. He didn’t want God to tell them about their wickedness and give them a chance to repent. Instead he wanted to run the other direction. How often do we do the same thing? We make judgments against people without even trying to tell them about the love of God and the life they could find in Christ. Instead we want to turn the other way. We forget God extends his mercy and grace to all; even those who we think don’t even deserve it. The irony is Jonah needed to hear he was heading the wrong direction just as much as the people of Nineveh needed to hear they were headed away from God.