Jonah Runs from
1 One day the Lord told Jonah, the son of Amittai, 2to go to the great city of Nineveh and say to the people, “The Lord has seen your terrible sins. You are doomed!”
3Instead, Jonah ran from the Lord. He went to the seaport of Joppa and found a ship that was going to Spain. So he paid his fare, then got on the ship and sailed away to escape.
4But the Lord made a strong wind blow, and such a bad storm came up that the ship was about to be broken to pieces. 5The sailors were frightened, and they all started praying to their gods. They even threw the ship's cargo overboard to make the ship lighter.
All this time, Jonah was down below deck, sound asleep. 6The ship's captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep at a time like this? Get up and pray to your God! Maybe he will have pity on us and keep us from drowning.”
7Finally, the sailors got together and said, “Let's ask our gods to show us who caused all this trouble.” It turned out to be Jonah.
8They started asking him, “Are you the one who brought all this trouble on us? What business are you in? Where do you come from? What is your country? Who are your people?”
9Jonah answered, “I'm a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10When the sailors heard this, they were frightened, because Jonah had already told them he was running from the Lord. Then they said, “Do you know what you have done?”
11The storm kept getting worse, until finally the sailors asked him, “What should we do with you to make the sea calm down?”
12Jonah told them, “Throw me into the sea, and it will calm down. I'm the cause of this terrible storm.”
13The sailors tried their best to row to the shore. But they could not do it, and the storm kept getting worse every minute. 14So they prayed to the Lord, “Please don't let us drown for taking this man's life. Don't hold us guilty for killing an innocent man. All of this happened because you wanted it to.” 15Then they threw Jonah overboard, and the sea calmed down. 16The sailors were so terrified that they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made all kinds of promises.
17 The Lord sent a big fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
I find it interesting that we are told that Jonah “ran from the Lord”. How does someone do that? It’s not like God is a physical entity from whom a person can run. But what we do see is Jonah running by not doing what he was asked to do. Whenever we know what we should do and don’t do it, we are in effect running from God; creating distance between us and him.
But we also find that Jonah ran from God by sleeping below deck in the ship. He was preventing himself from hearing God. There are lots of ways we can distract ourselves from hearing God’s voice, especially in our mobile, plugged in culture. We never have to worry about God accidently getting into our heads if we can keep the noise pumping in.
There was one last, desperate attempt on Jonah’s part to run from God and that was by despising his own life. “Throw me into the sea” is equivalent to saying, “I hate my life I might as well end it.” We can “trash our lives” in more ways than one. Many people run from God and the life he offers by despising their own lives. The sell themselves short, give up on their dreams, settle for less, compromise on their ideals, surrender to lesser things, give up and slowly choose a path that drifts from the life God offers.
It all boils down to whether we believe that God’s way is truly the best way for us. The good news is that no matter how far and fast we run, God can get us back on course with Him.
Lord Jesus, thank you for calling me to follow you. Help me to not run from you but to follow closely in your steps wherever you lead. Amen.
Merv Budd is Sr. Minister at North Burlington Baptist church and the National Director of the Equipping Evangelists (E²). Merv has served as a missionary with Operation Mobilization in India and Nepal and he holds a Master’s of Divinity degree from Regent College. He is presently working on his Doctor of Practical Theology Degree from McMaster Divinity College. He has a passion to see all people given an opportunity to put their trust in Jesus Christ. He is married to Lisa and is the father of Josiah and Danielle.