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.