—Jonah 1:1-3 (NASB)
According to the map of the known world during Jonah’s time, Tarshish was as far as you could go in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Nineveh is in modern-day Iraq beyond the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, and Tarshish is what we now call Spain at the very western edge of the Mediterranean. It’s like being called to go to New York but you flee to Los Angeles instead.
The fact that Jonah did this speaks volumes of the depth of his disobedience, even outright anger over the situation. He could have stayed put and said no, simply refusing to leave Israel and go to Assyria. But Jonah didn’t want to just personally rebel and go his own way, he wanted to manipulate the outcome. He didn’t want God’s Word delivered to his violent, pagan enemies. He did not want them to have even the remotest opportunity to be reconciled to God. Therefore he tried to remove himself to the furthest point possible opposite God’s desire.
When you responded to Christ’s call in your life, did you do so with any limitations? Are there places you will not go, people you won’t see, things that repulse you? It’s not an uncommon phenomena. There are people that want their church to grow, but only within the same racial, social, and economic demographic they themselves are in. They think “other” churches should minister to “those” people.
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.”
—Psalm 139:7-10 (NASB)