God, Jonah, and the City (Part Three)

Jonah 1:3-4

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up (1:4 NIV).

We see in the book of Jonah God’s awesome compassion for people everywhere. This includes cities of people, cities where we might encounter much wickedness. This is not because city people are more wicked than suburban or rural people. Humans are sinful wherever we live. I have observed great wickedness in the burbs and the country. We see much wickedness because there are many people in the city, who take pleasure in each other’s sin (cf. Romans 1:32). An avalanche of sin can more easily occur. Yet in his mercy God chose to show his matchless mercy to wicked Nineveh.

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish (1:4 NIV). Jonah will later explain his reason for his disobedience (4:2). It was a terrible reason, and we will look at it in a later post. Now, let’s concentrate on the facts of his defiance of God’s word. In doing this, we seek to learn from his errors. Our sins tend to develop in patterns. They start from our hearts, and then we do similar actions.

When we sin, we seek to avoid God’s presence. Jonah ran away from the Lord… He wanted to flee from the Lord. We see this pattern as early as Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:10). The pattern is sin, guilt, fear, and hide. When we feel guilty, we don’t want to be in God’s presence or with his people. If someone begins to be absent from your local gatherings, they could be working or ill or caring for someone or other legitimate reasons. However, their absence could indicate that they are running away from the Lord. Let’s reach out to one another if we see this happening.

When we sin, we find circumstances that are favorable to our flight from the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence (1:3 CSB). Jonah was intent on one thing, though it was the wrong thing. Being focused and zealous is good, if you are headed in the right direction. Otherwise, you simply run farther and farther from where you ought to be. Jonah went to a port, where he could find a ship that was going in the opposite direction from Nineveh. And surprise, he found one! Too often we hear of people praying for something that is contrary to God’s word, and when they find circumstances that aid their rebellion, they piously claim, “I prayed about it, and God answered my prayer!” Please don’t play such games with God and his people. The Lord knows what you’re doing, and wise Christians living in obedience do also. Also, when we find the circumstances we want, we will pay the price to pursue them. Sin can be a costly endeavor.

When we sin, God will pursue us (1:4). When he comes after us, there is no predicting what he will do. Yes, this ought to scare us. Think of the warning connected with the Lord’s Supper. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world (1 Corinthians 11:29-32 ESV). The Lord will discipline his genuine children (Hebrew 12:4-11). No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful (Hebrews 12:11a CSB). We should rejoice greatly, because often the pain of discipline received is far less than we deserve. But none of it is enjoyable. God cares about us. He cared about Jonah and his mission. The Lord sent a great wind. The true and living God can use all creation as sheriffs and marshals to go after his wayward people.

Let us learn from Jonah. God cares about the people set apart to his glory. He will not let us remain comfortably in our sin. He wants us involved with him on his mission. What is God now doing in your life to get you involved?

Grace and peace, David

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