Footsteps to Follow: Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide
Most everyone has heard the stories about Jonah. I am reminded of a song from the Vietnam era, “Nowhere To Run To; Nowhere To Hide.” Adam and Eve learned this, and Jonah did too. When God calls us to do something and we choose to do it our way, no matter where we hide, God will find us.
Jonah was called to go to the people of Nineveh. God chose him to speak to these Assyrian people about how angry God was at the way they chose to live their lives. However, Jonah was very prejudiced toward Nineveh. He wanted them destroyed, but I am not sure why.
Assyria was a world power for about 800 years. When nations rise to power, they seem to have no need for God. At the same time, the Assyrians in Nineveh worship Ashur, which was the god of war. The Assyrians were so good at war that in time, they brought about their own destruction. They hired out their people as mercenaries, and then basically they destroyed themselves. In time, another force marched in and took them over.
We are not told why Jonah hated the Assyrians. God told him to go to them and tell them that he was about to destroy them. Jonah should have gone there to plead for them to change their ways, but instead, he did not want them to repent; he wanted them destroyed.
Jonah first boarded a ship that was going the opposite direction from Nineveh. God caused a storm that started to swamp the boat. Jonah told the crew this was because of him, and to throw him overboard. Jonah was swallowed by a fish. He was inside the fish for three days and three nights. A parallel in scripture, we are told is that as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man was in the belly of the earth. The fish took him to Nineveh and vomited him up on the beach. Jonah then walked the city and proclaimed its destruction. Even though he was doing what he was instructed to do, he did not put much effort into it. Despite his half-hearted efforts, the city repented, and what he feared happened: the city was saved.
Sometimes God calls us to do things. What God calls us to do may go against our own agenda, and we may be reluctant to do what is asked. Sometimes we want others to pay the price for what they did.
We try to run in the other direction, like Jonah, hoping that we can get away from our calling. But God will bring us back if that is what he has called us to do. He will work through us as he did with Jonah who proclaimed a message as commanded but with little excitement, and yet the people responded.
In the end, Jonah found more than his calling to the people of Nineveh. Despite his attitude, the people loved him in a way he never expected. After his ministry and death, they built a church and mosque over his grave. Jonah made an impact on the people, and they even built a monument to him.
The Rev. Dr. James Behrens, Loyalsock United Methodist Charge