The Book of Jonah is milk for babies, entertainment for the weak, an interesting story or fable for the unbelievers but it is “solid food for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.” ( Hebrews 5:14 )
Jonah was called upon by God to deliver a prophecy to the great city of Nineveh. But instead of obeying, he fled from the presence of the Lord. The rest of the story is simple. He thought that Tarshish would be far enough away that God’s call would not be heard. Tarshish was as far west from where Jonah was as Nineveh was to the east. Yet, in reading what Jonah recounts in his narrative, it wasn’t far enough. It’s sad that Jonah had not read what David had said 200 years earlier when he wrote Psalm 139, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” David’s revelation of his place in God’s hand was simple, for in his psalm, a song of praise to God for His omniscience and his omnipresence, David said, “Where shall I go from Your spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.”
As Christians, we all have a calling to a Nineveh. There is something somewhere that God wants us to do for His kingdom. And try as we might, we cannot ever get so far away that His voice can’t reach us!
And our Nineveh is like the cross that Jesus said to take. In Matthew 19, in response to a young man who told Jesus that he had kept the commandments but felt that he still needed to do something to gain eternal life, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.“ But the young man walked away from Jesus grieving because he was wealthy with many possessions.
That young man heard about his own Nineveh that day and left God’s presence. He didn’t totally understand who Jesus was, that’s obvious, but he knew enough to ask Him what it would take for him to gain eternal life and though there is nothing further in Scriptures to tell us of that man’s life after his encounter with Christ, I believe that what David said in Psalm 139 applied to that confused young man as well.
Even the closest disciples to Jesus still had the wrong idea about the kingdom that He had talked about. They still had worldly expectations. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus was speaking to His disciples when He said, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.“ The disciples were still thinking of riches and honor. Denial meant the same to the disciples as it did to the wealthy young man.
To follow Jesus is to leave all of the worldly attachments behind. . “come follow Me“
To take up the cross, to head toward Nineveh must be done by every Christian. No matter how far, how painful, shameful or dangerous. To each of us there is a long trek to Nineveh, a cross that we must carry. And to that journey, that burden, we must quietly and humbly submit.
Following Christ, carrying His cross, going to Nineveh requires us to set aside our own plans and expectations. It is a daily commitment to our Savior. We will need determination, patience and endurance. We will need to be walking in and with His Holy Spirit. We will need the zeal that drove Christ’s Gospel throughout the ages. We will need the same courage that held up all those who have been martyred for His Gospel since Stephen was first stoned by Saul and his followers. We will need to keep the vision of Simon carrying the cross that would soon hold up for all to see our Savior and Lord.