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September 7 – Why did Jonah run?

“This is why I made haste to flee for Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful…” – Jonah 4:2

Scripture reading: Jonah 4:2

Jonah is called to go where he doesn’t want to go, to do what he doesn’t want to do and to say what he does not want to say. Why did Jonah run away from the Lord? It’s not because he did not get the message straight or that the command was unclear or confusing. The command was clear.

Was he afraid? Probably. As we said before, the Assyrians had a terrifying reputation. Was it a novel mission? Sure. It was an unusual thing for an Israelite prophet to be sent to a heathen nation: this is uncharted prophetic territory.

Jonah confesses his real and ultimate reason for his running away in Jonah 4:2. He says: “This is why I made haste to flee for Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”

Jonah does not want to go because he does not want Nineveh to be saved! Jonah knows that if he goes to Assyria, preaches his message and they do repent, God will possibly relent and have mercy on them. The real problem is that God might bring these people to repentance!

The issue Jonah has is with the character of God himself. Jonah knows the Lord loves to show mercy and grace but he does not want that for his enemy. Jonah does not have a category for extraordinary, super-abundant grace. Rather than celebrating grace, he grumbles at grace.

Suggestions for prayer

Pray that we might always rejoice when someone repents.

Pastor Jeremy Veldman is the co-pastor at Rehoboth United Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ontario, serving as Minister of Congregational Life. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at

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