What do you do when your will clashes with God's? There are two options aren't there, Jonah 1 makes that abundantly clear. God says 'Go' Jonah can either say 'yes' or 'no'. But it is what he does next that is so telling and also so easy for us to relate to. Jonah says no and goes on the run. "But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord." The question is why does he run?
It is clear that it isn't a theological problem. Jonah knew that God was not limited by geography, that he wasn't restricted to the boundaries of Israel. After all God had sent him to Nineveh, where Jonah expects God to be at work, hopefully (from Jonah's point of view) to judge the Nineties or maybe, Jonah fears, to forgive them when they repent. He also has a large view of God as the one who made the seas and the land and who is the God for heaven. Jonah doesn't run away because God may not be able to find him, though man has reacted to his sin by hiding from God ever since Adam in Genesis 3. I think Jonah runs because he doesn't want Nineveh to have a chance of salvation and because he doesn't want the daily reminder of his sin in refusing to take God's word to Nineveh.
We are no different are we? When our will clashes with God and we decide to sin we run from God and remove ourself from reminders of God's will and our disobedience. We might start to become irregular at church, or home group, or anywhere where through his word God may confront us about our sin. So often a long time after the event you find that behind the given reasons for someones non-attendance at church the real reason is a clash between God's will and the individuals. And they stop coming because they don't want to be reminded of their sin, they don't want their conscience pricked, their sin outed.
But there are more subtle ways we may do it. Are there no go subjects in our lives? Places where our friends and family know not to confront us or challenge us? Are there parts of the Bible we simply avoid because of the challenge they bring, a challenge we will not accept?
The great news of the book of Jonah is that God pursues his hard hearted people with grace. Grace seen in discipline, grace seen in patience, and grace seen in forgiveness and undeserved restoration.