In a roundabout way, Jonah explained why he fled from God. It seemed that he had a nagging suspicion from the day God called him to preach to the city of Nineveh, the center of Assyrian power, that God, in His infinite mercy, would grant the sworn enemy of Israel a reprieve. Jonah will not see the grim image of the Assyrians crawling blindly around on all fours inside a city chock-full of dust and ashes from a conflagration. Deep inside, he wanted all of the one hundred twenty thousand residents and idol worshipers of Nineveh to suffer for the indignities they had heaped on the kingdom of Israel and its people. It is a rather unsettling scenario coming from a prophet of God. No matter what he desired, it is no place for a prophet to question God’s motives. Knowing that and mired in confusion, Jonah decided to run away.
Unlike Jonah, the prophet Isaiah immediately responded to God’s call. There was no hesitation in his classic response:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”. And I said, “Here am I. Send me.” – Isaiah 6:8
Isaiah did not ask any questions. He was willing to go anywhere God asked him to. He knew, in his heart, that God has a purpose for everything under the heavens. God will send him to a place to fulfill God’s plan, be it friendly or enemy territory. He will accept whatever purpose God has in store for him knowing that his fate is in God’s hands.
Jonah was rebellious and lacked faith. He chose to test God’s patience by running away. But, as it has been shown so many times, God’s patience is enduring. Deep in prayer inside the belly of the great fish, Jonah had this realization:
When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But, I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed, I will make good. I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord”. – Jonah 2:7-9
When the fish spat him up onto dry land, Jonah understood that God was a God of second chances.