Saturday, March 25, 2017

Running from God

There are some wonderful lessons of mercy, grace, and compassion to learn from Jonah and his experience when God sent Him to proclaim His message to the lost. Let's take a look and observe how God responded in each situation, and His sovereign control over everything as He sends and appoints whomever and whatever He pleases.

The Lord Sent Jonah
The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." (Jon 1:1-2)

Here God appointed or ordained Jonah to go forth when He sent him to Nineveh. However, Jonah ran away from the Lord and fled from His presence. Just as He appointed Jonah, He also appointed some other things. Let’s take a look at what those were.

The Lord Sent a Great Wind
The first thing the Lord did in response to Jonah running from Him was to send a great wind. “Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.” (Jon 1:4, NIV). In fact the word for “sent” in this verse may also be translated “hurled” to indicate the mighty force with which the Lord sent it.

God opposes the proud, and He was opposing Jonah, who was acting in a selfish, strong-willed, rebellious manner.

Because of the storm, the sailors called on their gods and the captain ordered Jonah to get up from his sleep in the hold of the ship and call on his God. The sailors also cast lots to determine who was the cause of this storm and the lot fell to Jonah. When they asked him about it, he admitted he was to blame and once again said that he was running from the Lord, just as he had already told them. When they asked what they should do to calm the storm, he advised them to throw him into the sea, which they did. As soon as they threw him overboard, the sea grew calm.

The Lord Appointed a Fish
The next thing the Lord did was to appoint a fish to swallow Jonah. “And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jon 1:17, NASB)

The word “appointed” comes from the Hebrew word “manah,” which is used four times in the book of Jonah, meaning “sent” or “appointed.” The NET Bible translates the word as “sent”. “The Lord sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jon 1:17, NET).

While Jonah did not obey God when he was sent, the fish obeyed God when it was sent. It swallowed Jonah.

The Lord Commanded the Fish
The next thing that happened was that Jonah prayed from inside the belly of the great fish. He cried out to God and the Lord heard him. The Lord’s response to Jonah’s prayer was to give him a second chance, so He commanded the fish to disgorge him. “Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.” (Jon 2:10)
Once the fish had vomited Jonah onto dry land, God sent him a second time to Nineveh.

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you."
(Jon 3:1-2)

In obedience to God, Jonah arose and began his first of three days walk through the city with the message, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." (3:4). The people responded well to the message and repented sincerely. “Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.” (Jon 3:5). In fact, when the king heard the message, he ordered all of his citizens to repent.

“When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, ‘In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish." (Jon 3:6-9)

That moved the heart of God, who saw their repentance and relented from sending the calamity He had intended to send upon the people of Nineveh.

The Lord’s decision not to send destruction on Nineveh really displeased Jonah. In fact, it made him angry (4:1).

He prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. (Jon 4:2)

The Lord Appointed a Plant
He decided to go east of the city, set up a shelter, and watch to see what God would do. Perhaps he hoped that God would still destroy them, since Jonah complained to Him about it. “So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.” (Jon 4:6)

The next thing God did was He appointed that plant to grow up to rescue Jonah from his misery. He did it because He knew Jonah was very hot and this would make him extremely happy. But He didn’t do it just for the sake of making Jonah happy. He did it to teach him a lesson.

God was concerned about all the people in Nineveh, because if they did not repent He would have to destroy them. However, Jonah was concerned about himself and his own comfort level.

The Lord Appointed a Worm
Afterward God sent a worm. “But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered.” (Jon 4:7)

The worm obeyed God and attacked the plant that God had appointed. Just because God has appointed something doesn’t mean it will last forever, because He can appoint it to be destroyed. By appointing the worm to attack and destroy the plant, God was removing the shade that the plant provided, which brought relief to Jonah’s discomfort. He wanted Jonah to see that just as the plant had been important to Jonah, the people were even more important to God. He wanted Jonah to feel the concern that He had for the people of Nineveh.

The Lord Appointed a Scorching East Wind
Finally, after God destroyed the plant he had appointed, He appointed a scorching wind. “When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, ‘Death is better to me than life.’" (Jon 4:8)

Through this object lesson, God taught Jonah about His love and compassion for people. “Then God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?’ And he said, ‘I have good reason to be angry, even to death.’ Then the LORD said, ‘You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?’” (Jon 4:9-11)

God loved and cared for those people of Nineveh, whom He created, far more than Jonah cared for the plant for which he did not work and which he did not cause to grow. God even loved the animals and did not take pleasure in having to destroy them either. He showed Jonah that it is right for Him to have compassion like that, which is why Jonah should have obeyed the first time, when God initially sent him.

Putting it All Together
It doesn’t pay to run from what God has told you to do. The same way He sends His people and appoints them to do a work for Him, He also sends and appoints everything else as He sees fit. He does whatever He pleases. He is sovereign and is ultimately in control of everything. He's a big God. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Rom 11:36). No wisdom, no insight, no plan can succeed against the Lord (Pr 21:30). When He appoints someone or something, nothing can stop Him.

The Lord sent Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh and warn them of the coming destruction that He was going to send upon their city. When the prophet disobeyed and ran from the presence of the Lord, God sent a wind, then a fish, then a plant, then a worm, and finally He sent a scorching wind. See how the elements all do His bidding! The wind obeyed God, the fish obeyed Him, the plant obeyed Him, the worm obeyed Him, but Jonah didn’t – at least not initially. But God gave him a second chance and then he finally did obey when he was sent. When he finally did, many people were saved from destruction as a result. The one thing God changed His mind about, and did not send  as He initially planned to do, was the destruction upon Nineveh.

Jonah taught us that God is a God of mercy and compassion. He is the God of second chances. Just as He gave Jonah a second chance, He also gave the people of Nineveh a second chance, too. He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. He loves people and is more concerned about the salvation of many than He is about our own personal comfort.

If you have been running from what God told you to do, now is the time to repent, turn back to Him, ask for His forgiveness, and obey Him. If you sincerely humble yourself before Him, He may give you a second chance. Likewise, if you have been living in sin, away from God, living for your own self, repent and turn to God through Jesus Christ, who died for you on the cross. He loves you and wants to save you. In fact, He has already gone to great lengths to save you, but you must repent and turn to Him to be saved, or else you, too, will perish.

Attribution noticeScripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, as well as the NET Bible, where noted. 

Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend 
Striving to Enter the Kingdom of GodSins That Will Keep You From HeavenPleasing the LordLiving a Life Worthy of the LordDrifting AwayThe Straight and Narrow PathAsk for the Ancient PathsRighteous Deeds and White RobesPracticing Your RighteousnessHoly Living in a Perverted WorldDoing What is RightYour Rewards Are Based on Your PracticeIs Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?Faith Works!The Judgment Seat of ChristThe Obedience of FaithThe Difference Between a Disciple and a BelieverRemember the Eternal Law of GodPurge the Evil from Among YouJames Agboola Revelation of Heaven and HellThe Role of the Trinity in Drawing People to GodElection and PredestinationKeeping Power of God, and The Righteous Will Shine Forth as the Sun. Other related articles are available on the Home page. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"


Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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