(Jonah 1:3) "So Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, found a ship bound for Tarshish, paid its fare, and sailed away from the presence of the Lord." The Lord's command to Jonah was clear: "Arise, go to Nineveh." Yet, Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Kingdom, represented Israel's greatest enemy. Jonah's reluctance was evident, as he did not wish to extend God's call to repentance and salvation to the people of Nineveh, as later revealed in Chapter 4. His response was an attempt to escape his divine mission. However, who can truly escape the presence of the Lord? Jonah, though disobedient, understood that it was impossible to flee from the Lord's gaze, as affirmed in Psalm 139:7, "Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence?" Despite this knowledge, he chose to defy the Lord's command. The Lord instructed Jonah to go east, but he went west, setting sail for Tarshish (modern-day Spain). In a way, Jonah's actions resembled the parable of the prodigal son, who sought to escape his father's oversight by journeying to a distant land, where returning seemed unlikely. The key difference is that the prodigal son symbolizes a sinner turning away from God, while Jonah, in his escape, represents a believer with weakened faith who falls into disobedience. Jonah deliberately chose to disregard the Lord's command and venture in the opposite direction. However, the Lord disciplined him to bring him back to obedience. When Jonah rose to flee, he descended progressively. He first went down to Joppa, then onto the ship, and finally into the ship's interior. This descent is akin to a slippery slope, where one step leads to another, and it becomes challenging to halt the fall. In the Bible, we find similar examples, such as when the Lord appeared to Moses, who hesitated to obey. The Lord assured Moses of His presence and provided miracles, yet Moses remained reluctant (Exodus 3:4). Jeremiah, too, expressed his inadequacy when called to be a prophet, but the Lord encouraged him (Jeremiah 1:4-8). Despite these instances of reluctance, the Lord's sovereignty is absolute, and He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death on the cross. To Him, all glory belongs. Jonah found a ship bound for Tarshish in Spain, and to reach his desired destination, he descended to Joppa, the port from which such ships departed. God allowed this to train His servant in obedience, highlighting the distinction between God's will and His allowance. Easy circumstances may not necessarily be indicative of God's plan. The divine guide is found in God's Word and the Holy Spirit residing within believers. Jonah's reasons for fleeing included his knowledge of Assyria's enmity towards God's people, fearing that they might repent, and the Lord would show them mercy. Jonah was also concerned about his own reputation and that the Lord might not fulfill His wrath, making Jonah appear dishonest. This fear surfaced when Jonah was in the belly of the whale, leading him to admit, "Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love." Jonah knew of the Lord's compassion and mercy, slow to anger and abundant in love (as revealed in Chapter 4), yet he did not desire these attributes for the other nations. This inclination towards selfishness is a common human trait—accepting mercy for oneself but denying it to others. Jonah is embodied proof of God’s mercy, and the mercy he enjoyed should not have been withheld from others. Let us continue to pray together that the Lord guides us to lead lives of obedience, helping us discern His voice clearly. He guards us against selfishness and self-centeredness, shaping us as the ultimate Potter shapes His vessels, with the aim of making us more like the image of His Son. Amen.