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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


Jonah 1:3 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.

What we know about Jonah is primarily contained in the four chapters of this prophetic book that bears his name. Jonah was one of the prophets chosen by God to take His message to the people of Ninevah. From what is recorded, this incident seems to have been the onlymission of Jonah. God called Jonah to go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me (Jonah 1:2).

At this time, Ninevah was the capital city of the kingdom of Assyria. It was a great walled city that was strategically located on the Tigris River, having much international commerce due to its location on a major trade route. Historians set its population, at this time, at anywhere between six hundred thousand to two and a half million people.

It was into this major city populated by Assyrians, which were, for the most part, enemies of the Israelites, that Jonah was to go. Jonah was to told to go and preach against their wickedness. Jonah probably feared for his life at the thought at going into a city filled with enemies and, especially, to warn them of their wickedness. Whatever the reason, Jonah decided to flee from the presence of the Lord (Jonah 1:3) by going to Joppa and boarding a ship bound for Tarshish.

Paraphrasing both chapters 1 and 2, we learn of the initial story of Jonah; how Jonah's sin caused the tempest in the sea that threatened the safety of the boat; how the crew determined it was the result of Jonah fleeing from the presence of the Lord; how he was cast overboard and was swallowed by the great fish and remained inside the fish for three days and three nights; how he repented, prayed to God, and how God caused the fish to cast Jonah upon the dry land. We know further that, after this incident, Jonah obeyed God's request, went to Ninevah and preached to its people about the impending destruction of their city because of their wickedness. And, finally we learn how the king of Ninevah and its people repented of their sinfulness and the city was saved from its destruction.

As Christians today, what can we learn from the story of Jonah? One of the main lessons is that, like Jonah, we can't hide from the presence of God. Mankind has accomplished many great things while here on earth. It is said that a person can do anything they set their mind to do. In my lifetime, I've observed many accomplishments that stagger my imagination; things that were seemingly impossible. I've seen the atom split allowing the creation of a weapon containing destructive power unheard of from the beginning of time. I've seen land craft exceed the speed of sound and aircraft exceed it many times over. I've seen mountains carved out and valleys filled creating an interstate highway system that couldn't be imagined one hundred years ago. I've seen computers created that can store and retrieve knowledge from a microchip that our libraries cannot contain. I've seen men run a mile under four minutes, orbit the earth and walk on the moon. In my lifetime, I've seen crop yields quadrupled and animals cloned. And, what astonishes me most is the fact that I haven't seen anything yet. Mankind has only scratched the surface of their capabilities of discovering God's mysteries and how to use them to benefit humanity.

Men and women have done great thing and will do even greater things in the future. However, there is one thing that you will never be able to do - you can't hide from God. Jonah couldn't hide and neither can we. Did Jonah think that fleeing to Tarshish, God would be unable to find him? Like Jonah, do we think that God stays secluded in heaven? Do we think that when we are at work or on vacation, God cannot see us? Do we think that while we are engaging in immoral activities, in places we shouldn't be, or doing things we shouldn't be doing, that we are not in the presence of God?

Learn a lesson from Jonah. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, and whenever you are doing it, God is observing your every action. I hope God will always find you doing His will. Remember, you are capable of doing many things in your lifetime, but you can't hide from God!