Running From God - Hope 103.2

Running From God

If you went to Sunday School as a child, I’m fairly sure you would remember the story of a prophet named Jonah and the big fish. It’s a remarkable story from the Old Testament about a man of God who fell overboard and was swallowed by a fish, possibly a whale.Now, some people rubbish this […]

By Chris WittsSunday 6 May 2018Morning Devotions with Chris WittsFaithReading Time: 4 minutes

If you went to Sunday School as a child, I’m fairly sure you would remember the story of a prophet named Jonah and the big fish. It’s a remarkable story from the Old Testament about a man of God who fell overboard and was swallowed by a fish, possibly a whale.

Now, some people rubbish this story and others believe it to be true. One day a little girl was telling her school teacher about Jonah being swallowed by a big fish. The teacher said, “It is physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human being because even though a whale is a very large mammal, its throat is very small.”

The little girl again stated that Jonah was swallowed by a large fish. Irritated, the teacher reiterated, “A whale cannot swallow a human; it is physically impossible!”  The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.”  The teacher asked, “What if Jonah went to hell?” “Then you ask him!” she replied.

Years ago evangelists would travel around the world with a large fish skeleton on the back of a flatbed truck to prove that this fish was big enough to swallow a person. Lots of energy has gone into proving that a big fish could literally swallow this preacher Jonah.

An Amazing Story

This is more than a fish story, however, and is different from all other prophetic writings. I believe it to be a true story about a preacher named Johah, and there is a tremendous lesson here. And it is simply this: You can’t run away from God. If you read the book of Jonah the very first verses say, “One day the Lord told Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh and say to the people The Lord has seen your terrible sins. You are doomed” (Jonah 1:1-2).

Jonah was being sent to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire; even though it was a great city, it was a particularly nasty place. Approximately 100 km in circumference, housing about 120,000 people, it was a city full of violence, cruelty, plotting evil against God, plundering in war, prostitution, witchcraft and commercial exploitation.

Jonah’s mission:  God says to him: Go and preach to Nineveh and bring it back to me! Tall order? Impossible for one man to bring back a whole city to God? But Jonah 1:3 gets straight to the point: “Instead Jonah ran from the Lord. He went to the seaport of Joppa and bought a ticket on a ship that was going to Spain. Then he got on the ship and sailed away to escape”.

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He runs away from God. Why? Maybe he had a conflict on his calendar. Maybe he didn’t speak their language. Maybe he was afraid of what they would do to an out-of-town preacher. Maybe he didn’t like the Assyrians for what their army had done to his country and its citizens. They were, after all, the enemy.

It really doesn’t matter why Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh, that great city. All that God really hears in his response is, No, I don’t want to do it! So Jonah heads in the opposite direction. Nineveh (which is in modern day Iraq) is northeast, so Jonah heads southwest to Tarshish, which is probably modern Spain.

A Very Difficult Task

Spain is on the western tip of Europe and is literally for Jonah the end of his world and as far from Nineveh as he can possibly be. Nineveh was quite a distance away, probably over 600 miles as the crow flies, and about 750 miles by road. And Jonah probably had to walk. It was a very big city with many people. Here was a lone person from another country asked to go and make contacts there and to preach against this city—a very difficult task.

He wanted to get away from this responsibility, and who could blame him? He was in fear of his life. But his journey by boat proved to be very hazardous and dangerous. He was thrown overboard and survived in the belly of a large fish, and was vomited out onto dry ground. Quite remarkable story! In simple terms we can’t escape God’s love and we can’t escape his presence. If God wants you to do something, you need to follow it.

There’s a storm coming—panic and he was thrown overboard because the sailors were in fear of their lives. They prayed to their gods and they thought that getting rid of Jonah everything would be alright. Do you remember Tony Bullimore in the southern ocean, surviving days in freezing-cold waters? Do you remember Stuart Diver? Here were people who survived unbelievable odds! Well, so did Jonah! And in many ways he hit rock-bottom.

So, have you ever felt like that? Have you ever been swallowed up as it were by your own situation, thinking that your world is going to come to an end? Well, do what Jonah did—not run away but cry out to God ask for God’s help. And there’s an amazing story there—have a read of it yourself.

Heavenly Father we understand your love, but we can’t really grapple the magnitude of your love for us. Thank you for Jesus and thank you that we can’t really run away from you. Amen.