Are there ever times in your life where you just feel like you need to run? Not necessarily physically run, but more so, to do everything you can to avoid something or someone? I think this is a reality that we all face at some point as believers. While there is some exception to this, as there are in fact some people that delight in controversy, for most of us, this is an issue we have faced, and for many, may be facing right now. And this is not something that is exclusive to our human relationships. This is something that most of us have run into even in our relationship with Christ. And as we look at the book of Jonah, we see an example of this in action.
Something that we should keep in mind as we are reading through scripture is the importance of what kind of literature we are looking at. Is it poetry? Is it a song, an epistle, or a narrative? This will ultimately have an impact on how we should be reading the text. When you are dealing with Hebrew narrative, there can be certain textual patterns that have a drastic impact on the way that we read the text. And while this is not going to be a discussion on discourse analysis, I do think it is something that merits our consideration when we are looking at scripture. What I want to do today is to look at one particular theme that can be traced throughout the Jonah narrative.
Right away in verse Jonah 1:2, we see a command from God given to Jonah. “Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it” (literally, her). The key phrase that I am wanting to look at from this is the actual command, “Arise, go!”. This is God calling Jonah to action. And then we see Jonah’s response. In seeking to flee from the presence of God, Jonah “goes down” to Joppa to get on a boat to Tarshish. This is an interesting contrast between God’s call to rise and go, and Jonah’s response to go down. And this is a trend that continues. Next we see that Jonah “goes down into the boat.” And this trajectory continues as he is cast down into the sea, and down into the belly of the great fish. Then Jonah prays to God (not a prayer of repentance, but a prayer of manipulation and “woe is me”), and God still wants to use him.
So again, at the beginning of chapter 3, we see God commanding Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it” (literally, her). These themes were not put into this narrative on accident. If read correctly, they really seem to say a lot about our condition when we are commanded by God to Arise and Go; and when we are trying to flee from Him and His presence, we are continuously going down. God can even use verbal imagery to accomplish His work in us.
So are you running from God? Maybe He is saying to you, “Arise, and go work in children’s ministry” or “Arise, and go be a youth leader” (shameless plug). And when He is calling you, are you listening? Are you acting? Or are you being like Jonah and going down into your work, going down into your busyness, going down into your hobbies, and ultimately running from the presence of God?