There are some pretty amazing stories in the Bible. Accounts are given of some outright remarkable activities.
One of those is the narrative of the prophet Jonah. In Jonah chapter one, this prophet of the LORD disregards a direct order of God, experiences a terrifying violent storm and then, winds up in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights. And you think you had a bad week!
Why? When difficulties arise, why are there times when we run from God? When God's boundaries and safeguards are made known, why do we disregard them? When God conveys a challenge into our lives, why do we turn away?
The answer to these questions is a statement of what we really believe about God.
Author Max Picard, in his book "The Flight from God," describes that our culture is at present in the advanced stages of a "flight from God." The idea of an all-powerful, completely pure and holy, and merciful and compassionate God is routinely treated as ridiculous. Society has "shifted" away from God-belief and has reaped an avalanche of disastrous results. Consider the effects of materialism (the love of things), hedonism (the love of pleasure) and relativism (the love of independence), just to name a few. In one sense, these are just "other gods" to run to.
Why not consider running toward the LORD? Let me give you three really good reasons from Jonah chapter 1.
1. In Jonah 1:1 it says, "The word of the LORD came to Jonah." Why should we run toward God? Because God speaks. God conveys a mission to Jonah. He was to go to Nineveh and speak against its wickedness. God communicates. God gives direction and input. God speaks.
The mission was a "big ask" and was "deeply personal" to Jonah, putting him in a very uncomfortable position. But this is how God works. God's words are sometimes challenging and often to the point of overwhelming. But why does God speak to Jonah? It is an act of God's unfailing love. Think about this, the LORD turns his face to Jonah to communicate a little bit of who he is and his heart. God is inviting Jonah to be involved in his mission, and the point of this mission is to express the mercy and compassion of God.
"But," we read in Jonah 1:3, "Jonah ran away from the LORD." God told him to go east to Nineveh, but Jonah decided to go west to Tarshish. And so Jonah's response to God's communication is rejection. Jonah goes the opposite way. Lured away by his thoughts, judgments and biases.
It is amazing that God showed his love by conveying his mission to Jonah, but do not miss this: God speaks today! God expresses his loving kindness through his Word, the Bible, and through circumstances.
2. In Jonah 1:4, the story intensifies as God sends a violent storm. Why should we run toward God? Because God disciplines. Rejecting God's direction brings difficulty. This rejection brought a violent storm. Why? Some may ask whether God is some cosmic killjoy. Proverbs 3:11-12 helps clarify this: "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." God's chastisement is an expression of his unfailing love, like a father who lovingly corrects his son.
Rejecting God's direction also brings collateral damage. The violent storm kicked up and the sailors also were adversely affected. They threw their cargo overboard to lighten the load in order to survive the wild waves, and all the while they were experiencing fear and anguish. Jonah's choice impacted others and our choices will impact those around us, too.
3. Finally the fish part! In Jonah 1:17, it says, "Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." Why should we run to God? Because God rescues! When I was young child, I was a little confused about whether the fish was a good guy or a bad guy. You know, did he wear a black or white hat? We see from this passage that "The LORD provided a huge fish." The fish was God's provision, God's rescue. Jonah experienced the love and compassion of the LORD.
Are you ready to run toward God? What does that look like?
First of all, embrace God's direction. Find ways to put yourself in the position to hear "the word of the LORD."
Another practical way to run to God is to recognize God's discipline in your life. Perhaps you have rejected God's direction and are paying for it. Recognize it and adjust future decisions.
Lastly, seek God's rescue. Call out to God for help. He is near and ready to come to your rescue, too!
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, which meets 9:30 a.m. Sundays at the Petoskey Cinema and 11 a.m. Sundays at Boyne City Elementary School. For more information, visit www.genesiswired.com.