10th October 2018

Running From God

“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.”
Jonah 1:3 (NKJV)

In my Bible reading I have reached Jonah. It is a well-known story from the Bible and many children know its basic story line. Reading it afresh, several points struck me which I had forgotten:

The first is that although he was trying to escape the job that God had given him to do, Jonah did not deny God. Everybody on the boat were praying and calling on their gods but Jonah says in Jonah 1:9, that he worships the Lord, the God of heaven, who made both land and sea. Luke 12:8-9 shows what happens if we deny or acknowledge God and, in this regard, despite the fact that Jonah was running from the job God had given him, God has acknowledged Jonah by this book that is now in the Bible. God has not denied Jonah, but also Jonah did not deny God.

The second is that Jonah was in a corner of the boat sound asleep. As these men were seasoned sailors and were afraid, it must have been some storm! Matthew 8:23-27 has a parallel story-line: Jesus is fast asleep in a boat when a storm blew up that also made seasoned sailors scared. In this story, Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea, bringing a dead calm that astonishing the disciples. Unfortunately, this did not happen for Jonah. As the storm grew worse the sailors did not know what to do, but Jonah knew it was his fault, and so he told them to throw him overboard. The crew resisted this idea, and rowed hard to get back to land, “but in vain.” This was not in God’s plan for Jonah, so with the storm getting even worse, they reluctantly threw Jonah overboard. Jonah 1:14 is quite enlightening—the sailors said, “do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.” They then offered sacrifices and made vows to God, but how long they honoured God rather than their own gods is not mentioned.

There is a price to pay if we choose to run from God. For Jonah, the price was sacrificing himself so that the sailors could live, believing he would die (little did he know!) We read on in verse 17, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” When you think about it, that is really gross. But God put Jonah where he would have time to think and cogitate on his situation and only in this way did he come to repentance, after which Jonah was spewed out on to dry land. We can only imagine the relief he must have felt. This is another parallel with Jesus who was three days and three nights in the ‘belly’ of the earth (Matthew 12:40).

Equally, Jesus’ sacrifice for us was so that we could live, come out of our grossest situations and, in repentance, be rescued by God through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Just as Jonah’s call to repentance to the people of Nineveh was heeded and acted on, so we hear the call to repentance in our lives. Luke 11:30 says “For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.”

There is a lot more to some of these Old Testament books than we might think.

God of heaven, who made both land and sea, thank you for the many things contained in your Word that we can learn from. Help us to acknowledge and not deny you in our lives. Help us to repent of running away and to come to you to fulfill your purpose for our lives.

Study by Rosemany Gent


About the Author:
Rosemary Gent attends Nottingham Grace Communion.

Local Congregation:
Nottingham Grace Communion
Lucy Brown Hall
Attenborough Lane

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Richard White

Email: nottingham@gracecom.church

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