Debra Isenbletter, pastor
Jonah begins his descent when he “went down to Joppa. The phrase “went down to” means “to descend, to go to a lower region” “to bring down; to send down; to take down; to go down.” It means “to fall down; to let down.” Jonah “went down” from a higher place to a lower place and did not see it. Jonah “let (God) down” when he rejected God’s Word. Jonah should have “fallen down” before the Lord is obedience. Jonah should have let the Lord “send (him) down” to Nineveh. Jonah should have “gone down” willingly, obediently. Instead, Jonah turned away from God’s enabling power and “went down” under his own power.
Jonah went down to Joppa, he would go down into the ship, he would go down below the decks, the would go down into the belly of the fish. Each step down takes us further down and that is the only place we can go when we are running away from the Lord. Disobedience leads us down and obedience leads us up. But sometimes we have to go down to the depths to be lifted up to the heights and appreciate it. Jonah will learn this lesson.
Jonah went down to “Joppa” which means “fair to him” (JB Jackson); “beauty, comeliness” (Hitchcock). Jonah saw Joppa as “fair to him,” a place to run to. Jonah saw “beauty” and “comeliness” instead of sin. When we are outside God’s Will the world and worldly choices will deceive us.
Jonah’s Determination: and found a ship going to Tarshish: and paid the fare thereof. The word “found” can mean “to happen upon” or “to find by seeking.” Jonah was determined so he found by seeking what he wanted to find. Jonah did not accidentally “happen upon” this ship. Jonah was deliberately “seeking” transportation. As he searched, he “happened upon” what he wanted. If we want something bad enough we will find a way to get it.
Jonah has a specific destination and he found the right ship going to the right place, He found “a ship going to Tarshish.” Tarshish was where he had planned to go when he first fled. He searched until the ship came along with the right destination. He wanted to go in the opposite direction as far as possible.
Jonah “paid the fare thereof.” He paid a price not knowing the real cost. There was a price man demanded. There would be another price the Lord would demand. There is a phrase often used today, “There are no free rides.” Jonah did not realize the cost of his disobedience. Everything has a price and everything has a cost. There are always consequences to our actions. There is always fruit from obedience or disobedience. Jonah will find out it will cost him to run from God’s Will.
Jonah descends even further: “and went down into it, to go unto Tarshish.” This is another step “down,” though he does not realize it. He went “down into” the heart of the ship joyfully. He went “down into” the belly of the ship willingly. He would not go “down into” the belly of the fish with the same carefree attitude. His goal was Tarshish, and he went down into the ship with his eyes on Tarshish and not the Lord. But we see the graciousness of God because one meaning of Tarshish is “contemplation” and “examination” and Jonah can do this in the belly of the ship and change his mind and direction. The Lord desires that he do it willingly but if not, Jonah can do contemplate and examine his decisions unwillingly in the belly of the fish. There are many times after we make decisions that the Lord gives us opportunities to think about what we are doing and where we are going, to examine our hearts in the light of His Word. Jonah has such an opportunity. If Jonah arrives at “Tarshish” he will go “down” then the other meanings of the name are seen and he would go “down” even farther spiritually. “Tarshish” also means (she will cause poverty) and shows that He will be impoverished. “Tarshish” also means (she will shatter) and shows that He will be broken. Sometimes we don’t realize the grace of God when he keeps us from reaching the destination we set our hearts upon.
The conclusion of this verse repeats from the presence of the Lord [as His prophet] and emphasizes Jonah’s denial of his calling and responsibility as a prophet. There is no doubt Who Jonah is fleeing. There is no doubt Why Jonah is fleeing. What Jonah must learn is that we cannot flee from the Lord, from His Will or His Word.
To be continued