Verse three of Jonah 1 says that Jonah fled to Tarshish from the presence of God.
It sounds silly to us, because duh, Jonah, you can’t get away from God. His presence is all over the earth; you can’t hide from Him.
But the study book and my pastor brought it out a different way.
Jonah’s attempt to escape God’s presence may seem foolish, but the reality is that every single one of us falls into the same pattern. The ways we run might not be so obvious, but we certainly run. We nurture hidden sin in our lives and attempt to hide from God’s gaze by filling our days with church attendance or religious activity. We flee the call to love our neighbors and enemies by avoiding those who are difficult to love or demonizing them as an excuse to withhold compassion. We struggle with doubt, pain, or bitterness and avoid opening God’s Word because we are afraid of what we might find there. …Joanna Kimbrel, “Running from God,” Mercy in the Storm: a study on the book of Jonah
My pastor said it’s not so much fleeing God’s presence as it is fleeing the reminders, the conscience pricks, the God-following people, etc.
It’s staying away from reading the Word of God. It’s avoiding church and youth-group gatherings. It’s going to church but not connecting, not listening with an open heart, not being honest. It’s refusing to get rid of the things we know are holding us back, dragging us down, killing us spiritually (and perhaps physically). It’s surrounding ourselves (in real life and on social media) with people who think the same way or at least people who remain quiet and hesitate to stir up the water/step on our toes. If we are around people who boldly follow God, will challenge our sin/apathy, etc., we attempt to avoid any sensitive topics and leave as soon as possible.
Was Jonah trying to literally escape God’s presence; did he really believe that God was limited in where He could go? Or was he trying to get farther away from Nineveh, from people who might ask if there was a message from the Lord, from any reminders of who he was called to be and what he was supposed to do?
I’m not sure.
The Jewish Study Bible calls Jonah’s prayer “a pastiche of different verses taken from Psalms,” and points out that Jonah is “thereby presented as a person well versed in the language of the Psalms.” Jonah would have known Psalm 139. …Christopher Page, “I Am Jonah #4”
And yet, Jonah seems determined to cling to his vision of “the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land,” as a localized geographically bound deity who dwells in certain places and is absent from other locations. For Jonah God remains locked up in his “holy temple.” …
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?Psalm 139:7-10 (KJV)
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.Jonah 2:4, 7 (KJV)
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord:
and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
It makes me think of the distance between the head and the heart: you can know something without knowing it–intellectual knowledge versus personal experience. Perhaps Jonah knew Psalm 139, but it wasn’t real to him. Maybe he really did think he could hide from God.
… Thankfully for Jonah, God pursues His children, even when they turn their backs on Him. Jonah’s story could easily end in death, but God chooses to show him mercy.Joanna Kimbrel, “Running from God,” Mercy in the Storm: a study on the book of Jonah
Maybe you’ve run in the past, however that may look.
Maybe you’re still running.
Just know that God still loves you. He still wants you. He will take you back as soon as you turn to Him.
Even in the midst of your running, your rebellion, your regret–there is mercy. Grace. Love. Forgiveness.
Will you keep running from Him? Or will you start running toward Him?
His love is holding on to you“Even When You’re Running,” sung by Casting Crowns
Even when you’re running