Have you ever been explicitly told by God to do something yet turned and "ran" in the opposite direction as a blatant answer of "No way am I going to do that, God!"? Think hard about this, because even a prophet sometimes runs from God and experiences momentary glimpses of insanity. After all, someone would have to be insane to think that they can run from God, right? Maybe we all fall into the crazy category. Let's get back to the bible.
Jonah was a man of God who knows that God is the creator of the universe and says that he fears the Lord (Jonah 1:9). In the first chapter of the book of Jonah, our prophet hears a word DIRECTLY from God telling him to go and rebuke the city of Nineveh. Apparently, Jonah didn't want to because he fled from God's presence by ship to Joppa. Try to capture the emotion in the voices of his fellow passengers as they realized that Jonah's fleeing from God was the reason their lives were in peril on the stormy sea:
Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said unto him (Jonah). "Why have you done this?" For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. (Jonah 1:10)
Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee. (Jonah 1:14)
(Aside: This situation reminds me of why some people are afraid to fly - because they might be on the plane with someone at 30,000 ft whose time it is to go meet their Maker! :) After all, on a plane, you can't just throw the one person overboard.)
Do you remember the rest of the story? The men in their fear of God, and probably impending death, tossed our prophet overboard and subsequently the sea stopped raging. Jonah ended up in the belly of the fish, but I'll save that for tomorrow.
What really spoke to me in this passage was the apparent lip service that Jonah gives to fearing God. Do I do the same? Now I know that Jonah was a prophet, and I do believe that he feared God, but the fact remains that Jonah was still a human being battling against his own selfish nature. He didn't want to do what God desired in this instance because it was unpleasant. The men on the ship feared God and acted upon it immediately - but then they were afraid for their lives. What unpleasantry is God asking you to do today? this week? this month? this year?