"The younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country" (Luke 15:13).
"Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord" (Jonah 1:3).
When God called Jonah to go to Nineveh on an errand of mercy, it was too high a hurdle for Jonah. In the bitterness of his soul, he was out of harmony with God who wanted to extend mercy to this wicked city of Nineveh. God had more difficulty in getting His servant back into fellowship than He did in saving a city.
Judging from the events which followed, one might think that everything was favorable for Jonah's journey to Tarshish. On arriving at the seacoast city of Joppa, he found a ship ready to sail for Tarshish on which he booked passage. Oftentimes all of us have heard some Christian explain a particular project as having the blessing of God upon it because all difficulties and problems have been removed and everything moves along smoothly. To that Christian, the favorable circumstances seemed to be indicative of the hand of the Lord. On this basis, Jonah could have justified his trip to Tarshish. He could have testified that when he arrived at Joppa, there was a ship ready to sail and God provided the money for the fare. But, my friend, do not always interpret favorable circumstances as the pathway of the Lord. It may be the calm before the storm which is ready to break upon a backsliding servant of God.
God's servants customarily encounter difficulties and problems as they go along in the pathway of His blessing. Consider the missionary travels of Paul, the life of David Livingstone and the thrilling records of Judson of Burma and John G. Paton of the New Hebrides. These men met disappointments on every hand and had to overcome handicaps daily. This is the record of God's servants as seen in Hebrews 11:36-38: "Others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth."
The favorable circumstances were but the calm before the storm indeed, for we are told in the very next verse that "The Lord sent out a great wind into the sea" (Jonah 1:4). Every ship that is carrying a backsliding child of God is heading into a storm, and this ship was no exception. Every prodigal son who leaves the father's house is on the way to the swine sty, even when he is most unconscious of it.
—Condensed from Jonah: Dead or Alive by J. Vernon McGee
"Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord" (Jonah 1:10).
To this Jonah was speechless. We can always give good reasons for fleeing to God, but who can give a reasonable answer for fleeing from God? Are you a backslider? Alas, so many who once professed to be Christians now deny Him by their wicked works. What will you say when God Himself shall put this question to you: "Why have you done this?"