Jonah 1:1-3 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
Last night, my husband and I were watching a movie in the living room. Our 14 week old mini Schnauzer, Holly, was barking incessantly at her reflection in the glass of the French doors in the dining room. All of a sudden, Holly let out a shrill, loud yelp, and began barking and running like lightening through the dining room and living room, and she ran into the wall of the living room which was on the opposite side of the house from where she started. My husband and I looked at each other and laughed before we jumped up to see who or what scared her so badly. I knew before I even got up that it was likely Jace, my daughter’s Schnoodle. He is jet black, and when it is dark outside, you can not see anything but the white of his eyes. Jace was perched with his paws on the glass of the French door peering in, and apparently when Holly caught sight of him unexpectedly, it scared her fiercely. She was afraid and she ran.
I think Holly responded as many of us do when God reveals a plan for our lives. Many times when God gives us instruction to follow a certain path or nudges us to do something that is in His will, but perhaps it isn’t in our plans, we run. Jonah is a great example of a runner. Yes, God commanded Jonah to go to the people of Nineveh and announce His judgement on the people because of their wicked ways. What did Jonah do? He jumped on a ship and got the heck out of Dodge. He boarded a ship to Tarshish which was going the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. He ran. Why did he run? We get a sense from this scripture that Jonah despised the people of Nineveh. He didn’t want anything to do with these people. He didn’t like the job that God gave Him to do so he ran. Perhaps there was more to it than that. Maybe he was afraid. Maybe he thought that the task was too big for him. Maybe he was scared. I don’t know for sure, only Jonah and God know. However, I do know one thing for sure. God put a wall in Jonah’s path. He hit a wall just like my Holly did last night.
Jonah didn’t hit a literal wall. No, he unfortunately was met with a severe storm which caused him to be thrown overboard, and then swallowed up by a giant fish. Personally, I think I would have rather hit a wall. My head is pretty hard, and as clumsy as I am, I’m pretty good at running into things. But God…God sent a whale to swallow Jonah up. He gave him a nice, quiet place to sit and think and pray for three days before that whale finally spit him out on a beach. When God commanded Jonah to get up and go to Nineveh again, Jonah went.
The example of Jonah is a very blatant example of running from God, but it isn’t always quite so obvious. Sometimes we run by not attending church services regularly. We may feel that we are right with God, and we may feel that it isn’t necessary to sit through services week after week. When we do this, we miss out on so much teaching, community, and fellowship. Our faith walk becomes weaker, and sooner or later, we are going to hit a wall. Maybe we run out of disobedience. Perhaps the task at hand seems much bigger than we are. We tend to forget just how big our God is. Some people run by disobeying. Jonah disobeyed in an obvious way, but many times we disobey in the little things. We fail to tithe. We let little sins creep in and continue because those sins are little and seemingly of no consequence. Sadly, those little sins will eventually put up a big wall between us and our Father. Sometimes, we simply stray away because we are too busy with the busyness of life and we fail to make time for God. No matter how we choose to run, no matter how fast and how far we run, I can guarantee you that just like Holly did last night, we will eventually hit a wall!
We serve a wonderful loving God, and thank goodness He is also full of grace and mercy. Will he take us back when we have run away? Yes! Every single time! But what if we have run too far? We are never too far from God. He knows where you are right this very minute. You can’t hide on a ship to Tarshish. Your Father is watching over you whether it is your desire for Him to or not. Today, let us stop running away and begin running to our Savior. He doesn’t care what you have done or haven’t done, if you come to Him with a repentant heart, He will wrap those arms around you and welcome you home. Are you struggling with a calling that scares you? If God put that calling on your heart, don’t forget that He is bigger than your fears, and He will work it all out for your good and His glory every time. Are you struggling with getting back to church after a long hiatus? Get up and get dressed and go! Your faith family has missed you so much, and so has your heavenly Father. Are you struggling with little sins that are building walls between you and the Father? Get rid of those sins. Hey, you can even ask God to help you walk away from them…and HE WILL!
Stop running from God, and start running to Him! His arms are open. He is waiting to welcome you home!