Monday, February 20, 2017

Running from God - Jonah 1

One of our first family cars when the boys came along was a station wagon. It gave us more room but still put three little boys sitting side by side in the back seat. If you have traveled with kids you know what that leads to.

I admit I used the classic line all parents have used: Don’t make me come back there. Only to have the question asked: how you gonna get back here and drive?

In the Prodigal Son Story from last week, we looked at running from God from God’s side as we saw the patient father waiting for the day the son would come home.

Remember what the father did?
1.       He let him go.
2.      He let him struggle.
3.      He welcomed him home.
4.      He restored him back within the family.

Today, let’s look at Jonah. Jonah fits a different category of runner. His, too, was a self-centered decision, choosing to live his life by his own desires rather than God’s, but he also rejected God’s specific will.

Where God, as represented by the Prodigal Son’s father, waited at home for the son to come back, God goes after Jonah and deals rather harshly with him.

Why would God wait for one and pursue the other?

It has nothing to do with love or value. It has everything to do with strategy and effect.

Heard people say: I raised my kids the exact same way and they turned out so different. Well, they are different. What works for one won’t necessarily work for the other. One takes the licking and keeps on ticking. Just look at the other and there’s a  meltdown. God’s strategy is designed to fit the runner.

But not only strategy—effect: The Prodigal Son was one son leaving one father, and as much pain as that inflicted on the father, there was minimal collateral damage beyond the immediate family.
Jonah not only was messing with God’s plans for his life but was taking a whole bunch of people down with him in the process.
Jonah 1:1f – are we talking about a real man?

He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. (2 Kings 14:25)

For just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matt 12:40-41)

Vs 3 – Jonah lost what he invested in running – running from God can get expensive.
·         Financial costs
·         Emotional costs
·         Life costs
·         Relational costs

Vs. 5 – sometimes running hurts others who are affected by their running
– Who’s in their boat?
            Husband/wife, Children, Friends, Employees, Co-workers, relatives

Running from God isn’t a victimless crime. In both stories someone else has to pay a price for another someone else’s running.

As a runner spirals downward, he drag others into his vortex.
·         Hurt people hurt people.
o   Cat in the gutter
·         Angry people take out their anger on others.
o   Man came into my office, I thought to reconcile a problem. All he wanted was to spew his anger on me.
·         Selfish people disregard the needs of others. It’s all about me.
·         Guilty people blame others for their problems.
o   Surgeon who washed out of residency because he couldn’t take responsibility for his mistakes. Always someone else’s fault.

While running, their actions become symptoms of deeper issues. – If you’re carrying a bucket of milk and get bumped, milk is coming out.

Running from God is an activity of the flesh. If, instead of being filled with the Spirit of God, they are filled with the desires of the flesh, what’s coming out?
Paul says: Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these… (Gal 5:19-21)
He adds: anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech…and lying. (Col 3:8)

Running from God is a serious spiritual detour away from the normal Christian life. Instead of walking with God they are walking away from God. Instead of walking in the Spirit, they are walking in the flesh. While in the flesh they cannot please God, nor is God obligated to please them. They’ve walked out from under the spigot of God’s blessings.

Vs. 7-10 – why didn’t you tell us who your God was?
Wife who leaves her husband who happens to be Attila the Hun

Vs. 12 – First Turning Point – It’s my fault. All of this is because of a choice I made.
But watch what happens: even at his first turning point, others dragged into his running are immediately affected.

Vs. 17 –Was the fish a punishment or opportunity to return to God?
·         Remember Grace?
o   By Grace God will let us run.
o   By Grace God will use whatever it takes to get us to return.
·         Sometimes Grace shows up as a big fish.
·         We hear the Jaws theme.
·         Actually fish was singing Amazing Grace.

Second turning point is facing God.
Prod Son – I hate where I am - I’m going home to Dad.
Jonah – and he said, "I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me. I cried
 for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. (Jonah 2:2)

Question: Is distress a good thing or a bad thing?
If the best thing for us is to live in fellowship with God, anything that gets us to return to that fellowship is a good thing.

Third turning point: 2:8-9 – Rejecting what I have chosen over God.

Prod. Son had to turn away from the unrestrained life that he chose instead of fellowship with his dad.

Jonah had to turn away from vain Idols – When I run away from God, I’m running toward something else. Whatever I run toward is my idol –Whatever replaces God in my life.

By renewing his vows Jonah was replacing the desire to run his own life with a fresh commitment that reinstated God as Lord of his life.

Jesus challenged his followers to decide if He was Lord or not: As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you want to go away too?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. (Jn 6:66-68)

A person hasn’t stopped running until they realize what God wants for them is better than anything they can want for themselves.

Vs. 10 – The fish that Grace created to swallow Jonah was now the fish to deliver him to a strategic place: not Nineveh – 500 miles inland. Projectile vomiting. Ballistic hurling.

Fish didn’t spit him out in Nineveh but back on the shore where Jonah’s return to God would be tested. Okay – You’re out of the fish, now, what are you going to do? Next week we’ll look at his response.

One writer said: What I love about the story of Jonah is that God sent a storm. God provided a fish. God pursued Jonah, even though he ran. Like it or not, God does not turn away from us just because we turn away from Him. He uses whatever it takes to turn us back.

Wherever we are, however far we’ve run, there’s always a turning point back to God.

If you are running, realize this: Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. (Ps 139:7-10)

If you are one of those in the boat: What do you do while you wait for them to stop running?

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16)

Story after story of people returning to God after running include the faithful prayers of a mom, a dad, a grandfather, a grandmother, a wife, a husband, a parent, a friend.

Pray: We may be helpless to help but not hopeless to hope. Our hope is in a God who can dispatch a big fish if that’s what it takes.


1.       God’s best for us is always better than whatever we could choose for ourselves.
2.      To run from Him means we have rejected his best for something we think could be better.
3.      When our running messes up the lives of others around us, God may step harshly into our lives to protect them since He is working out the best for them as well.

4.      You really don’t want Him to come back there.

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