Friday, February 10, 2012

Running From God

Today I am going to begin with the same Scripture, but go in a slightly different direction.  Yesterday, we talked about hiding from God.  Today's short Friday message will be about running from God.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You [are] there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You [are there].
[If] I take the wings of the morning, [And] dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
[If] I take the wings of the morning, [And] dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,  Psalm 139:7-10 NKJV
Running from God is just as silly as hiding from God.  Let's look at an example from Scripture.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah arose 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 down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. Jonah 1:1-4 NKJV. 
God comes to Jonah and tells him to go preach judgement on Nineveh.  We see here that Jonah did not say "Send me."  Jonah, instead, tried to run away.  He got on a ship and was set to sail to the farthest known point he could think of.  The ultimate destination, as far as man knew at that time, was just about the end of the world.  Jonah, in his mind, was getting as far away from God as humanly possible.  How utterly foolish he was!  God sends a storm against the ship and the ship is in terrible danger.  It is not that God caught up to Jonah, it is that God had already prepared the storm knowing Jonah was going to run.  In other words, Jonah caught up to where God was already waiting for him.

As the saga continues, the people of the ship cry out to their own false gods until Jonah finally confesses that he is the problem and that it is the true God that is causing this.  He directs the men of the ship to throw him overboard, but the men initially refused and tried to fight their way to shore.  When all their attempts fail, they acquiesce and throw Jonah overboard. Let's pick up from there.  
So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows. Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.   Jonah 1:15-17 NKJV
A couple of interesting things to note here.  First of all, God used Jonah's running as a witness to Himself.  These men all had their own useless false gods, but when they were confronted with the real power of the true God, they worshiped Him.  In other words, God used Jonah's disobedience to turn these men towards God.  Jonah did not escape anything, but played right into God's hand in bringing a testimony of God's glory and power to these men.  Another interesting thing to note is that God had prepared this fish for Jonah.  As I said earlier, Jonah did not get away from God at all, but only made it to where God already had a fish prepared for him.  I do recommend reading Jonah's prayer in chapter 2, but for today's purposes let's just skip ahead to the end. 
So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry [land].  Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you." So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey [in extent].  And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk. Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.  Jonah 2:10 -3:5 NKJV
And so Jonah ends up right where he was at the beginning on dry land with the same call to go to Nineveh and preach.  He was humbled and now he knew better than to try and run from God.  He went to Nineveh, preached judgement, and the citizens repented of their sin and believed in God.  Who says that we should not teach fire and brimstone?  But that's besides the point.  The point is that Jonah tried to run from God and only ended up being part of a plan God already had for him that he could never have anticipated. 

And such is the futility of trying to run from God.  First of all, God is omnipresent so where can we possibly flee?  God is already everywhere we can go.  No matter where we go into the world, God will be there.  Jonah tried to go to what he thought was the end of the earth and failed.  We can (if it were possible) take a spaceship and try to flee to the known ends of the Universe and God will still be there.  God is bigger than this world, bigger than the Solar System, bigger than our galaxy, and even bigger than the Universe.  It is all part of His creation and His presence is everywhere at all times.  Furthermore, God also knows the end from the beginning.  We can not "surprise" God and get a head start running away.  God knew before the foundations of the world that you would run and to where you would try to run.  Just as we see in Jonah, we think we are fleeing God's plan when in reality He has planned already for your attempt to flee.  In other words, even your attempted escape has become part of God's plan set in motion before Adam was even created.  Jonah learned a hard lesson in trying to flee from God.  It may not be a large fish, but I am sure God has something special in store to humble our attempts as well.  Running will either tire us into submission or somehow someway we will end up right where we began humbled and broken. Why not obey from the start? 
"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and [that] your joy may be full. " John 15:9-11 NKJV

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