Fleeing the Presence - As Seen On Sunday
If we are called to start a church, then we are called to spread the message. We have done talks on why we don't talk about our faith. We started a church that seeks to produce online faith content all to spread a message.
BUT, We DIDN’T launch in a new location this summer. I take full responsibility for that. Maybe I ran because I didn't see how it would come together. Maybe we all ran. [part of our discussion was on some reasons why it wasn't running)]
In Christian circles, especially Pentecostals, we often talk about the presence of God.
To some, it is merely the right cords of music giving them goose bumps. To others, the presence of God is that guilt you feel for looking at that woman a little too long or telling a lie. Brother Lawrence told many that to practice the presence is simply living with the knowledge and awareness that God is with you.
But Jonah was different. He ran away. It says that “Jonah rose to feel to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Now all of us, including Jonah, know that that's not really something we can do. I read a couple of places that this shows that Jonah saw Israel as being the place of God’s presence, maybe going as far as saying a far away place like Tarshish was a place that he could get away from the call. I disagree because Jonah tells the others on the boat, “I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” That pretty much covers everything and does not sound like a physical place existed for him to get away.
I think this counts as running from God’s presence because he was told to go and he went somewhere else. It was the disobedience, not the place.
His running directly impacted the lives of those whom we met as he was running. There is a great wind that causes a storm and everyone on the ship is in danger. Everyone turns to their respective gods with no avail but Jonah is found sleeping.
The faith of everyone is incredible here.
First, they have faith that someone’s god will help them. then they had faith that what Jonah told them about his God was true. and despite knowing that this was all Jonah’s fault, they still tried a different way to get to safety, asked God not to punish them for innocent life. Of course, Jonah eventually is thrown off, everyone is saved, and his running has led him to the belly of a fish.
Jonah ran from the presence because he had a problem with the Ninevites. It surely stemmed from the conflict between the Israelites and the Ninevites. It was city against city and religion against religion. God chose Jonah, a man who believed deeply in the grace of God, to go to the people he hated. Jonah only was able to run since he DID believe in God’s grace. If he hadn’t there's no way he would have dared to run when he would have been destroyed as well. That’s what’s so perfect about this story. A man does not want a group of people to be saved but uses the same grace that saves them to run away from the presence that challenged his bias.
I think we have to remember the men on the boat when we are talking about presence. They are exactly where they are supposed to be. Despite being the victims in this situation, they act appropriately. They seek the presence of God. At first, they did not know whose presence they needed to seek, but they were seeking. After the sea calms, “the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.”
They unknowingly had a purpose. It's almost like they serve as a warm up for Jonah. They are foreigners but he tells them what to do in order to save the ship. It is strange that he was willing to die so one group would be saved, but ran so another group wouldn’t be. God corners Jonah on a boat with people he probably had a bias against, giving him the choice for all of them to die or for only Jonah to die.
We must be careful to recognize God’s saving grace and not glorify disobedience; God still used everything for good.
As Christians, we too run from the presence of God. We run from the presence of God for all kinds of reasons: Fear, bias, hate, pride, guilt.
In fact, often we would exchange the real presence for “the feels.” The presence of God can be challenging. He calls us, “Arise, go.”God called Jonah to do something he didn't want to do. and this isn't a sermon on getting out of your comfort zone. This is a time where the goodness and grace of God was being shown and our human desires were in the way. His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. This is why the presence of God challenges us. We are confronted with the things that do not line up with him.
Just as Jonah ran, we run.
Just as God guided Jonah back, He guides us back.
It is so amazing is that although we run from the presence, there is grace.
We might never be in a real storm or in a fish’s stomach, but they certainly represent things that we go through as a result of running.
We all judge Jonah for running. We are in disbelief that he would withhold the message. Yet, we are the epitome of Jonah more often than not.