God is holy. He cannot face sin because of His holiness. Because of the sinfulness of mankind, many times we read in the Bible that the people were without the presence of the Lord. The people were unable to be in the presence of God because they were unclean. Once a year, one person could enter the inner part of the Temple to approach His presence. Even Moses was not allowed to look upon the face of the Lord because he was a sinner, just like you and me.
When reading about Jonah, we note that he was asked by the Lord to go share a message to the people of Nineveh. He gets up and flees to Tarshish. But it doesn’t just say that he goes in the opposite direction from where he was commanded. It says he flees “from the presence of the LORD.” When the men on the boat are trying to discover the cause of the storm issues, they recognize that he is running from “the presence of the LORD.”
Every time we sin, we are keeping ourselves from fully being in the presence of the LORD. Yes, things are different today. Jesus Christ died on the Cross, was buried, and rose on the third day. If we believe this, we are saved. If we believe this, we are children of God. If we believe this, we can approach God. The veil is torn. The Holy Spirit is poured out upon us. But still, if we sin, we are keeping ourselves from fully being in the presence of the LORD. Do you want that? Do you desire to not be fully aware of His presence? If you want to hear His still small voice, if you want to be aware of Him—to recognize Him moving in your life and in the lives around you—turn from sin and fix your eyes on Him. Take a step towards God and experience the awesomeness of the presence of the LORD.
“But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD… Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.” – Jonah 1:3,10 [ESV]
Jonah [Jonah 1-4] and Paul [Acts 27]
“Where [God] is, tragedy is only provisional and partial, and shipwreck and dissolution are not the absolutely final thing.” – William James
Acceptance of God
Paul was all about joy, so joyful to take the message of Christ anywhere – even wanted to build on a new foundation and reach those who haven’t heard
“And Paul said, ‘I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.’” – Acts 26:29 [NASB]
Jonah angry that God showed mercy – Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because He knew God would have mercy – Jonah had a covering from Lord and then it died and he got angry, had mercy on plant but not happy with mercy God showed to those who he didn’t believe deserved it.
“But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?’” – Jonah 4:10-11 [NIV]
JOY OR ANGER
Boldness for God
Both knew what to do on the ship. Jonah slept & kept silent until late – Paul tried to vocalize what to do Are you vocal or quiet?
“Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 [NASB]
SPEAK UP OR KEEP SILENT
Closeness to God How close are you to God? “Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” – James 4:8a [NLT] Always moving toward or moving away. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:2-3) – Paul wanted to go to Rome (Acts 19:21)
“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” – Psalm 145:18 [ESV] “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” – John 14:21 [NIV]
CLOSE OR DISTANT
Bible Study Questions:
[Jonah 1-4 & Acts 27]
Tonight we discussed two different people (Jonah and Paul) who both were called by God to deliver His message. Fully understanding our calling from God requires a lot more than biblical knowledge.
Acceptance of God
1) Accepting God for Who He is includes accepting that He is merciful. What is mercy?
2) How does mercy differ from grace?
3) How do Paul and Jonah differ in their degree of acceptance of mercy?
4) Do you find some people more difficult to show mercy?
5) Read Jonah 4:10-11. What do you think God telling us?
Boldness for God
6) Paul knew what to do on the ship and he spoke up. When is it easy for you to speak up and to be bold for God?
7) Jonah slept and was silent about the truth until he was approached by others. What keeps us from stepping forward and speaking up?
8) Has there been a moment in your life when you kept silent? How did you feel?
Closeness to God
9) Who determines how close we are to God?
10) What are we supposed to call on Him in?
11) What does John 14:21 tell us about the results of calling upon God?
12) What keeps you moving away from God? Toward God?