God gave the prophet Jonah simple instructions. “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” What did Jonah do? He fled to Tarshish to get away from God, as if that were possible.
Why is it so hard for us to follow instructions? Why do we have to tell our toddler the same thing over and over again? Why can’t he just do what we tell him the first time? Why didn’t Jonah just follow God’s instructions? Why did he run away? We learn that his reasons later in the story. “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.” He was angry that God showed mercy on the city of Nineveh.
Not following instructions can have consequences. Jonah ended up in the belly of a large fish where he spent three days and three nights before the fish spat him out after he prayed to God for deliverance. It is interesting that Jonah should have said, “Salvation is of the LORD” yet he begrudged God for offering salvation to the city of Nineveh. Not following instructions could affect our relationship with God. God was not pleased with Jonah’s actions so He caused a tempest and the ship Jonah was in almost capsized and He prepared a large fish to swallow the prophet.
Not following instructions can affect others. The sailors who were in the ship with Jonah were afraid that they would perish because of the tempest. The people of Nineveh had not received the message that would save them from destruction.
When our toddler does not follow our instructions we get frustrated and then we try to explain to him why we want him to follow our instructions. We discipline him when he disobeys us. God disciplined Jonah when he disobeyed him. God explained why He wanted Jonah to follow His instructions. It was to save a city in which there were more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who could not discern between their right hand and their left—and had much livestock (Jonah 4:11).