“The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai:“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish” – Jonah 1:1-3.
We all know the story of Jonah. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah went in the opposite direction. Jonah was not content to simply tell God no. He went in the opposite direction. He was attempting to run from God.
Jonah boarded a boat and probably breathed a sigh of relief as the coast of Israel disappeared below the horizon. But the voyage was barely underway before a sudden squall threatened to reduce the ship to splinters. The ship’s crew began throwing supplies and cargo overboard to lighten the load. Eventually, the sailors decided the storm must be a supernatural punishment for someone on board and set about trying to discover who that person was. When the sailors asked what they should do, Jonah said in verse 12, “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” The sailors tried battling the storm but eventually threw Jonah into the sea.
Verse 17 says, “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.” Three days and nights in the pitch-black, seaweed-filled belly of a fish is a long time. I don’t know this for sure, but I don’t think it took Jonah three days and nights to realize that one, God did not run away from him when he ran away from God; and second, that he needed to rethink his decision to go to Nineveh.
We all have the urge to run now and then. Maybe you’re running from broken relationships when God is clearly directing you towards reconciliation. Maybe you’re running from economic troubles that seem too big or too impossible to fix. Or maybe there is pressure closing in on every side and you can’t possibly see how it can possibly work out. Maybe it is the coronavirus.
We can run but praise God, He won’t let us get too far. He is a God who relentlessly pursues; a God who mercifully forgives; a God who extends such amazing grace that we’re never, ever too far. One day we’re rebelliously taking off in our own direction, and the next – when we’re desperately in need of rescuing – we identify as His: “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (Jonah 1:9) Jonah realized that the purpose of God’s discipline was not to pay him back, but to bring him back.
- What are the barriers to doing something every day that requires faith?
- What can we do this week to overcome those barriers?