See Jonah Run

See Jonah Run

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai:“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed forTarshish to flee from the Lord. -Jonah 1:1-3

How does Jonah’s story pertain to us and our lives today? Could I relate to Jonah? Could you?

When I was studying Jonah, years ago, I could see Jonah in the individual who thinks they know the Lord; however, they don’t study God’s Word and the little they do know they use it against others and turn a blind eye when it comes to their own short comings.  I could see Jonah in the individual who takes pieces of what God reveals to them, and they run with it to satisfy their own desires in life. This in turn has lessened their time with God in prayer and spending less and less time in church and more and more time in the world.  I could see Jonah in someone who ran from God’s purpose on their life because they was scared, shamed, lost, and didn’t think anything mattered with what they could do for the Lord. I could see Jonah in the person who has been hurt by others and in turn doesn’t want to pray for or help those who had hurt them or hurt the ones they love.  I could see Jonah in the person who is lost and feels the Lord pulling them to come to Him and follow Him. I see Jonah in the person who is running from accountability and full surrender on what the Lord is calling them to do. I see Jonah in ME!

When God calls us to obey what He has told us to do, this at times (or most of time) may be something we do not want to do. This in turn will create in our flesh one of three stress responses: fight, flight, or freeze. There are several accounts within God’s Word where individuals fell into these stress responses. They were usually induced because of fear, adversity, suffering, pride, worry, anxiety, doubt, and fill in the blank anything that is opposite to the fruit of  the Spirit. 

We can see in the Word where Adan and Eve disobeyed the Lord and in shame fled and hid from Him.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” -Genesis 3:7-11

We can see in the Word when Moses was reluctant and froze when God called him to go and speak to the pharaoh on releasing His people. 

Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” -Exodus 3:10-14

Continuing on to chapter 4, we can read how Moses went into the fight response. He protested against God when it came to God using him. 

But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?” -Exodus 4:1

Tell me you cannot relate? But Moses doesn’t stop there he goes on to tell God all the reasons he cannot obey (when it came to speaking) even though God graciously showed Him that He was with Moses over and over. By the end of debate, God uses Moses brother, Aaron, to speak instead. 

But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. -Exodus 4:10-14

Then we have Elijah who went into a stress response of fleeing when he heard Jezebel was out to kill him. 

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there.  Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” -1 Kings 19:3-4

Does something look familiar? Read Jonah 4.

Then you can read about the disciples of Jesus who flee from the Lord during time of persecution. 

But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. -Matthew  26:56

But you see when it comes down to it, it all is in the choosing of obedience or disobedience. When you delay it is still disobeying. We must choose to either submit to the Lord and resist the devil (James 4:7) or flee from the line of duty/call placed on your life (which is a privilege to serve Him who is completely worthy by the way) or simply freeze and choose to do nothing at all (and God is so gracious enough to give a second chance, but His will is already going forward). We are going nowhere if we struggle with the Lord or question Him (which He will allow because He is a good and patient Father). He is allowing us to take part in His grand plan and gives us opportunities to live this life He has given us for eternal purpose.  

 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. -1 Timothy 6:12

When things in life get challenging (which Jesus promised us that they would in 1 Peter 2:21), we often chose to avoid or delay complete obedience. This running away aspect seems so silly, “how can you run away from God?”, but many of us attempt to run away from the presence of the Lord to escape conviction or submission. This may look like spending less time in the Word and in prayer, less time being around godly people who edify and speak truth, less time in church or serving with the Body, etc.

Maybe someone reading this is the “inside runner”, you find it easier to run this way because it is more discreet or less evident to others that you are running. When you run away mentally you become more detached and allow your spiritual life to be filled with just going through the motion.  You are simply fleeing or delaying obedience in secret, thinking that God will simply pass by and go on to the next person to challenge. However, the “inside runner” will eventually be exposed as emotions build up, hardness of the heart formulates, and this is portrayed through their attitudes towards others and honestly towards their own life. The “inside runner” continues to go through the motions while having no fellowship with the Lord (you know trying to escape conviction) or when they are presented with something in the Word that should be edifying to them they point to another.  They can even be on the run from God’s direction on their life while they are still attending church or being a part of ministry. However, they are just there with no motivation or any heart in what they are doing for the Lord. In Isaiah 29:13 it says, “And so the Lord says, ‘These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. And their worship of Me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” (which means mindless and automatic). What it all comes down to is they get into a comfort zone of not allowing themselves to be fully surrendered to what God may be directing them to do.

Maybe someone reading this is running due to other allegiances in life. These allegiances may not be exactly what God had planned for you, but you find it hard to give it up to serve Him. Maybe it is that status at work, ambitions, goals, certain people in your life, or ideals that just might have more of your commitment and loyalty than God does. In Jonah 3:10-4:2, Jonah knew God’s character and will; however, Jonah was committed to his own ideals and that was he felt that Nineveh should not be shown mercy. To have insight on where our allegiances lie in our life, we have to look at our responses to divine intervention that God allows in our lives. When adversity, suffering, trials, and other disruptions or whirlwinds take place, how do you respond? Do you know that God is always there to guide you through them or do you allow the stress responses to take over? Do you run to Him or run away?

Many of you may be thinking they obvious question, “How can I run from God? There is no where to hide from Him.”, which is true. In Psalms 139:7 is says, “I can never escape from Your Spirit! I can never get away from Your presence.” Our God is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere at the same time. He is omniscient, meaning He knows everything because He is all-knowing, all-wise, and all-seeing. He is omnipotent, meaning, He is all-powerful, almighty, and able to do anything. It is frankly absurd to think you can run from God; however, in Jonah 1:3 it clearly says that Jonah was getting away from the presence of the Lord. This presence meaning he was running away from where he felt the manifested presence of the Lord among God’s people and the temple of the Lord, where he strongly felt the presence of the Lord speaking to him.  In 1 Kings 8:23-30, King Solomon speaks of God’s promise of a temple that would be built in His honor and although Solomon is wise enough to realize no temple could contain the Almighty God; he knew it would be the place where God’s people could go and worship the Lord. A place where they could pray and their prayers be heard, it was a place where people would humble themselves and devote time to the Lord through bringing Him their sacrifices, burdens, requests, praises and thanksgiving. In return the revealed presence of the Lord would be there. This is what Jonah was running from. (Now see today we have this revealed presence through trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, receiving the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit then guides and teaches us as we spend time with Him through prayer and His Word. Also, God also has given us the Body of Jesus Christ to stir, encourage, and edify one another through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.)

Jonah no longer wanted to seek the Lord and be in His presence. Jonah knew who God was and didn’t want to align with Him when it came to warning Nineveh of their sin against God. So, he ran from His presence. His heart was no longer seeking the Lord and His direction. In Jeremiah 29:12-13 it says, “In those days when you pray  I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly you will find me.” We become more aware of God’s love, mercy, and comfort when we seek an intimate relationship with Him; however, the one who is seeking while avoiding God’s direction, correction, and plan over their lives see this as a burdensome reminder. 

“God’s continuous presence is a soothing balm to the hurting. His presence also a scorching fire to those living in disobedience. One of the ways we can determine whether we are in right relationship with Him is to consider the way we feel about His closeness to us.” -Jonah by Priscilla Shirier

Now let’s talk about what our lives may look like when we choose to continue to disobey and run. In Romans 6:16 it says, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”   When Jonah ran away, he board a ship to Tarshish and went down into the ship hold and falls asleep. While he slept the Lord brought about a storm. The Lord saw Jonah’s attempt to just try and runaway and think he could just sleep and get away from the calling on his life. God sent a storm to make Jonah more aware that He cannot run from this call on his life. When we run we find ourselves going into a downward spiral of disaster in whatever way it may manifest in your life, it begins to gain momentum to the point we feel we are unable to get free from it.  But just like Jonah, we know that it is sent by the Lord to redirect us back to obedience. 

The amazing thing is we must thank the Lord for the storm, without that storm Jonah would not have been awakened. This awakening allows us to see God’s grace and love for us. This form of discipline allows us to become more sensitive to God’s presence and direction in our lives. Many may see the storm or circumstances that God allows to happen in our lives as harsh or unfair; however, it says in God’s word that this is called love. This serves as a reminder that God isn’t done with you yet, and that no matter how long or how  far you have run from God, there is always just one obedient step back to Him. In Hebrews 12:5-8 it says, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LordNor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 

You see these storms in our lives or divine interventions are privileges, it is a symbol of God’s love for His child. God has a grand plan and for those who are His children, we get to take part in it. Brothers and sisters, take heed to these alarms in life to attempt to wake us up, it is the Holy Spirit seeking to rouse you, to activate your purpose and part to God’s grand plan that is so far beyond our comprehension. 

What is so beautiful is that no matter what we did when were on the run, God can always redeem it and make something remarkable and pleasing to His sight. While Jonah was on the run and disobeying God, He used that to convert the whole ship (Jonah 1:9-16). So, the lesson here is to stop running and embrace what God has for you, for it is for our good, the good of others, and most of all for His glory! 

Allow the Lord to navigate as you look to Him for direction.

“Being deceived is like following an exquisitely crafted compass that has faulty inner workings. We walk in the direction of it’s misleading arrow convincing ourselves that our choices are leading us true north. Meanwhile, we’re heading deeper and deeper into the woods (I would say off course). We point to our compass- ‘look I’m following the arrow’. But deception is often logic based on a faulty premise.” -No Other Gods by Kelly Minter

What the author was getting to, is the inner most intentions of the heart, our outside may appear like its going the right direction; however, our inside may be deceived and broken. That inside compass may be a few degrees off, all it needs is Jesus, the Truth, and His direction to get back on course. We need to heed to His voice calling and obey the leading of  the Shepherd, for He knows the Way. 

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