Found When Running Away (Psalm 139:1-12): Jonah Chapter One gives instructive account of Jonah’s efforts to avoid God, to escape from God. Man’s best efforts to be away from God or to escape God are simply his most difficult ways. To go where God cannot locate is an impossible thing anyone can attempt. To escape God Jonah made the following efforts: (1) set out in the opposite direction, v. 3. (2) went down into the side of his ship, vv 5, 6. (3) refused to repent and confess, vv. 7, 8. (4) chose death instead of surrendering, giving up, yielding in, vv. 12-15. (i) The mariners rowed all but in vain to keep Jonah safe, v. 13. (ii) They cried for exculpation – a clearing from guilt (v.14). Personally bearing the consequence of one’s action is biblical (Ezek. 18:20; Jer. 31:30; Gal. 6:5; Heb. 2:3).
God sent out one of His servants, the tempest, to go after the run-away Jonah (v. 4). This tempest symbolizes troubles, problems, upheavals, etc., upon anyone in conflict with God, in disobedience to Him and His word. The mariners feared greatly what was happening, made all efforts to save Jonah and suffered huge material loses all because they had with them a man who had an issue with God (v. 5). They could not stop the tempest sent by God after Jonah. They were dealing only with the surface of the matter not until Jonah surrendered and they allowed Jonah to bear the consequence of his own decision.
So many times loved ones including spiritual leaders and concerned believers engage in futile efforts to save a believer from the trouble he brought upon himself because of his stubbornness and rebellion to God. A certain Christian was badly failing in health. All his ministers and fellow believers tried in futility to save him. His last word was: “I have a sin I failed to repent of….” Think about that!!! It may be a little sin. A very little matter sometimes turns out big. Jonah had to be swallowed by a great fish to end his running away from God, his going the opposite direction from God. You don’t need to be swallowed by a great fish to surrender to God. Neither do you need to be in the belly of a fish for three days before giving up the struggle. God does not give up till He gets what or who He is looking for. “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,”(Rom. 11:29).
The doctrine of God’s omnipresence has been vividly elucidated by the Psalmist (139:7-12). With the interrogative, “Whither shall I go from…” and “Whither shall I flee from…” he declared that it is absolutely impossible to escape from the “Spirit of God” and from the “presence of God.” This omnipresence and sovereign will of God did not Jonah, the prophet of God, realize; or he simply wanted to test it; or he wanted to deliberately rebel against it; or he thought a protest action could contain and weaken it; he mistakenly thought it could go as the adage of the Izzi people of Abakaliki, Ebonyi State: “When the spirits decree, humans decide.” The prophet was to discover personally that the “holy anger” of a man of God against the sins and evils of the wicked cannot alter the sovereign will of God to forgive and save sinners any time they repent even when they had persecuted His children.
Many children of God justify their decision to evade God’s command and to escape from God. Jonah failed to realize that our God, Jehovah, was not a local deity, not a geographically limited God. He concluded that God spoke to him because he was in the land of Israel; the only way to escape was to get away. The king of his day had control of his subjects so long as they were within his domain. He didn’t realize that God ruled in Israel and in other lands as well, even the lands of the heathens.
Therefore, when God said, “Arise, go to Nineveh…and cry against it…,” in defiance “Jonah rose up to flee unto Tar’shish, from the presence of the Lord” (1:3). Rather, he set out in the opposite direction. There are two types of “down” that Jonah went: en route to Tar’shish he “went down” to Joppa’s seaport where he paid his fare. Again, he “went down into the side of the ship” for the trip in order to escape from being in the presence of God. The way against God and the way away from God is always “a going down.” It is astonishing that a child of God, much more a man of God, could resolve to “go down” rather than obeying God’s command.
By fleeing from God Jonah probably forgot this truth: you cannot hide “it” from God and you cannot hide from God. The idea of going down the ship was a brilliant one, a demonstration of good intelligence. He thought that he had successfully escaped the land where God can be found and where God could find him; the people among whom God can be found; and a nation where God communicates to man. Now it was time to also keep away from where God’s eyes could see. To the prophet, the side of the ship and under the cargoes of the ship in a high sea was the only place God cannot see. But he was very mistaken. Even when God went after him, Jonah defiantly refused to give up his flight. Physically he got exhausted and fatigued, but wouldn’t give up. Probably, he had not learnt of the experience of the Psalmist who about the omnipresence of God (Psalm 139:1-12).
Wearied, he fell into a deep sleep such that he could not hear the sound of the raging sea. It was not a natural wave! God was in the billow of the angry sea looking for the runaway prophet! When God is looking for a person or His child who is on the run everything goes contrary, turns against such individual. Dear friend, why not stop the “running away” err it’s too late; before a bitter experience!!! God allow Jonah to do all he could to escape God. But it all ended as an effort in futility. Jonah’s experience teaches us that a problem between a person and God can affect all around him somehow. Thus, one’s problem with God can cause trouble to family members, business partners, business, profession, etc. The end of such trouble is in dealing with the problem with God. “So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea; and the sea ceased from her raging,” (v. 15). End the problem you have with God and stop the “raging”!
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