“Lord Jesus, we come to you in prayer, asking for your blessing and the bestowing of your wisdom on us as we read Your Word.”
1 Now the word of Jehovah came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah; and he went down to Joppa, and 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 Jehovah. Link to ASV text.
The commentaries I consulted for this are Matthew Henry and The Asbury Commentary. These links will connect you with the Bible Gateway posting of these commentaries. You may note that there are sub-links in each of the commentaries. I looked at those also.
Jonah is almost self-explanatory. Matthew Henry and the Asbury Commentary tell us much more than we need to know. What matters is not the greatness of Nineveh or the location of Tarshish but that Jonah tried to run away from God. None of us need to have that explained. We understand Jonah’s desire to avoid God’s command. Jonah will eventually explain why he ran away, but the why is, for us, just nice to know info. We really do know why Jonah ran away. It is the same reason we run from God. The details of our stories may change a little, but the reason is always the same.
It does not matter if God asks us to serve Him as a missionary to Ninevah or to give some assistance to a person in need. He may ask us to give Him 10% of our gross income or to be faithful to our spouse–even when that spouse is someone we have not yet met. Our duty is to listen to Him and then to be obedient.
That’s why we laugh uneasily at Jonah and little children laugh easily. They see how silly the whole thing is; we know that it’s rather personal and quite real. Still, the first time we read verse 3 we laugh. We laugh because we know from personal experience that Jonah is not going to win this.
We know that Jonah will not win against God. Either Jonah will go to Nineveh, or he will suffer eternally. What’s more, God will raise up another to go to Nineveh. God will not be stopped by human effort.
In the book of Esther (chapter 4) we read that Esther has a choice. She is told that she may have been chosen to be queen for this specific time, to carry out the will of God. However, if she does not, she may perish, but God will deliver the Jews from their enemy in another way. Psalm 139: 7-12 tells us that we can run but we cannot hide.
So, we laugh at Jonah. But it’s uneasy laughter: for it is like laughing at one’s self.