You can run but you can’t hide from God. And the truth is, if you are a child of God, eventually you will no longer be able to run either. Because God doesn’t quit the chase when its one of His own. “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” Jesus said in Revelation 3:19 (see also Heb. 12:5-6). If you’re His expect a chase.
Jonah Runs (v3-6)
God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and Jonah high-tails it the opposite direction. Nineveh was East, Jonah went West. And when he got to the port in Joppa he asked what boat was going the farthest – “Tarshish? Perfect. One one-way ticket please.” Tarshish is all the way across the other side of the Mediterranean Sea in southern Spain!
Running from the LORD. Notice how it says twice that Jonah is running away “from the LORD”. Again in verse 19 it says he was running away “from the LORD”.
How do you actually run away from the LORD? Where can you go where you can finally say, “Ah, the LORD is nowhere to be found in this place. I’m finally free of Him”? There is nowhere like that. God is everywhere. Jonah knew this and we can be sure he knew this for two reasons. First he was a prophet of God so He knew God and that he couldn’t get away from God. Second, he no doubt would have been familiar with Psalm 139, written by King David several hundred years before. Turn there with me and lets read verses 7-12.
I bring this up because running away from the LORD is really referring to Jonah’s disobedience. “You want me to go that way? I’m going this way then. You want me to do this? Well I’m not doing that.” God said to preach to the Ninevites, but, Jonah wanted to get so far away there would be no chance of running into a single Ninevite.
Here’s where we start seeing the Jonah in ourselves. How many times do we willfully disobey what we know God wants us to do? (Often we go even further than Jonah and justify ourselves in our disobedience. Jonah didn’t even do that.)
You can run but you can’t hide from God. And the truth is, if you are a child of God, eventually you will no longer be able to run either. Because God doesn’t quit the chase when its one of His own. “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” Jesus said in Revelation 3:19 (see also Heb. 12:5-6). If you’reHis expect a chase.
Think about that when you realize God doesn’t let Jonah go. He doesn’t go find another man more willing than Jonah. He picked Moses and Moses came around. He picked Gideon and Gideon came around. He picked Jonah, and, eventually Jonah was going to come around to God’s will. As far as God’s concerned, He can do it the easy way, or, He can do it the hard way. But it’s going to be His way. When God chooses a man He will get that man.
This why I like to refer to the “irrationality of disobedience”. Jonah can’t run from the LORD, and he knows that – He’s been a prophet for a while at this point. He is well acquainted with Jehovah and His ways. But rather than obeying Jehovah to go and preach to Nineveh He’d rather die. But, the LORD has worse things in mind. Jonah was chosen for this preaching job and this was an at-will employment – actually it was, it was Jehovah’s will. When God chooses a man for a job that man will do that job.
The vision of Jonah running can serve as an illustration for any disobedience in the believer’s life. Jonah wasn’t running from the presence of God so much as He was running from the purpose of God. That’s what disobedience is: shunning the purpose of God for you. By “purpose” I’m not talking whether God wants you in ministry. I’m talking God’s will for righteousness in your life. Knowing the righteousness you should do and not doing it. Knowing the good you should do and not doing it. Knowing the evil you should avoid and going ahead and doing it. Whenever we willfully reject God’s will for our lives we are in that boat with Jonah. And if we want to travel with Jonah then we can expect the same ride as Jonah.
First the LORD works the sea into a fury. “You may have left Ninevah behind Jonah but you didn’t leave God behind. He’s coming after you buddy.” Verse 5 says the ship was in such danger that it was going to be broken to pieces by the storm. The sailors do two things: they start tossing cargo in hopes they can lighten the ship and save it, and, they start an ecumenical prayer meeting, “each cried out to his own god.” These guys are experienced seaman and they are terrified. Keep this in mind because there is something coming up that is going to terrify them even more than the storm.
So where’s Jonah? The rain is beating down, the enormous waves are tossing the ship, the thunder, lightning and black clouds all around, grown men soaking wet and screaming, crates being thrown overboard…where’s Jonah? He’s sleeping soundly in the basement of the ship. How can Jonah sleep?
I think Jonah was sleeping the sleep of indifference. He was indifferent to the storm. Why? Because the storm was the consequences of his disobedience. What does that mean? It means that Jonah was content with the consequences of his disobedience because he considered the results of obedience to be far worse. He’d rather be in that boat on that sea in that storm about to die than be in Nineveh preaching.
First of all, God is perfectly willing to bring disaster in our lives when we are going in a wrong way. This is God’s doing. Let us not think that God would not send storms into our lives when our lives go into disobedience. The “Therapy-god” that seem so popular today would never be angry with one of His Christians. It’s always “the devil” who is credited, isn’t it? I’m sure he gets no greater pleasure than to hear a Christian confidently crediting him for things in their life he has nothing to do with. I’m sure he’s flattered. Sure the devil is guilty of the suffering in saints lives at times, look at Job. But you still have to come back to the fact God approved Satan’s attacks on Job. So, you still have to face the reality that what you’re going through is God’s doing. And, it is healthy for a God-fearing Christian to prayerfully, humbly contemplate the possibility that God is behind the storm in their life. We may at times be sitting in the trash heap with Job, innocent but tested. But we would be prideful never to consider if we are in fact in a boat with Jonah, and in need of reflecting on the potential for our own needed repentance.
Jonah ID’d (7-10)
The sailors are praying but nobody is picking up on the other end. The storm is getting worse. They’re running out of time and hope. So they have an epiphany: “Maybe one of us has sinned against his god and so this terrible storm has come upon us.” So they cast the lots and Jonah is ID’d. Jonah’s the culprit. Everyone’s head spins over to Jonah and immediately they interrogate him, verse 8 says.
Jonah’s answer it says in verse 9 terrifies them, …..
Their terror just went off the charts. Why? Because they knew that Jonah’s God was unstoppable. In a way what was happening on that ship was a competition of gods. Who’s god could hear? Who’s god would have mercy? And, who’s god would be able to stop this storm and rescue all of them? Not one god they prayed to came to their rescue. Now they knew why: the God of Israel, the Maker of the heavens and the earth was behind all this. They were completely at the mercy of this Jehovah whom Jonah served – or, in this case, wasn’t serving.
The sea was getting worse it says, only reinforcing in their minds that their gods were no match for Jehovah, and, no hope for them in this situation. So, they ask, what should we do to you to make all this stop?”
The question is important. There is a clear understanding by Jonah and the sailors that Jonah is guilty before the LORD. He has angered Jehovah by his disobedience. So, “what does Jehovah want us to do in order to appease Him and cause the sea to relax?
Jonah Overboard (11-17)
Jonah’s answer is to toss him overboard.
The men had more concern for Jonah’s life than Jonah had. Here in this chapter we see once again how pagans put a man of God to shame. First, while Jonah slept they prayed. Reminds us of the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane. Now, secondly, they care more for his life than he does. Jonah doesn’t care for anyone: not himself, not the sailors…remember he would have let that ship sink with the sailors on board if they weren’t scrambling to solve the problem and discover he was the cause. But Jonah doesn’t care for anyone’s life. That’s his problem. That’s why he’s on the run: he doesn’t care for the lives of the Ninevites.
APPLICATION: There is a psychology of disobedience as it relates to Christians here. Underlying outward disobedience is a heart that says “I reserve the right to decide what I will and will not ultimately do.” It’s a heart that says, “God, I will do what you say so long as it fits with what I think is right.” It’s a heart that says, “If I don’t agree with something you say God then I don’t have to go along with it.” Beneath disobedience is a heart that asserts self is still the highest authority. It makes the occasions of obedience nothing more than those moments when God’s perspective and mine harmoniously intersect. But true obedience is expressed when I abandon my will for me and wholly pursue God’s will. Jonah was happy to serve God so long as God commissioned him to jobs he liked and approved of. Jonah thus served God on his terms – not God’s terms. So when God called him to do something that Jonah disagreed with Jonah disobeyed it revealed that Jonah was only willing to serve God as long as it aligned with his own ideas about whats right and wrong. Jonah had the mistaken notion that there was a clause in his contract with God that allowed him to decline any jobs that God called him to. Jonah thought in serving God on his own terms that he had a thority to determine what he would and would not do ultimately
APPLICATION: Jonah’s actions were irrational – it’s what I call the irrationality of disobedience. It is when we are in disobedience and we rationalize to ourselves that somehow it’s better to disobey God then to obey him. Somehow we convince ourselves that disobedience and its consequences are more preferable then obedience to God. You cannot Escape the presence of God and if you are enlisted by God you are going to fall into line one way or the other – the easy way or the hard way. he couldn’t outrun God hide from God outwit God or Outlast God.
Finally, after trying to row back to shore and spare Jonah’s life, they give in to Jonah’s solution. Several bulky sailors pick Jonah up, and heave him over the side into the sea.
Instant calm. Just like when Jesus calmed the seas instantly with a single word.
Not only does the sea calm, but, the sailors are converted. Do not miss this. I missed it until this morning. I asked myself the question all week: “Why did God not stop Jonah before he got on that boat? Why loosen the drag and let the line run? Why go through all this trouble with the ship the storm, and then the fish?” God could have done something to Jonah on his way to Joppa or in Joppa. But Jonah took off and God let him. Let me tell you why: God was using the ocassion of Jonah’s disobedience to convert those pagan sailors. Jonah was a prophet, and a prophet goes and tells people of Jehovah. And God used Jonah’s disobedience for his own purpose.
What purpose is that? I believe God wanted to bring those pagan Gentile sailors to the knowledge of Himself. I believe God wanted those sailors to turn from their false gods and worship the true and living God – the God of the Hebrews – the Creator of the Heavens and the earth. Did God succeed? You bet. Look at verse 16, “….
Their reaction is just like the disciples in the boat when they watched Jesus calm the sea: worship. How could any of them turn back to their former gods? Those gods (not really gods) were no help in that storm. They were no match for the power of Jehovah. And, they knew that this Jehovah takes obedience seriously because everything they just went through was the result of the disobedience of one of his servants.
Application: Before anyone says “Well, see, I can be disobedient and still succeed in getting God’s purposes done.” No, this shows the sovereignty of God and the power of God to use even a disobedient servant for his purpose. There are 3 things converging here in this situation that God is bringing together for His glory: 1) the salvation of the Ninevites, 2) the salvation of the pagan sailors, and 3) the maturing of his prophet.
Application: God will use the elements of our disobedience for discipline. Jonah went to sea in his disobedience – so God used the sea to discipline him: the storm, the failing ship and then the fish. If we go in a way that is against His will He will prevent us from getting to our Tarshish. How do we turn from the will of the LORD? We do well to pay attention and consider how God uses our circumstances to correct us.
Do you feel like you are drowning? Do you feel like your life is tossed about in a storm and everything is crashing in? Consider if the LORD is doing this to you to turn you to Him. You may be like Jonah, someone who knows the true God, but, you are going against His will in some way. Turn to Him and seek Him and repent. He may very well have a fish for you too if you keep going.
You may however be like the sailors: you are religious and good, but, you don’t know the true God. He is seeking you. He is stirring up your life to turn you to Him. He is more than willing to shipwreck a person’s life to get their attention and turn them towards Him. So before you drown in the sea of life, come to to the water of eternal life.