“Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.’ But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” (Jonah 1:1-3 KJV)
Spiritual narrow mindedness and shortsightedness are the reasons why some people tend to run away from the presence of God. Jonah was like a child who refused to run an errand for his father and ran to hide himself in his bedroom. Who owns the house and the bedroom he had run to hide himself in? In a thought provoking question of King David, he asked, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Psalms 139:7-12 ESV) In his disobedience to the commandment of God Jonah foolishly used his hard earned money to pay for the fruitless and catastrophic journey of running away from the presence of God. He ended up in the belly of big-fish.
A common characteristic of a sinner is that he always runs away from the presence of God. In the beginning, before Adam and Eve sinned, God always come down into the Garden of Eden to fellowship with them. But when they dipped their hands into sin their behavior changed. When they heard the voice of God in the Garden they hid themselves because they had sinned. They had forsaken the commandment of God. They listened to the voice of a deceptive stranger and fell for the temptation of Satan.
When sinners run away from the presence of God they run into their calamity and sorrow. Judas Iscariot, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ ran away from the presence of His Master to make a betraying deal with the enemy to sell his Master for thirty pieces of silver. He got the sinful gain of his ill-gotten deal but never made it back to the comforting presence of Jesus Christ. He could not enjoy the ill-gotten gain because he eventually committed suicide. He should have sought the face of God in repentance like King David, who with contrite heart acknowledged and repented of his sins and publicly declared, “I had sinned.” The detail of his repentance prayer is in Psalms 51. Demas, a co-worker with Apostle Paul abandoned the purposeful gospel ministry to follow worldliness, and he never made it back. King Solomon, the king that built the Temple of God, the king that prayed in the temple during its dedication and God answer his prayer by fire, the gifted wisdom endowed king who wrote the powerful books of the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Songs of Solomon tried his hands in the idolatry practices of his strange wives. He unfortunately concluded his powerful and resourceful ministry as idolater king.
At last, Jonah realized his folly and he sought the eyes of God in a remorseful repentance from the belly of the fish. “Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.” (Jonah 2:1-2, 7 KJV) He now responded to God’s commandment. He went to the city of Nineveh and preached to the people. The inhabitants of the great city repented of their sins. They sought the face of God with fasting and prayer pleading for mercy. The mercy of God prevailed in the city and they were not destroyed.
There is mercy in the presence of God. There is salvation in the presence of God. There is deliverance in the presence of God. There is an abundance of blessing in the presence of God. If the world truly desires solution to the perennial problems of humanity, the presence of God is the way out. One of the prominent angels in the Bible is Angel Gabriel. He declares the source of the powerful message he brought to Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, saying, “I am Gabriel that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.” (Luke 1:19 KJV) Zacharias experienced the power of the presence of God in his life, the problem of barrenness in his family came to an end. The presence of God is open to whosoever desire precious comfort of His presence. “There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 12:7 NIV)
Prayer: O Lord, your presence is peaceful and safe in this dangerous world. Keep me in the perfect peace of your presence Heavenly Father. In obedience I will honor and keep the law of your presence in Jesus name, Amen.