But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3 NASB)
Jonah was a man who ran from God. He did not want to go to Nineveh and I can at least understand why some wouldn't blame him. The Ninevites were historically very cruel to Israel and so it should come as no surprise as to why Jonah would be hesitant to want to obey God and go and preach repentance to them with the possibility of salvation coming to them.
However, we are to obey God regardless of our reasons to not obey. God's will is always more important than man's will and we are never given an excuse to disobey God, even in situations where we are to reach out or show love to those who are most cruel to us.
The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3 NASB)
Here is the only recorded time that I am aware of where a prophet of God actively refused to obey and even went as far as running in the complete opposite direction. Jonah wanted no part of going to Nineveh and even though he should have known better, he attempted to flee from the presence of God.
In the 139th Psalm it states the following:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheoul, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night," even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.
Jonah knew the Old Testament Scriptures! Jonah knew God! He knew he could not actually flee from the presence of the Lord. He knew there was no escaping God's sight or the command God had given to him. So why try? Why run when this prophet should have known to run to God instead?
Are we any different?
We know we can't run from God! We know He is omnipresent. And yet, we run. Many people when faced with the pressures of life, or faced with something they don't want to do, they naturally feel the need to run from their problem or try to pretend like it isn't there. However, I want you to know that when you run, things don't get easier, they always get harder.
We need to instead of running from God, we need to run to God!
When hard times come, run to God!
When people speak evil of you, run to God!
When Satan tempts you to sin, run to God!
If you find yourself out in habitual sin, run to God!
If you need restoration, run to God!
What is truly sad is that by the time we realize that we need restoration, we also realize that we have been running from the God of Restoration the entire time!
However, we must never forget that when we run, while God is holy and just, and can't approve of our sin, He is also perfect grace, mercy, and love. So, no matter how far we run, no matter how far we fall into sin, there is nowhere we can go, there is no depth of sin we can fall into, where His love can't reach.
The very second we turn back to God in true repentance, He runs to forgive us!
Let's consider one very important element of the parable of the prodigal son. We should all be very familiar with the parable of how the younger son claimed his inheritance and ran off to live the way in which he chose. After suffering massive failure in this venture, he comes to his senses and realizes that he must return back to his father. This is where we will pick it up in the book of Luke:
But when he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.'"
The Father in this story is a great representation of our heavenly Father in that when we turn in repentance and we turn and run to God, He shows us that He was right there the whole time! He is right there waiting and willing to run to us in forgiveness!
God is a God of judgment, and He is perfectly holy. However, God has made it clear in His word that He is the God of Restoration and Forgiveness. His only requirement for us is that we repent and confess our sins, and He, in turn, is faithful to forgive us of our sins and to continually cleanse us from unrighteousness as it says in 1 John 1:9.
God is a God of Restoration, and His Restoration is readily available to all who truly seek it in true repentance. Run to Him today! Run to God! Run to Restoration!