Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at the port city of Jaffa, Israel, and just down the street from the House of Simon the Tanner (Acts 10.32), there stands a rather modest sculpture of a whale … a tribute to Jonah.
The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1.1-3, emphasis mine)
You know what happened next in Jonah’s brief trip of rebellion.
The biblical story of Jonah has stirred the imagination and hearts of people of all ages for thousands of years. Yet, near the possible location where Jonah boarded the ship to Tarshish, the enduring symbol for Jonah is that of the whale, the symbol of judgement, repentance and resurrection.
When God speaks, you must obey. To disobey is to be a Jonah: to seek your own direction, to do it your way. Disobedience is simply an attempt to escape His presence.
In what is often referred to as “The Roll Call of Faith,” Hebrews 11, there are listed many of the great biblical names of people who lived lives of faith, such as Noah, Moses, David and Samuel. One name noticeably missing, however, is Jonah. The Lord spoke to Jonah and gave him undeniably direct instructions to go and call Nineveh to repentance, yet Jonah purposely did the very opposite of what God had called him to do. It was an act of self will, the opposite of faith.
In that same chapter of Hebrews, the person who figures more prominently than all the rest is Abraham.
The Lord spoke to this man in Genesis 12 saying,
“Go forth … to the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you,
And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing …
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12.1-3)
There appeared to be no hesitation in Abraham’s response: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11.8)
Because of Abraham’s obedience, there now stands the small but great nation of Israel. And it was through the Israelites that Jesus was given to the world, to you and me, so that our sins would be forgiven and we would have eternal life.
Two men with totally different responses to God’s call. When God speaks, what will you do?