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Running From God

September 15, 2019

Scripture: Jonah 1:1-3

I. You run from God by doubting God’s goodness.

A. We can learn about why Jonah ran from God by looking at the only other verse in the Old Testament about the prophet Jonah in 2 Kings 14:25: He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.” Who was the prophet who prophesied in favor of this expansion of Israel’s borders? That would be Jonah, the son of Amittai.

B. Jonah was an extremely patriotic Jew who loved the nation of Israel. So, God has a message for this patriotic Jew to go to Israel’s most feared and hated enemies. He was to go to the Assyrians who lived in the city of Nineveh (vs. 2). But Jonah ran from God (vs. 3). Jonah said to God, “I’m out. The repenting of Nineveh would not be good for Israel. I have zero interest in helping my enemies. Because I doubt your goodness in this whole operation, God, I am running away. How could you ask me to betray my country like this?”

II. You run from God by doubting God’s wisdom.

A. Jonah had no intention of obeying God’s command to go to Nineveh (vs. 3). He ran in the exact opposite direction of where he was supposed to go. He doubted God’s wisdom. God’s plan probably did not seem to have much of a chance of success in Jonah’s eyes. Jonah was supposed to tell a bunch of terrorists to repent. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. The chances of repentance would have been seen as slim to none. And the chances of Jonah being killed in delivering this message were very high.

B. God’s plan also did not seem to make much theological sense to Jonah. After all, did not God’s prophet Nahum prophesy some years before Jonah that God was going to judge Nineveh? Now, there’s a prophecy that made sense to Jonah. Nineveh was filled with terrorists and with evil. They should be judged by God. On the other hand, Israel was God’s chosen people. But if Jonah’s prophecy actually led to repentance, wouldn’t that destroy God’s promises to protect Israel and wouldn’t that make Nahum a false prophet? How much sense did that make?

III. You run from God by doubting God’s justice.

A. There are two attributes of God that people have a hard time holding together. God is love. God is just. Jonah couldn’t handle God’s love for sinners. He doubted God’s justice. So, in Jonah 1:3 we read that Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. In the Gospel of Luke in chapter 15 Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son that revealed that there are two different ways we can run from God. The prophet Jonah will run from God in both of these ways that is illustrated in Jesus’ story. The prodigal son runs away from his father, who represents God, by living an immoral and irreligious life. The older brother in the story had not literally run away from his father’s house. He had stayed. He had obeyed his father’s commands. But his heart was very far away from his father. Both runners did not believe God was committed to their good. They had to run from God to get what was best for themselves.

If you are running from God, you come home by going to the cross.

Commentaries on Jonah by Desmond Alexander and Tim Keller