Sure, Jonah was a prophet. So we can distance ourselves, I guess, by saying "That kind of thing is only for prophets."
But what, really, is a prophet? At the core, it's someone who has been called by God to listen to him, do what he asks, and be a spokesperson for God, delivering a message to people who need to hear it.
Yep. Not at all different than being a committed follower of Jesus Christ.
We have evidence in other scriptures that Jonah took his role as a prophet seriously, and delivered the message faithfully. It was a message of grace to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. (You can find it in 2 Kings 14:25).
So now, God asks Jonah to head to the capital of Assyria, Nineveh, and tell them that God is not thrilled with them. Jonah spends little time considering the request, and heads for the coast where he catches a boat to Tarshish. (Read Jonah 1:1-3).
Why Tarshish, you ask? Because the seaside village near the Straights of Gibraltar on the Spanish coast was AS FAR AWAY FROM NINEVEH AS JONAH COULD GET.
Why did Jonah run to Tarshish? Is it because the Spanish Riviera was beckoning with special mid-season rates and an open bar? No.
Jonah ran away because he didn't want to do what God asked him to do.
We all make the Tarshish run when we don't like God's will for us. His will is really not a red line on a linear map of the timeline of our lives. His will is really not just found at the REALLY BIG INTERSECTIONS of our lives, when a BIG HAIRY DECISION is pressing. God has given us, let's say, 95% of his will for our lives right there in the Bible, in black and white. It's not some strange foggy mystery; it's clear choices that he's asked us to make.
Just like Jonah. God's direction for Jonah was not ambiguous or open for debate. It was clear. It was understandable. Most of the time, for all of us, that's how God delivers his desires for our lives.
But we run. Why? Honestly, there's no answer that makes any sense except that we don't like what God is asking us to do. So we find our Tarshish and we buy a ticket and we run. We run as if we can get away from God's will for us.
But here's the truth:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.