The Assyrians were terrible to Jonah’s people. They were a constant form of oppression and suffrage. They were the people the Israelite had known and grown to hate and God asks Jonah to go right into the middle of their homes and preach.
Some people think it was nationalism, still others call it racism, but in either form is was prejudice. He wanted God to destroy them and he didn’t want them to have an opportunity to repent. So he stopped. He ran. And when he finally came back he had to face the people he had so much anger and aggression towards. He had to tell them the truth and he had to be face to face with the people he wanted nothing to do with.
How was he able to do this? How are we able to follow God when the things he asks of us are in direct opposition to what we want? How do we turn the other cheek when we’d rather retaliate? How do we show generosity when greed is so easy? How do we make a difference when we’d rather be complacent?
What we see in Jonah’s repentance and return to follow God is the simple truth that we should be focusing on WHY rather than WHAT. We should be focused on why we’re doing it other than what we’re supposed to do. The why is because God calls us to do these things. The what is anything he asks us to do.
For many of us, we get so caught up in the calling and forget the person who called us. We get too caught up in the sacrifice and forget the reward of being in his presence. We focus on what we’re giving up and forget about all that he has promised to reward us with in the end.