Summary: Let me ask you….have you ever wanted to run away from home? Just leave everything, go someplace where no one can find you. At one time or another I would say that every one of us have felt like that. There was a problem or a situation or a person that
“Running from God”
I read a story this week of a 5 year old boy who decided to run away from home. The woman who lived next door saw him leave as she was cutting her grass. She watched him as she walked up and down the sidewalk in front of her house dragging his little suitcase behind him. He would then disappear around the corner and a few minutes later he would reappear and go past her again. After he had gone past her house several times she finally asked him, what are you doing? He said I’m running away from home. She says well why do you keep circling the block? He says because my Mom and dad won’t let me cross the street by myself.
Let me ask you….have you ever wanted to run away from home? Just leave everything, go someplace where no one can find you. At one time or another I would say that every one of us have felt like that. There was a problem or a situation or a person that we just wanted to get away from and the only solution seemed to be to run.
Psychologists use a term to describe this called the flight or fight syndrome. It is said that when we are placed in a very difficult situation it is usually our tendency to do one of two things, fight the problem or try to solve it or run away. Jonah chose to run away. In fact there is a long history in the Bible of men and women running away from God. In Genesis after Adam and Eve sinned, the bible says that they ran away and id from his presence. We looked at Moses and after he killed a man he ran away. David ran away from King Saul and hid in a cave. And when Jesus was arrested in the garden the disciples ran away.
And now we come to Jonah. When we studied the book of Jonah in seminary our OT professor told us there were 3 ways this book can be interpreted. He concluded by saying that he believed it was a literal story—it happened just as the scripture says. He quoted Billy Graham who said if the bible says that Jonah swallowed the whale I would still believe it. I agree.
I heard a story once about a little girl in elementary school who was in class one day studying about the ocean when the teacher told the class I don’t want any of you to ever be afraid of going into the ocean because there are no sea creatures that can swallow you whole. This little girl raised her hand and said I learned in church that a great fish swallowed Jonah whole. The teacher just wrote it off and said that’s impossible. That could never happen. And the little girl said when I get to heaven I’ll ask Jonah myself and find out if it was true. The teacher replied well what if Jonah didn’t go to heaven? The girl said then maybe you can ask him.
The facts are that only 3 verses in Jonah deal with the big fish. The other 45 verses tell the story of Jonah. I told you that there are 3 ways this story can be looked at. (1) it can be symbolic. The characters, the events you read have a deeper meaning. They are telling a story but the events did not actually happen. (2) It can be seen as a parable. Some believe it is a parable describing the deliverance of Israel. (3) It is historically accurate and based on real events. This is what I believe and always have. The primary reason I believe that the story happened exactly this way is that Jesus accepted it this way.
When the scribes and the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign to prove that what He said was true. …this is what He said …an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign and now sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the great fish so will the Son of Man be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth. The other thing I want to point out before we dive into chapter one is that neither the NT or the OT ever call the fish a whale. It is simply called a great fish.
1. God still invites us to join Him in His work. The call comes to Jonah to go in this direction to preach to the people in Ninevah but instead Jonah runs away and goes in the opposite direction. We don’t know how God spoke. He spoke audibly to Adam and to Abraham. He spoke in a vision to Ezekiel. He spoke in a dream to Joseph. We don’t know how, we just know that He did speak. He has many ways of speaking to us; through a sermon, through His word, through a song. God still speaks to His people.