“Obey without delay.”
This is a saying that I repeat over and over again to my children for three good reasons.
First, not obeying right away could cause something really bad to happen. I might yell at my child to “stop!” just as they are about to run across a parking lot in front of a car that they don’t see. To delay their obedience could kill them.
Second, if they don’t obey right away they will likely forget what I asked them to do in the first place. (Every. Single. Time.)
Finally, to obey immediately shows that they trust and respect me. They understand that I know things that they don’t about the future and my instructions are good and right, whether they can see the benefit right then or not.
Obedience to God will have the same benefits for us, to not obey without delay could be disastrous. Just ask Jonah.
We all know that familiar story of God telling His prophet to go to Ninevah, Jonah going in the opposite direction and being swallowed by a great sea creature.
What we may not realize is that disobeying God actually took a lot of planning, preparation and expense on Jonah’s part.
When Jonah heard from God and decided to go in the opposite direction instead, it probably took months to plan. He couldn’t just hop a boat to Tarshish. Tarshish might have been as far as Spain. In Solomon’s day ships that left for Tarshish were expected to be gone for three years! It was literally as far in the known world as Jonah could go.
Many scholars believe that Jonah actually chartered the entire ship for travel. That meant he had to find an available vessel and assemble and pay a crew that was not only willing to be away from their jobs, home and family for three years, but were paid enough to make it worth their while. It would have been a fortune.
Jonah also had to tie up all of his loose ends and provide for his family for those three years as well.
Finally, Jonah had to wait for the time of year and weather to be safe for such a long journey. Who knows how long that was?
Jonah had ample opportunity to re-think his disobedience during this time and didn’t. It didn’t work out well for him. It won’t for us either. How much better off we will be if we learn a lesson from Jonah and obey without delay.