Is running away from God possible? It’s a good question. Have you ever heard of Jonah?I have always been interested in the Jonah because I can identify with him. I love that there are people in the Bible who struggle with the same things we do thousands of years later.
At a glance, it would seem that it is not possible for Jonah to run away from God. Jonah tries to run away, but he ends up going and doing exactly what God asked him to do. Why? Is God a dictator of what we do and don’t do? Let’s dive in and see.
A Quick Summary of Jonah
If you have never read the book of Jonah, the story is about a prophet named Jonah. Prophets in those days heard from God and would relay His messages to others. They were not the most liked individuals because no one liked to be told what to do or how to act or how evil they were. God told Jonah to go to the Ninevites and to tell them that He was going to destroy them because their people had become so wicked. He did not want to go to Nineveh, so he ran away.
Jonah started traveling in the opposite direction, then a huge storm arose and he was thrown overboard by the ship crew. The storm stopped, a giant fish swallowed Jonah, and then spit him out on dry land three days later. God repeated his request to Jonah, and this time Jonah listened. He preached against Nineveh and declared that God would destroy them for their wickedness. The entire city was saved and turned from their evil ways, so God spared them. He chose not to destroy them, and Jonah was very angry about it.
“God is not silent. It is the nature of God to talk.”A.W. TOZER
Now that you’ve read my little summary, grab your Bible and read Jonah 1-4 for yourself. If you want to get even more familiar with the book, the Bible project is a great resource: The Bible Project Overview of Jonah.
Okay now that you are familiar with Jonah, let’s see, do you think it’s possible to run away from God? Ponder that while we go through all the ways that God spoke to Jonah and can speak to us too.
“The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.'” Jonah 1:1
In chapter 1 verse 1, God gives Jonah a message. This means that the Word of the Lord can come to us too. In other words, God speaks to us.
Chapter 2 verse 1 says that the Lord heard Jonah’s cries in the belly of the fish. Most likely we won’t be in the belly of a fish like Jonah, but this shows us God can hear us wherever we are.
“Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.” Jonah 2:10
In chapter 2, verse 10 God orders the fish to spit Jonah out. He doesn’t ONLY speak to us, he can use other people (or fish haha).
In Chapter 3 verse 1, God speaks to Jonah again.
God is consistent. If He is telling you something, He will say it again. It’s not a one and done kind of thing.
Lastly, in chapter 4 verse 4, the Lord asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” This shows that God will still speak to us when we are angry with Him.
But why was Jonah angry? We’ll address that below in a minute. First let’s talk about running away from God.
Is Running Away From God Possible?
Have you ever been like Jonah? Have you heard God’s voice SO clearly and walked (or ran) the other way?
To be honest, I have.
As I looked at Jonah’s life my first thought was how unfair it was that God “forced” him to go to Nineveh. He didn’t let him run away. I didn’t understand it, but God gave me a little insight one day. God was not forcing Jonah to go to Nineveh.
God had such great love and grace for Jonah, He made it hard for him to walk away from his calling.
That’s called grace because he gave Jonah another chance. When you really look into the heart of it, it wasn’t just grace for Jonah, but also grace for the Ninevites. Jonah’s visit to Nineveh saved the entire city! God was looking out for Jonah, as well as his people.
The Bible does not say that God told Jonah go to Nineveh or something bad will happen to you. We honestly do not know what would have happened if Jonah said no a second time to God. Maybe God would have let him go on his way and recruited another prophet, or maybe he would have given him another chance. We will never know. The point is God did not force Jonah’s hand. Jonah CHOSE to go to Nineveh and to obey God.
So to answer the question, yes. Running away from God is possible.
Why Was Jonah Angry When God Saved the Ninevites?
Jonah hated the Ninevites. He was not okay with the fact that God loved them. Jonah felt that if they were so evil they deserved to be destroyed. He didn’t want to go to them because he knew God is a forgiving God.
“So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” Jonah 4:2-3
Jonah was angry with God because he is a loving and compassionate God? Isn’t that just ironic?
Didn’t Jonah get a second chance just like God gave the Ninevites a second chance?
Now you are probably thinking what I was. “Yeah! That’s so silly of Jonah to be mad at God for making him preach to the Ninevites and being compassionate, especially when God gave him a second chance too.” But are we not doing the same thing as Jonah every time we tell God no?
When we choose to run away from God, we are being selfish. Just as in the story of Jonah, God knows more and better than we do. He didn’t have to use Jonah to save Nineveh. He could have used anyone, but He chose Jonah. Not only that, but God gave Jonah multiple chances to do what He asked him to do.
That sounds like a merciful and compassionate God to me. He is slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. Quite the opposite of me on any given day to be honest. What a blessing it is to have a God like Him.
Running away from God is possible.
I have done it a number of times in my life. However, because of the character of God, it’s not easy to keep running. Once you have experienced the light and love and presence of God, you will desire it for the rest of your life.
If you are someone who is currently running from God, I encourage you to turn around and to walk towards Him. Running will never satisfy you. Often times we do not understand why God asks certain things of us, but one day we will. For now we have to trust in His goodness and be grateful that He gives us a lot of second chances to get it right.
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