RELIGIOUS CHRONICLE: Jonah found a ship | Columnists

“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish, from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the price and went down there to get away from the presence of the Lord. [Jonah chapter 1:3]. Jonah, as you probably know, was ordered to go to Nineveh and preach to them because they were in trouble. They had turned their backs on the Bible and the Lord and the consequences soon fell from God’s hand. [verse 1] and that suited Jonah just fine. He had his own reasons for hating the people of Nineveh and as far as he was concerned, he would just be happy as a clam for God to pour out his wrath on them. So to go to them and preach, when that might mean they would turn to the Lord and find his mercy instead if his wrath was not an option. In an instant his decision was made. He was going elsewhere. Anywhere else as long as it wasn’t in Nineveh. In Joppa, Jonas knew he could find a boat. A boat going anywhere would do. Traveling to the port city of Joppa, where boats were constantly coming and going, Jonas knew he would soon find a boat that would take him somewhere else. In Joppa, you could find a boat heading somewhere whenever you wanted. Jonah wanted out of the will of God. That’s where I find a lot of Christians these days. Something in the will of God conflicts with their will, or their pride, or their preferences, or their opinions. The preacher points out that it’s wrong, or that it’s against God’s will, and in a flash they’re mad and like Jonah they decide he’s wrong, or God is wrong, or the Bible is wrong. The next thing you know is they’re looking for a boat {which is the equivalent of an excuse}. A lot of times they’re already gone in their hearts…they just need an {excuse}/a boat. They will use whatever they can find. The music, the preaching, an “offence” that someone committed against them. Worse still, they will often paint their boat with a new coat of “the Lord lead us elsewhere”. Pastors of course never fall in love with this one; the Holy Spirit was never able to bring them to be faithful, or to testify, or to bring a visitor to church, or to submit to God before; why now? Those of you who know Jonas know what’s going on. Things go wrong for the ship and the sailors and especially for Jonas. In fact, as sad as it sounds, if we read to the end of the book, we find that Jonah kept his bitter attitude to the end. It’s just the way some people are. They never become what God would have them be. They never surrender their whole heart to the Lord who died for them. Can I exhort you with biblical advice? If you are a Jonah, looking for an excuse to go to Joppa, before you leave, it might be good for you to be alone with God in prayer and surrender your heart and will to the Lord. . Who knows, it might save you a storm. It could save you a whale. Better yet, it might just make you a little more Christian. You are invited to Calvary Baptist Church in Palestine. Across from Industrial Plaza on the Loop. 903-729-5924.

Malcolm Harrison is the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Palestine. Find religious services and columns online at

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