But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3a NASB)
Many times it would seem that we can't find a car fast enough to meet our desire to flee from a situation or circumstance. Such is the case with Jonah in the beginning verses of the book that bears his name. Jonah had been instructed to go to Nineveh and preach repentance!
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."
As I covered in the last post on this subject, Jonah was no rookie prophet. He had been in service to God before this point. So when God comes to him with specific instructions this was nothing new and Jonah knew that he was to obey his God, and by all accounts he has done so in the past.
It is possible, however, in light of what the book of Jonah details, that Jonah may have struggled in his life with obedience to God. It is very likely that for Jonah this may have been an ongoing issue with him. For when he is instructed here, instead of obeying, he flees!
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.
We always get into trouble when we attempt to run from God. We will certainly see that in the life of Jonah as we move along, but for a moment let's consider what should be apparent to all of us that call on the name of the Lord.
That is that we should know and be fully aware that there is no running from God. There is nowhere you can go where God is not already there. He is omnipresent meaning that He as God is in all places and is eternally present in every capacity and every place at all times.
God exists outside of time. Time is a created thing for man. God has no need of time. So everything that exists in time is always before Him as a constant present from His perspective. We are the only ones that exist in time and experience time as linear for we are created beings.
I could say more about the fact that God is all-present in His existence but the major point to get across here is that any attempt to "fell from the presence of the Lord" whether by Jonah or by us is futile at best.
Jonah was attempting to flee from his calling, to flee from his specific instructions from God, and flee from his responsibility. Jonah was told to go to Nineveh and instead he boarded a ship to go the complete opposite direction.
Now, we are surely tempted to say things like, "How could he possibly do this? How could a man of God possibly think he could escape God's view or jurisdiction? Surely Jonah knows that he can't flee!" However, I would submit that we are not very much different than Jonah in that regard, for we think that we can escape God's view and instruction as well when we make our futile attempts to flee from His presence.
We too often like to stand in judgment of Bible characters and then in our pride we like to assume that we somehow would never act as they did. We like to think too highly of ourselves like if we were somehow in the same situation we would make a different decision.
But are we really so different from Jonah?
Are there things in your life that if everyone had it recorded for us either in written, audio, or video form like we do for Jonah that they would say of us, "How could this happen? How could someone who is supposed to be a Christian, make such a sinful decision as to directly disobey God and attempt to flee from His presence?"
There have certainly been times in my life that I have attempted to run from God. The interesting thing about sin and the Christian life is that we are still capable of sin even though we have been made alive and made righteous through the power of Christ. We will still continue to struggle with sin and only as much as we are yielded to the Holy Spirit's control will we avoid sin with any success, and when we are caught up in self we will flee many times from God.
We need to realize a few things:
1. You can't literally run from God.
2. You can't flee from God's calling for your life and expect to be happy or content.
3. You can't flee from the presence of the Lord and expect to live righteously.
4. You can't flee from obeying God and expect to have any kind of success in living out the Great Commission.
Now, this post concerning Jonah fleeing from God and how it relates to our lives as well is hard to admit, especially as it pertains to our own fleeing that we do in our lives. The good news, however, is that we do in fact serve a God that can restore. We serve a God of Restoration!
God can and will forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) and restore us back to where we should be, and who we should be and we will see how He does that for us as we move along in the book of Jonah.
It all begins with repentance. Realizing we are in error, we have sinned against a holy God and we need to be sorrowful over that sin and turn to God, rather than away from Him. As Christians we are 100% declared righteous and are fully justified (Rom. 5:1) in Christ. Our salvation is never in doubt, but our fellowship with God and our ability to image Christ to the world is compromised when we allow sin in our life.
We don't need to flee! We shouldn't flee! Unless we are running to God!