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Who would run from the presence of the LORD?

The word comes to Jonah and instead of approaching the presence of the LORD in faith he runs. In Jonah 1v3, 1v3 and 1v10 we're told Jonah is fleeing from the presence of the LORD. While some of his forefathers would say 'better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere' Andrew Bonar writes: "None but a heavy-laden sinner could relish this never-varying exhibition of blood to the eye of the worshipper." Jonah can't.

Instead of arising to go to Nineveh he goes down to Joppa, down into a boat, down into the sea, only rising when a crowd of pagan idolators tell him to arise to pray and preach to them, which he seems to do with some reluctance and much brevity and no integrity.

Only with great reluctance does he proclaim the LORD to the nations. He'd told them he was fleeing his god, and when they hear who his god is they're exceedingly convicted and soon come to throw themselves upon the LORD as the only one who can save them. The word of the LORD comes to foreign pagan sailors and they don't flee, but approach with a sacrifice and vows. On the blood soaked deck of their battered boat this is a glorious moment as the love of God extends to invite in those who moments earlier were chaotically calling on any god they could find to save them.

As he goes down to death the prophet's heart turned again to the temple (2:4,7), longing for his prayer to be heard and to see the LORD. Finally it seems the bloody scene draws him, and he confesses that salvation is truly of the LORD - the lamb on the throne his saviour.

The story of humanity is one of fleeing from the presence of the LORD, even in Eden Adam hid from Christ, before being exiled. Nonetheless the LORD couldn't resist drawing Adam's race to his presence. The Father is determined from day one to send his Son to make reveal himself to little children. The gospel is preached - even by ill-motivated rebels like Jonah - and men and women behold the LORD and call upon him. He makes his dwelling with them in the Tabernacle and Temple. It was the LORD who made his people distinctive by making his home with them, for it was the LORD's desire to draw people into his community - that we might find our home in him.

All of which makes you ask what on earth Jonah was thinking by trying to avoid the presence of the Triune God? But then that's what I try to do.Curiously it seems in the end that Jonah's motive is that he wants the love of the Triune God for himself but not for others. I say curiously but its what I try to do too. I suppose that means he thinks that he has it because it deserves it but others don't! The spreading love of the LORD wont be contained though - run from Nineveh and love finds pagan idolators, go to Nineveh and it finds the evil people there, go to the depths of the sea or sit under a tree in protest and the Father will continue to send his Son to invite even a hard-hearted prophet.  That's what the love of God is like.


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