Jonah 1:4-5 shows that running from God has consequences

The basic premise of Jonah so far goes something like this: A prophet named Jonah is given a message from God to go to a place called Nineveh and preach to the people there (click here).  Nineveh has done great evil in the eyes of God.  Then Jonah decides to do the opposite and he runs in the opposite direction trying to outrun God (click here).

Silly Jonah.

In one of Andy Stanley’s sermons on Jonah, he bottom-lined Jonah’s upcoming experience this way:  God is complete in his love and thorough in his discipline. (Paraphrased!)

Jonah’s decision to run is going to have great consequences.  So, let’s try to lay those out.

  • There’s the entire city of Nineveh (Located around modern-day Mosul, Iraq).  If Jonah doesn’t speak to them, how are they going to know that they have offended God?
  • There’s Jonah who has chosen to run from God.  God loves Jonah but will also discipline him.
  • The sailors. All of the people Jonah will come in contact with once he chooses to run from God.

Maybe you get the point from that list.  When you or I choose to run from God, the implications are far bigger than just ourselves.  There are others who could be hurt or potentially hurt by our actions. 

That does sound heavy, but SPOILER ALERT, there is a way back.

When we ended in verse 3, Jonah had just jumped on the ship in Joppa and he’s heading for Nineveh — geographically in the opposite direction of Nineveh.  When Jonah runs, he really decides to run.

Here’s what happens in verses 4-5:

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, so that there was a great storm on the sea; the ship looked like it might be broken to pieces. (Jonah 1:4, CEB)

The verse before that was about Jonah thinking he could run from God.  Verse 4 begins with God’s response: “But the Lord…”  There’s always at least two sides in the argument when we choose to run from God.  There’s our side and, then, there’s God’s side.  One of those sides always wins out (and by the way, it’s not your side!)

Jonah’s decision has placed a ship and its crew in danger.  It’s a storm so great that it looks as if the ship is going to be broken into pieces in the middle of the sea.

This probably isn’t the first rodeo for the crew on this ship.  They’ve been to sea before. They know the risks.  But this time, this storm, is something completely different.  Here’s their reaction:

The sailors were terrified, and each one cried out to his god. They hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to make it lighter.  (Jonah 1:5, CEB)

Desperate times lead us to desperate measures.  There are many people, professed Christians included, who have a reaction when it seems as if life is on the line.  We pray.  We pray in desperate ways. We pray with the screams and cries of our hearts. We pray for mercy.

This crew is no different. They pray to the only gods (the ones with the little “g”) that they know to pray for.  Don’t blame them for that.  How would they know unless someone took the time to tell them something different? Jonah will have the opportunity to let them see God.

 Then they do something that shows us how desperate they really are.Jonah has hitched a ride on a cargo ship and this crew will get paid when it gets to Tarshish with the cargo on board. Now, the crew is so afraid and so desperate that they are throwing money over the side of the ship.

Ultimately, where we are in this journey with Jonah should say some things to us about our own desperate times.

  1. God will find a way to get your attention.  God speaks through situations, through pain, through circumstances, through the ups and downs of life.  God speaks through the storms of our lives.  And, sometimes, God speaks through an actual storm.  Did God get Jonah’s attention?  Well, God surely got the attention of those around Jonah to help get the point across.
  2. Desperation pushes us to pray.  People who say they never pray seem to find a way to pray if the situation is difficult.  Sometimes that moment of desperation is what opens a heart to know that God is there.
  3. Money doesn’t fix everything.  In this case, the sailors are throwing money at the problem. Seriously, they are throwing money into the sea. They’d rather go broke than lose their lives.  But, it’s bigger than that.  There are situations so desperate, so heartwrenching, storms so big that there is nothing within human reach to address them. When we realize that, we are able to move closer to the God who loves us.

Is there something going on in your life today that gives you the opportunity to let go and reach for God? There’s a situation that might be screaming to get you to look and see God?

What do you do in your desperate moments?

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