It’s the perfect get-away in many terms: travelling. For anyone who has had to bear preachy, conservative folk breathing down their necks, whether that be family, friends or just the culture around you, you know what I mean!
I mean getting away from people who enforce their thoughts and narrow ways of living on you, and escaping into the utter wilds and freedom that is to be found is an epic feeling! But even if you’re not escaping anything other than the mundane things of life, it’s still fabulous.
Doing it whenever.
Meeting anyone you want along the way.
The world (as it is overstated) is your oyster!
Now feeling bitter about such a religious, conservative culture may not be a bad thing (for some of religiosity, if it makes itself known/felt as primarily “do nots”, is not true religion). But in our story we’re considering today, the bitterness of our friend Jonah is far from justified (though certainly understandable!).
Jonah has decided that the people he was asked to bring the bad news about God’s judgement and good news about God’s rescue to, (the same good news that someone else brought him and which gave him life,) are not worthy of it. A fairly natural feeling, given the horrors present in surrounding cultures at the time. Though we’re always quick to forget our own failings and how God dealt with them (in grace), no, Jonah?
And so, not understanding the irony of refusing this mission, he “does a runner” in precisely the other direction, away from Nineveh. He goes to the port of Joppa, jumps on a ship going to Tarshish and heads off travelling. It’s the natural reaction when we don’t wanna face the music and dance.
But he’s missed one crucial thing. He can’t hide from God. As God’s children we can’t hide from God. There are no sacred spaces. No places devoid of God. No places that God is more inclined to hang out in (apart from where His people gather to worship, wherever that is). The Psalmist wrote:
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
But equally for those who don’t follow God, they can’t run from his judgement (Amos 9:1-6):
I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and he said:
‘Strike the tops of the pillars
so that the thresholds shake.
Bring them down on the heads of all the people;
those who are left I will kill with the sword.
Not one will get away,
none will escape.
2 Though they dig down to the depths below,
from there my hand will take them.
Though they climb up to the heavens above,
from there I will bring them down.
3 Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
there I will hunt them down and seize them.
Though they hide from my eyes at the bottom of the sea,
there I will command the serpent to bite them.
4 Though they are driven into exile by their enemies,
there I will command the sword to slay them.
‘I will keep my eye on them
for harm and not for good.’
5 The Lord, the Lord Almighty –
he touches the earth and it melts,
and all who live in it mourn;
the whole land rises like the Nile,
then sinks like the river of Egypt;
6 he builds his lofty palace in the heavens
and sets its foundation on the earth;
he calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land –
the Lord is his name.
It is fearful imagery.
There is no escape from God.