Monday, July 07, 2008

Running from God

July 7: Jonah 1-4

1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah 1

Running from God

I think one of the reasons we so enjoy reading the story of Jonah is because we are so like him. In many ways, he seems like a spoiled child.

God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and call the people to repentance; that seems like a simple request for a prophet. Was it not his job to call out to people to turn to God? Why then was he so upset that he ran from God?

Do we ever find ourselves running from God? Far too often, we turn from the things of the Lord and run as fast as we can in the opposite direction!

Was Jonah really able to run away from God? Was there any place on earth that God could not find him? Certainly not on a ship! God sent a terrible storm that beat upon the boat until the sailors were afraid for their very lives; this was not just an ordinary storm upon the sea. As the men cried out to their gods, Jonah was fast asleep in the bottom of the ship, totally oblivious to the dangers all around him.

Again, is that not just like us? We turn from God, and for a season we do not equate the turbulence in our life with our running from the Lord.

Notice, that Jonah did not pray as the other men did; he only asked to be thrown into the sea. Did he know God would save him, or was he so angry with God that he preferred to die rather than to do the will of God?

God caused a large fish to swallow Jonah, and kept him in the belly of the great fish for three days and for three nights. Finally, in his desperation, Jonah prayed to God.

We know the rest of the story. Jonah went to the city of Nineveh, calling them to repent because God was going to destroy their city. When the people repented, God graciously answered their prayers. Now Jonah was really miffed; he wanted Nineveh to be destroyed.

1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Jonah 4:1-3

Do you see yourself in Jonah? Are you, too, running from God? Look at your circumstances. Could it be that your circumstances are the results of God's discipline as He seeks to bring you back into fellowship with Him?

Pray today that God would grant you the peace of God that only He can give. Turn to Him, worship Him, and glorify His name, for He is a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

God Bless You,
Linda

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

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