Running Away from God?
Grace is not just Amazing, it’s outrageous, startling and mind boggling!
There was a prophet in Israel and his name was Jonah. This is a historical account that happened in history. This is not a humanly invented story. Jonah was a literal man lived as a prophet in Israel. 2 Kings 14:25 says Jonah was a prophet who predicted Jeroboam 11’s war against Syria in the 8th century BC. He is the same Jonah, the son of Amittai (Jonah 1:1) from the town of Gath-Hepher in lower Galilee. One day, The Lord said to him, Jonah, get up and go to the great city, Nineveh and cry against it because their wickedness had come up before Him (Jonah 1:1). Jonah won’t do it and he ran away as far as he could. Why?Mind boggling and outrageous Grace- think about it. Click To Tweet
The city of Nineveh was filled with evil and the time of the judgment of God had come. Nineveh was the capital of the most powerful empire on Jonah’s day– Assyria. Assyrians were brutal and cruel . Their cruelty was unfathomable for human beings. When they attacked and conquered cities, they mutilated people and ripped out their tongues and removed the skin of the living people. So cruel and wicked were the people of this city and yet God wanted to extend His grace if they would repent from their evil doings and turn to the living God. So He asked Jonah to go and preach in the city of Nineveh about the soon coming judgment.
Jonah’s prejudice against Gentiles
Jonah didn’t like God’s call to preach judgment in such a wicked city because Jews hated assyrians for their arrogance, idol worship, atrocities and cruelties. The Gentiles were the “untouchables” and he couldn’t understand why God is interested in them. Later, when we read chapter three of the book of Jonah then we would know that Jonah knew the character of God-the mercy and compassion of God – and that if they repent from their wickedness, God would extend mercy and forgiveness to these “untouchables”. Therefore, Jonah ran away to the opposite side- to a city called Tarshish. Bible says Jonah rose up and flee to Tarshish, from the presence of the Lord.
Earthly Fathers and the Heavenly Father.
An earthy father would probably ignore this rebellious, disobedient and ran away son and look for some one else to finish his task. But our father in heaven won’t do it. The Bible assures in Romans 11:29, “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” The gifts God granted you and God’s eternal calling on you are irrevocable. In other words, God won’t withdraw His gifts and calling. If God has a purpose, He will accomplish it through the one He intended to accomplish. The old testament covenants of God and its literal fulfillment shows this eternal truth. Now God is going to roll over Jonah to accomplish what He has purposed in Him. Remember, your disobedience or set back doesn’t come to God as as surprise. He has preordained your task even before the set backs happens in your life. Your set backs are already accounted in His over all purpose and plan. You will see this truth again as the account of Jonah’s life history evolves. What a Great and faithful God we have. All praises to Him only.
Goes down, down and further down.
When Jonah decided to disobey and ran from the presence of the Lord, Bible records in Jonah chapter 1, he went ‘down‘ five times. He went ‘down‘ to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish in Jonah 1:3. Then it says he went ‘down‘ in to a ship (vs.4), and went all the way ‘down’ to the bottom of the ship laid down and fallen sound sleep. The sailors who traveled with him in the ship, due to the great storm and fear of their life (the ship was about to break up), threw Jonah ‘down‘ in to the sea (vs. 15) and immediately after he was thrown in to the sea, a great fish was appointed by God to swallow him and he went ‘down’ in to the stomach of the fish (vs 17).
This is true of any person who runs away from the Lord. When you disobey and start running from God, you will never go “up”, you always go ‘down‘, ‘down’ and further ‘down’.
Did you notice another truth? It’s easy to run away from God. But it’s not easy to recover. Recovery comes slowly. For Jonah it was easy to buy a ticket with his money and get in to a ship and travel the opposite direction of God’s plan. But recovery happens slowly and with much pains and frustrations. Why? Because God will let us reap the consequences of our sin and rebelliousness.
Secondly, When you run away from your God, not only you are affected and other people in your close circle are also severely affected. The sailors with Jonah was greatly afraid due to a great and dangerous storm and they started crying out to their own gods. They threw all the cargo in to the sea to lighten the ship. They all faced with real fear of death because the ship was about to break in the storm.
Fianlly they decided to cast lots to figure out on whose account this calamity of fierce and dangerous storm struck them. Even the pagans knew there was a reason for this great calamity and they wanted to know who is responsible for this calamity. People in modern days says, you can go ahead and run from God and do whatever you please and don’t worry about any consequences. But watch how these people responded and they knew the calamity was due to some one did some thing wrong in the sight of God. When they casted lot, the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah thought things were going well for him. He was fast asleep down in the bottom section of the ship. How long Jonah can run away from God? Not that long for sure. Things started turning around- a great storm and ship was now about to break up.
The sailors came to Jonah and pounded with questions. They asked tell us Now! Why this calamity of great storm stuck us? What is your occupation? Where are you from? What is your country? From what people are you?’. Now he replied to them, ” I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land”. The sailers understood he was running away from the Lord, because Jonah told them. Then they were extremely frightened and asked this question, “how could you do this?”. In essence they were afraid and asked how could you ran away from the Lord? See, the pagans had more spiritual sense than this prophet of God.
You see the startling, mind boggling grace of God in action in Jonah’s life. You may ask what do you mean? Let me tell you Jonah was a prophet of God who not only went from the presence of the Lord, but went exact the opposite direction God wanted him to go. God asked him to go to east but in outright rebelliousness he went to west side due to his prejudice toward Gentiles and his knowledge of God’s character of mercy and forgiveness. The Lord didn’t stop him from going the opposite direction. He didn’t kill him right away. The Lord allowed him to go his own way. God let you go your own way also, and work in the midst of your disobedience and rebelliousness to bring you again to Himself, if you call upon Him. The earlier you return to the Lord, the better it will be for you. God didn’t cast Jonah away, though He could. God didn’t take His gifts and calling away from him. Wonderful grace, right? If that is not grace, what else is grace?
Keep in mind, it’s east to run away from the Lord. And when you do, most of the time, the circumstances may look favorable to you. Jonah had a ship waiting for him to carry him to Tarshish, had money to buy tickets and there was a secret chamber for sound sleep. Satan apparently will make everything favorable for you temporarily when you ran away from God. But don’t be fooled by his immediate provision of favorable circumstances. The consequences comes only later. They cry of sorrow and bitterness follows. Jonah is now getting in to the severe consequences of running away from the Lord.
First God send a storm while Jonah turned away from God.
A violent storm arose that the ship was threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god (vs 4-5). You see, storms can appear in many different ways- storm of financial problems, storm of death of a loved one, storm of severe relationship issues, storm of job loss, storm of bad circumstances and so forth. These storms are sent by God to get your attention to come to Him for help and deliverance.
The sailors asked Jonah to call on his God for help so that they won’t perish and die in the sea. Sometimes God talks to us through pagan people as well to get our attention. The pagans had to instruct the prophet of God to call on his God. Sounds weird. But God works in mysterious ways to get your attention.
God brought to light the truth of disobedience.
When sailors asked personal questions, Jonah admitted that he was a Hebrew and he fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land. He also said he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord. They asked him what should they do that the sea may become calm? Jonah said to them if they pick him up and throw into the sea, the sea will become calm. You see, he recognized his rebelliousness against the Lord is the reason for this fierce storm. Initially the sailors won’t do it, but finally there were no other way for saving their life and they threw Jonah in to the sea. Suddenly the sea became calm. I was thinking this. Jonah admitted his disobedience to the sailors but why he hasn’t called upon God for deliverance even in the midst of this life threatening storm. He could have prayed to the Lord and based on his confession of sins, the Lord would have made the sea calm. Don’t you think so? There is a truth here- no one can make a prodigal come home until he or she is ready to come back. Sure, Jonah lost that opportunity and now he is going to face more serious consequences of rebelliousness. He is going down in to the sea and then going down in to the stomach of a great fish and that’s going to be really bad.
When the sailors threw Jonah to the sea, there was calm. Fierce wind stopped. This was a great convicting moments for the sailors to believe in the Lord God of Israel. Bible says in Jonah 1:16, “The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered Him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.” It says they offered sacrifice to the Lord and vowed to serve Him. The sailors are now converted and became believers in the LORD and are on their way to Tarshish praising the LORD joyfully. You see, God is always a winner and He accomplishes His purpose no matter what! Now the running away prophet is in the deep sea.
From the sea to the belly of the fish.
See God’s grace is on work again. Bible says in Jonah 1:17, “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.” God could have let him die in the sea. However, as I mentioned above the startling, mind boggling grace of God still in work in Jonah’s life. Even the great fish obeyed the command of God to be at the right place when Jonah comes down in the sea. Prophet of God’s disobedience is placed in contrast to the great fish’s obedience to God’s command. Great fish was right there as God commanded to swallow Jonah. Even fish, animals and nature obey God.
It was God’s grace that He appointed a great fish and commanded it to go to that exact location to swallow Jonah. Why did the LORD did this? If God had not appointed this fish, Jonah would have died in the sea. Second, God is waiting for Jonah’s repentance. That is the purpose of appointing a great fish to be there. See how much God cared for Jonah even in the midst of outright rebelliousness.
Let me ask you. Are you running from the Lord? Its never late to come back to God. If you respond at the first storm, it would be far better for your peace and well being. But if you harden your heart, more severe storms is in store for you. Then you will have to suffer a lot more. Remember repentance and turning to the Lord is God’s offer of grace toward you. Each storm sent to your attention is God’s grace toward you to come to Him for help, deliverance and salvation.
From the belly of the fish, Jonah called upon the Lord in prayer.
Jonah 2:1 says, “From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord His God.” Now he came to his sense and called out to the Lord in his distress, from the belly of the fish. His prayer is reported in Jonah Chapter 2. He acknowledged the Lord has put him there in the midst of the sea and again in the belly of the fish. He promised he will look again toward the holy temple of God. He said his life is fainting away and then he said he remembered the Lord from inside the fish. His prayer came up to God, in to the holy temple of God. He made some promises to the Lord when he was in the belly of the fish. He said he will sacrifice to the Lord with the voice of thanksgiving. He promised he will pay what he vowed. Finally he made this amazing and thought provoking statement in his prayer, “Salvation is from the Lord.”
Now is the time of salvation. Now is the opportuniy.
See, he wouldn’t call upon the Lord God before, while he was in the ship in the midst of the dangerous storms. Now he is ready to pray and seek the face of the Lord. Why? No escape for him from the belly of the fish and he understood salvation comes only from the Lord. He is under siege of the grace of God. This is a big and huge lesson- Salvation comes only from the Lord. Many people are very slow to understand this truth. Most people believe that salvation can be attained by their good works and deeds. Bible proclaims salvation originates from the Lord and culminates in the Lord. The Bible says, you can not get saved unless God saves you. That is why God sent His only son – Jesus Christ – to die for your sins on the cross of calvary. The only way to come to the living God is by the way of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. No other way, period ! Why? Your salvation is already fully and completely paid for you by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Salvation is freely given to those who trust in God by believing Jesus died, rose again and paid for their sin. You don’t need to visit any special places or pay a single penny to obtain salvation. Bible says in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Those who are in Christ means those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior and Lord. This is the only way of salvation. Yes, Salvation is only by the grace of God, not based on our works, but by faith in Christ alone. Jonah understood this truth in the belly of the fish.
Do you know God loves to deliver you from your condition?
Upon calling the Lord, God delivered Jonah the prophet from inside the fish. Do you know this truth? God loves to deliver you from your circumstance no matter how bad and dangerous it may appear to be. My friend, Jonah’s condition was much worse than your condition. You are not in the belly of a huge fish, are you? God heard his prayer even from the stomach of fish and wonderfully delivered him. When Jonah called upon the Lord in prayer, God commanded the fish to vomit and it omitted Jonah on the dry land (2:10). Each time, when God commanded, the great fish just obeyed God. Bible says in Psalm 103:19, “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all.” The LORD rules over all – kings, rulers, people, animals, fish and birds. He rules over all and all has to obey God because HE IS THE SOVEREIGN GOD.
What is the lesson? This sovereign God who rules over all, would love to deliver you from your dangerous places and situations. You may have ran away from the Lord or you may be a person who never knew about the God of the Bible. Or you may be a person searching for truth and living God. I invite you to call call upon Jesus by prayer right now. God’s love and grace available in Christ Jesus is not just amazing, it is outrageous, startling and mind boggling and Jonah is a testimony of God’s grace. You can be yet another recipient of God’s outrageous, startling and mind boggling grace today.
Pray with me: “Lord Jesus, I call your name for my deliverance. I understand you saved Jonah from the depths of the sea and belly of the fish. Please remember me and my condition and save me. I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins and rose again. I believe you paid all my sins with your precious blood. I trust in you. Amen”
if you prayed this prayer, please go to contact/prayer tab and send me a note, would you? I would be thrilled to hear from you.