Well, I’m back. You were really a very wonderful audience last week and I am grateful I can continue my story today.
If u you recall, last week I said I thought I would take a vacation to Tarshish. That was really a little stretch of the truth. In fact, I did not want to do what God wanted me to do so I decided to go in the complete opposite direction. Now I didn’t make this decision in haste. In fact I went down to our local Jewish bookstore and saw a book entitled,” How to Run from God.” I didn’t even open it, I just took it to the counter and paid my 16 shekels. Boy was I disappointed when I got home and opened the pages to the book. Most of them were blank. Finally, I found a page with something written on it. “How to run from God.” In very bold letters there was one word. DON’T! I tossed that book out the window.
So anyway, I made my way down to Joppa after deciding I really wasn’t going to obey God. The record I left you with says when I got to Joppa I found a boat. It was a strange thing, this boat. It had a name. Boats have name. The original name was written in the language common to the Phoenicians but they also wrote the name in other languages. Below the large name I saw its Hebrew meaning. The letters, hrm, led me to believe that this was a ship named grief. I thought that strange, however, maybe it was a description of what would happen if you messed with it. Someone would give you grief. I later discovered that the name was actually rebellion. The consonant for the word grief are the same as those for rebellious. I was actually going to get on the ship “rebellious”. A little ironic don’t you think. I would board a ship “rebellious” or “disobedient.” Can I tell you right here and now, you should never sail on the ship of disobedience. No, no, no, no, no!
You might be tricked like I was. Look at my record in verse three. I went to Joppa. I found a ship. I had the money to pay my fare and all seemed so well that I went in the bow of the ship and went to sleep. I figured with all this good fortune that God had probably understood why I shouldn’t go to Nineveh and he was going to bless me with safe passage to Tarshish. Living in the state of disobedience is some time like that. Everything seems ok. But if you believe that living this way is ok you are very deceived. I think your Bible says something about this. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows that he shall also reap.” I was about to realize that what I was going to reap was not a delightful trip to another land.
Notice what verse three tells you. It tells you everything I did. Jonah did this. Jonah did that. Jonah got on a ship. Clearly, I am the subject. But look at the next verse. It begins with, “But the Lord . . . .” There is one thing I learned real soon in all of this; you can’t hide from the Lord. In fact, I am a little embarrassed to say that I thought I could get away from the presence of the Lord.
· Some people think it is a very scary or binding thing to think that they are always in the presence of the Lord. I have learned to look at it a little differently. You know I was running from God. What if he said, “Okay, have it your way. I am going to leave you alone.” That would be like a parent who let their six year old pack up and move out because they were mad and didn’t want to clean up their room. How many parents haven’t heard their child say, “I am going to run away.” We may even tease them and help them pack so they understand how ridiculous it is for them to think that running away is a good thing. But we would never let them do it. We know the harm they would get into. We know that being with us is really the best thing even if for a time they don’t understand it. Truth be told, I really wouldn’t enjoy myself in Tarshish. In fact, I may have gotten myself into some real trouble. It really is a good thing that God doesn’t forsake us every time we try to do things our way. And, all his methods may not be quite as radical as they were with me, but he is a Father who pursues his children.
Speaking of radical, after I got on the boat the Lord hurled a great wind. At this point God was sort of like a major league pitcher. God however, threw the wind and it was a strike. This wind was for me. Initially, no one knew why this wind had come up so suddenly but it would be long before it would be obvious to everybody.
When the wind began to blow, the sailors did what sailors do. They threw as much water overboard as they could and when they began to realize how serious this storm really was, the prayed. Note: they prayed to their own gods. Finally, they came and got me. After discovering that I was to blame for all of this these men did something that I myself wasn’t willing to do. They showed me compassion by trying to fight the storm so they wouldn’t have to throw me overboard. These pagans had enough moral character that they didn’t want to see my life end in the waters of the sea. How embarrassing is that. Here are non-believers acting more noble than a believer.
Don’t you see though, that you can’t stop the work of God by human effort no matter how hard you try. You just can’t. So the inevitable happened. These men were forced to through me overboard. They did and immediately, I was swallowed by a large fish. And that is another story. There is truth in the proverb that, “you can’t keep a good man down!” I remembered the words of Moses, “Let my people go,” and I was hoping that is what God was going to tell this great fish.
Before I leave you today there is something very phenomenal that you must see. Remember, I told you that you should get on the boat of disobedience? Well, you shouldn’t. We are never to do wrong to do right. But, do you remember why I am on that boat? It is because I am afraid that God is going to be compassionate and forgive the people of Nineveh. I could live with that. Well, look what happened on this boat. These sailors turn to my God Yahweh and pray to him. God is gracious to a different set of pagans.
I guess God wanted to make a point with me. Listen Jonah, I will accept anyone who calls on my name. Try and run away from that and I will use you to reach pagan sailors. Wow. I wish I could tell you I was readily learning the lesson God was trying to teach. Unfortunately, I wasn’t and for the next three days I would have plenty of time to think about that.
You are on a path today. Is it that path of obedience or disobedience?