Hiding in the Sea to Avoid Loving People and Building Strong Relationships
by Lori Van Dien
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Jonah actually knew God’s will and desire for his life, but went to hide in the sea to avoid having to face the savage barbarians in Nineveh. We often ask God for “no confrontation from people” and we hate all the friction that can come from relating to others. But God did not call us to run away or float around alone in the sea where we believe there will be no confrontation. He began the human race intending it to be communal.
Jonah actually watched mercilessly while the shipmates threw all their provisions overboard, knowing he was the reason for the calamity. Self-preservation I suppose.
Here begins Jonah’s first confrontation while trying to hide in sleep away from the commotion. Once they knew his folly, the people of the ship showed more love toward this man of God than he had toward them; and tried to save him. Wearing themselves out with compassion, they conceded to lowering Jonah to the depths of the sea and God spared them from the hurricane force winds.
(Getting rid of the disobedient in your midst can bring peace, but under grace, the command is to love and restore such people in the spirit of meekness, Galatians 6:1.)
After seeing the bottom of the mountains under the ocean, tangled in seaweed, Jonah prayed, “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 you heard my voice” (Jonah 2:2).
Then he made this interesting confession in verse 8, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”
Jonah had believed a lie from his own vain heart. “Surely God can’t want me to be around those filthy, wicked people. They are violent and evil, I will take my leave and rest someplace else.”
We say it in our own hearts, “My husband has anger issues, surely God doesn’t want me living with that.” Or, “My workmates do not respect me, I deserve respect, there must be someplace I can go where this is not the case.” Better still, “People in this church don’t love, I’m going elsewhere.”
This is the epitome of erroneous thinking, especially for Christians, or anyone professing they are a loving human being.
God wanted Jonah to speak to the people because God loved the inhabitants of Nineveh. God wants us to nurture our immediate relationships because of his deep love for us.
God never does anything out of spite or hatred. Everything he does is born out of his deep compassion and desire for people to live in his presence. Period.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, (Galatians 5:14).
Who is my neighbor? Whoever is in your immediate sphere of influence. Your children, your spouse, your workmates, church members, strangers you encounter; the list goes on.
Listen; there is no excuse for running from loving the people around you no matter how many times you think they’ve hurt you.
Jonah was actually angry with the Lord, "And God said to Jonah, Do you well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the LORD, you had pity on the gourd, for the which you haven’t labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night. And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?"
God actually pleaded with Jonah to understand his compassionate judgment and merciful ways.
Could it be that after Jonah was angry with God, that he went and taught the people how to be pleasing to the Lord? He would have to live among them for some time. People can have their eyes open to the wrong they are doing, but they need to know how to cleanse their hearts and minds. Jonah would have to bring God’s word and nurture this city to maintain their freedom.
This would be a true sacrificial act of love.
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