Read Jonah 1:2-3. There is the ‘Word of the LORD’ and the resulting ‘Words of Jonah’. Ideally, these should be the same. Words faithfully spoken from Jonah’s lips, so that they coalesce and agree with God’s words and intention. But Jonah went in flight from God’s Word. People who renege on God’s Word usually embrace contagious-diseased, alternative interpretations of it. They distort, deny, and drift from it. We are carriers of doom or of hope and positive change, depending on whether we run with or from God’s Word. Jonah should have run east to Nineveh. Instead, he ran west to Tarshish in southern Spain.

Resist the temptation to explain this prematurely. His reasons will not be revealed until Ch. 4:2. The reader is invited to explore his or her own responses to their ‘Nineveh’. They are not the same for all of us. This is not a game. There are two deadly consequences when you are called to share the ‘Word of the Lord’. Either we die to ourself, or ‘Nineveh’ dies. This was Jonah’s dilemma, and it’s ours also. Karen Kaiser Clark advised, “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose carefully.”

No one reveals God’s heart more clearly than the OT prophetsif only by their contradiction of it, as with Jonah. Jonah is a complex character. God often calls and uses complex, mixed up, ambiguous people. God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick! He has to. We’re all bent. So what was Jonah’s problem? Was he scared to make such a hazardous trip at a time of national prosperity for Israel? Did he fear he would never return? He’d preached very successfully to appreciative Israeli audiences for years, who honoured him (2 Kings 14:23-27). We all like to tell people what they want to hear, and even get paid for it! Who’d want to exchange that for the unknown?#

Did Jonah expect his words would fail, and he’d die of shame in the attempt to deliver them? Did he fear he’d be seen as a false prophet? We risk that virtually every time we open our mouths don’t we? Someone, somewhere will reject and criticise you.

Was he racially prejudiced? Some preachers preach only to the gallery of fans who love what they say. Responses are positive. They are all our friends, so it’s easy to preach ‘smooth messages’ to those already on your side. Try facing enemies.

Plead with God to give you complete freedom to speak, no matter what the occasion, or who is in the audience, or how they all react.