You Can’t Run Away From God- You’ll Just End Up In a Fish

You know, Jonah tried to run away from God when God told him to go to Nineveh. Nineveh was sinning greatly against God; it was an evil city full of evil and violent people. Guess where a God fearing Jew really, really didn’t want to go- especially to tell the murderous people there that they had better change their ways or God was going to kill them? Yep, you guessed it:  Nineveh. Jonah tried to obey, but lost heart along the way. Just thinking about all those people hating on him and judging him and perhaps even coming after him just unnerved the poor guy. He became completely afraid and tried to run away from Nineveh- perhaps he was thinking, “Maybe God doesn’t really want me to go. Perhaps I just thought that was what he wanted. He wasn’t all that clear, I don’t think.  Besides, God doesn’t get that involved in people’s lives anyway- if I’m wrong, I will ask forgiveness when I see him {i.e., after I’m dead}.”

He took a boat heading in the opposite direction of Nineveh and hoped, prayed, that his ordeal was over. But no, the blue skies turned dark and ominous- as dark and ominous as Jonah’s worst premonitions that God was not about to let him go this easily. The storm hit and the boat was about to capsize and kill everyone on board. jonah overboard Jonah understood God completely at this moment: God would cut off every escape route he chose.  He had no choice, except death, but to return.

People think that just because God knows the outcome of events that our lives are ‘pre-ordained’. But they are not. God simply lives outside of time and so, can be an observer of it. He can also choose at any moment to stick his finger right into the timeline laid out on his kitchen table. We, human beings, are all trapped in the timeline on God’s table- but each of us has free will within it.  I believe that God has set the general parameters of time (his Great Will for Human Beings) and we all live within it, making good and bad choices for ourselves.  However, I believe that every now and again, God sometimes says (just as a king will do), “Servant, you will do this task. You will go where I command you to go. ” And the servant understands that he must obey or really, what? Face the king and be killed?  If death can be called an option, then we do have one, but most of us would not take it.  The King holds all the cards.  His great finger can simply prod us back and forth around his table, according to his will.   Jonah was kidding himself that he could run from God.

I don’t think God interferes like this all the time. That is why we don’t have a hundred stories like Jonah in the Bible. But sometimes, he does. That is also apparent from the story. And I am coming to understand that when God decides on something for your life- some task that you are to do, you can’t really run away from it. He will cut off all other paths.  But not because he hates you or doesn’t love you.  It is because God has a purpose that he is determined to see through.

God sank Jonah’s boat- or, almost sunk it. Jonah had to agree to comply jonah14 before God would relent. Then, he had the good fun of jumping into freezing waters, being enveloped by an enormous whale, living in its mouth for three days as it meandered back toward Nineveh and finally, being coughed out to shore. Then, cold, wet and stinking with fish, he finally turned toward Nineveh to finish the task that God had set before him.  Sometimes, in this life, you don’t get a choice.  When God calls you forth- you will go.  And that’s that.

I have come to understand Jonah better at this hour.  Jonah could have looked at his mishap as God’s abandonment, punishment or even a lack of love- but when you look at it like I am, it is simply that God will not let you out of your duty.   We are all too willing to believe the worst of God.  Sometimes he says, “No,” because he simply wants us to go a different direction.  Only then will we find the success that we seek- and the result that God intends.

God has chosen to cut off my paths so that I have only one direction left- a direction I once dreaded.  But no more. Rather than continuing to run away, I think it is time to do what I must do.  I actually find a sense of peace as I make this decision.  God will be with me as he was with Jonah. We can’t forget that God told Jonah that he would be with him, protecting him from the people of Nineveh. He didn’t send him friendless and helpless. Likewise, I am not friendless and helpless. God has provided and provisioned me well. I will no longer listen to the counsel of others. I will do what I have always felt I should do- I will turn toward the task at hand and do what I believe my King is telling me to do.  That is where victory ultimately lies.

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Interested in knowing more about Jonah’s remarkable journey?  Read it first hand here in the Bible!

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