But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish…
In the case of Jonah we have a striking instance of Divinely located work and responsibility. How are we to know that the Word of the Lord really comes to us? What more can any man desire than to be fully convinced that his duty lies in a certain direction? We are so made that, if true to ourselves, we shall have clear, sharply defined religious convictions; and in so far as we are faithful in following them, we are in direct communion with the Spirit of God.
I. LIFE HAS ITS GREAT OCCASIONS, AND WOE TO THE MAN WHO FAILS TO SUCCESSFULLY GRAPPLE WITH THEM. God signally honoured Jonah by selecting him as the first preacher to the heathen world. Human life does not always remain on the same key. Sometime, some where, God arrests the old monotonous tune, and strikes the keynote to a loftier anthem. Everything depends on how we catch the new tone, follow the leader, and master the music. How possible it is to be unequal to our opportunity, to let it pass unimproved, and to be doing a little paltry work, — to be mistaking fuss for energy, and an idle industry for that holy consecration which absorbs every power, and ennobles the man by the sublimity of its motives and aims. There are hours in the lives of most men, compared with which all after hours are poor and commonplace, — great critical hours, pregnant with the possibilities of manhood and destiny. To fall below such crises is a calamity which the future can never repair. Society is full of poor men, both temporally and spiritually, because they did not manfully grapple with the great occasions of life.
2. OPPORTUNE CIRCUMSTANCES DO NOT OF NECESSITY IMPLY DIVINE APPROVAL. Here we see that a man may be strangely favoured by circumstances, who is in open rebellion against God. Rightly to interpret circumstances is one of the most difficult things in life. And a man who has become loose at the conscience may so interpret them as to embolden and fortify himself in a life of sin. There are people who make circumstances into a kind of Bible, and argue that, after all, it is impossible they can be so very bad, or Providence would not thus conspire to further their purposes. When a man gets himself mixed up with iniquity, it is not much wonder that he tries to set up a kind of supernatural wisdom of his own, as a sort of self-vindication. It is quite possible for a man so to put circumstances before his mind as to be fearfully misled by them. Much charity should be exercised towards those whose very circumstances invite their further continuance in sin. Many a man has had reason to thank God that the ship left before he got to Joppa; that was the only thing that saved him from disaster and perhaps destruction.
III. A MAN MAY IGNORE THE CLAIMS OF GOD AND YET BE SCRUPULOUS IN HIS OBSERVANCE OF THE LAWS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EQUITY. Jonah "paid his fare." Honest with the owner of the ship, but dishonest with the Owner of the universe. God has claims upon us as well as man: and any man's integrity is partial and ruinously defective that does not honour both claims..
IV. THE WICKED MAN IS A PUBLIC CALAMITY, A SOCIAL CURSE. No matter how much the sinner may have things his own way, God can head him off, frustrate his purposes, and convert the very elements that were most friendly to his progress into instruments of punishment and death. Learn that there is a right and a wrong way of settling things. We must have a settlement with God on a basis of mediation and righteousness, or the sea will always be rough.
Parallel VersesKJV: But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
WEB: But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid its fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh.