Sunday, November 23, 2014

SERMON: In which direction are you running?

By DAVID BILDERBACK, Special to The Herald | 11/8/2013

The book of Jonah begins with God’s call to Jonah.

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). The people of Nineveh were hated enemies of the Israelites and were worshipers of false Gods.

The book of Jonah begins with God’s call to Jonah.

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). The people of Nineveh were hated enemies of the Israelites and were worshipers of false Gods.

God’s call to Jonah clearly shows He had not given up on Assyria. The prophet was to call Nineveh to repentance, warning of impending doom unless Nineveh turned to God. Jonah had no desire to preach to the Ninevites, so instead of obeying God’s command and heading to Nineveh, Jonah bought a ticket to Tarshish and headed in the opposite direction.

Jonah’s attempt to flee from God was short lived. God sent a great wind and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. Jonah confessed to the sailors that he was fleeing from God and, in an attempt to save the ship, Jonah (at his own request) was thrown overboard and the sea became calm.

“But the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).

Jonah laments his situation, saying in 2:4, “I said I have been banished from [God’s] sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.”

For the prophet, the ultimate horror of death was separation or banishment from the presence of the Lord. He remembered the temple, which was the earthly location of the divine presence of God. Jonah longed for the communion with God that the temple provided. Jonah desired the same divine presence he earlier had sought to flee.

Jonah’s life went down hill from the time he tried to flee from God — so far, in fact, that he ended up in the bottom of the sea. Jonah prayed to God and God spared him so that Jonah would deliver his message to Nineveh.

Jonah did not realize how badly he needed the presence of God until it wasn’t there.

Does God have a presence in your life and mine? Do we run from God’s presence or to God?

The answers ultimately determine whether we spend eternity with God or banished from his sight.

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