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26 June 2012

Running. Running, Running

Jonah was running from the presence of the Lord.  On a boat to Tarshish, avoiding Nineveh, running from the presence of the Lord.  Perhaps he did not yet know, as the psalmist said,  "Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there; if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there. If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there..."

Once on the ship, apparently exhausted from his running, Jonah laid down in the bottom of the boat.  He was sleeping so soundly that the crew had to come down and wake him to let him know the ship was storm tossed and in danger of being destroyed.  They had cast everything of value overboard in attempt to save the lives of everyone on board.  Nothing of value remained.  The ship was empty.  They cast lots to see who was the cause of this trauma and the lot fell to Jonah. They said, "Who are you?  Where have you come from?  Pray to your God that He might save us."  Jonah knew that he was the cause of the storm and that he must be cast overboard, out of the ship, in order to save the souls of the others.  The crew prayed that innocent blood not be on their hands and they threw him overboard.  

As he sank into the deep, the Lord sent a fish to swallow him.  In the belly of the fish, the seaweed caught around his head, gastric juices and salty sea water were his bed for three days and three nights.  In that place, alone and distressed with no one else to turn to, he cried out to the Lord.  The Lord heard his cry and answered him.  What did Jonah say in his prayer?  

"You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me...I have been expelled from Your sight, nevertheless, I will look again toward Your holy temple...You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.  While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord...I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving...salvation is from the Lord."


Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.


Have you ever awakened from a drunken stupor or a three day drug induced blackout to find yourself in storm tossed boat with your family and friends in a panic around you?  Have you ever looked about you to find all that once held value had been discarded?  The car you drove is in a crumbled mess from the wreck you faintly remember.  The home you moved your family into a few months ago is now a dirty house with worn out furniture and no screens on the windows.  You look around you and realize that the person you fell in love with is a tired and angry shell of the person you once knew. The fridge holds nothing for your empty stomach and the children are whining because they are hot and hungry, but the a/c doesn't work and you can't afford to buy food, let alone fix the air.  Have your friends and family ever looked at you as if to say, "Who are you?  How did you get here?"  Have you come to the place that you realize that your choices have  cost those you love more than they should have been expected to pay?  Have you ever been thrown overboard by the only ones you were clinging to for life?

Maybe like Jonah you are in the belly of the whale.  Those that wanted to keep you safe in the boat couldn't hold you any longer or they would surely lose their own lives along with yours.  Now you are sitting in the dark, with weeds all around your head.  It's difficult to think clearly.  There is no where to go now.  You are prisoner of the decisions you have made, or perhaps, failed to make.  You are thirsty, but the salty sea water provides no relief.  You're lost and alone.  You thought you would die, but you didn't. You are still here, in the dark. 

There was another man wandering around in the dark, looking for peace and joy and to know that he could be right before God.  His name is Nicodemus.  Nicodemus came in the dark of the night, to call on Jesus, Who is the Light, to ask questions of Him.  Jesus explained to him that he needed to be born again in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven.  The Kingdom of heaven is that righteousness, peace and joy, in the Holy Ghost that the man longed to know.  So Jesus explained to Nicodemus that in order to experience right standing with God, peace and joy, he would have to be born again.  This time, not through his mother's womb but by the Spirit of God.  Jesus went on to explain that this happens when we believe in His life, death and resurrection. God loved us so much that while we were still in our sinful mess, He sent His only Son, not to judge us for our failings, but to save us out of them.

Like Jonah had to purged out of the dark belly of the whale, we too have to come into the Light. 

Once out of the fish and on dry land, in the light, Jonah discovered that truly he could not run from the presence of the Lord, as the psalmist went on to say, "You would be there to lead me, to help me..."  He was given another opportunity to run within the presence of the Lord, rather than attempting to run from Him.  Today, if you find yourself in the storm tossed ship or in the belly of the whale, you can cry out to the Lord, and He will hear you in your distress.  He will come and save you, and give you another opportunity to run into His presence.



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