About two weeks ago I started reading through and studying the book of Jonah. It’s one of those “Bible’s Greatest Hits” books. Jonah runs from God, God causes a storm, Jonah gets thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish, Jonah repents, fish vomits him up, etc. I’ve heard this story dozens of times. I’ve read the book dozens of times. I’ve even read it in the Jesus Storybook Bible, The Rhyme Bible Storybook, and in Read Aloud Bible Stories: Vol.4. If you ask me, I know Jonah.
Still, the Bible is a living Word. It never stops speaking truth into our lives. And as I continue to study Jonah, I continue to have hard truths spoken into my life. Since I do not have the knowledge, wisdom or space to unpack all the truths found in this book, I will simply share the first thing God is pressing upon my heart from Jonah 1.
Although he claims to fear the Lord, Jonah is actively fleeing from the presence of the Lord.
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
And [Jonah] said to [the mariners], “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
The book of Jonah begins with God calling him to go to Nineveh to tell the people there to repent. God is speaking to Jonah, and he actively disobeys His commands. In verse 3, Jonah pays to get on a ship and flee to Tarshish. He is “getting away from God”. In verse 9 he even tells the men on the ship that he is fleeing God. Every time I read this chapter I can’t help but think, “Duh, Jonah! We all know the outcome here. You can’t flee the presence of the Lord. You can’t hide from the Creator of the universe!” Psalm 139 says it perfectly (and without sarcasm):
You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139: 1-12
As I examine my own heart and my own life, I see that I spend a lot of time like Jonah. I have my sins that I confess and struggle through, but I always seem to have some unconfessed sin that I assume God hasn’t noticed yet. Things that I’ll get to a little later when I have more time. But I’m not fooling anyone. God knows my heart, God knows my sin, and God knows that I am a fool to try to hide anything from Him. We have a Savior who has already paid the price for our sin. He died so that we don’t have to. Who am I to take my sin back and try to handle it myself?
Before this past Sunday’s sermon, we sang Christ is Risen. It is one of my favorite songs, but the lyrics hit me in a new way as I reflected on what I had been learning through Jonah’s life. I am always in need of the reminder of Christ’s death for my sin on the cross. I am just as foolish as Jonah was when he got on that ship to Tarshish, but I have a Savior who did not let my sin go unaccounted for. He bore my sin on the cross so that I might have eternal life. I’m thankful for this reminder of the Gospel of grace in the Old Testament. If you haven’t read Jonah, I encourage you to do so in your own Bible, or in your child’s Bible with your family.