Jonah #1 – Don‘t Run From God:
“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose 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 down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.” (Jonah 1:1-4).
If you were raised in the church, then you most likely remember hearing the story of Jonah, the prophet of God who was swallowed by a whale. His story is one of the most popular children’s stories in the Bible – right up there with David and Goliath, and Daniel and the Lion’s den. But who was Jonah? What did he do? Why is his story in the Bible? We will answer all these questions and more, as we study his life chapter by chapter.
The Book of Jonah is unique among the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament. It is unique, first of all, because Jonah is the only prophet sent to preach to a Gentile city – all of the other prophets were sent to preach God’s message to the children of Israel. It is also unique because the book of Jonah doesn’t record what Jonah said, but rather what Jonah did. It is also unique because Jonah is the only one of the prophets who, when he received a call from the Lord, said, “No.” There is much for us to learn here.
First of all, let us consider this man Jonah. Jonah’s name means dove, and a dove is a symbol of peace, and gentleness. Amittai is a name that means truth, or truth-telling, and therefore Jonah is a son of the truth – appropriate for a prophet. The Lord spoke to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh and preach against the great wickedness of that city. Nineveh was a city in Assyria, a country that had harassed and attacked Israel many times over the years. God was calling Jonah to go and preach to this city, and give them an opportunity to repent of their sins, and be spared from His wrath. However, whether it was because of a fear of the Ninevites, or because he didn’t want them to repent and be saved, Jonah refused God’s call. Instead of going forth into the plan and purpose of God for his life, Jonah arose to flee from the presence of the Lord.
To flee from the presence of the Lord? A wise prophet said, “Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the Lord; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:24). You cannot run from God! Surely Jonah knew the words of Psalm 139:7-10, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.” It was utter foolishness of Jonah’s part to try to run from the Lord, and try to escape the call of God upon His life, but he still tried it anyway.
Jonah was running from God, but little did he know, God was running after him. Verse four says, “But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea…” The Lord caused a wind to burst forth, or as Coverdale translates it, he “hurled a great wind into the sea.” One way or another, God was going to get Jonah’s attention! Whether it was because of fear or disobedience, Jonah’s feelings would not change the plan and purposes of God for his life. The Bible says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6).
Today, maybe you’re like Jonah, and maybe you’ve been trying to run from the presence of the Lord. Don’t run from God! He’s much faster than you, and He’s got greater endurance, and sooner or later, He’ll catch up with you. If God has called you to do something, then obey. If you don’t…well, who knows? You just might end up…in the belly of a whale.
Pastor Chris Jordan