A game many children are good at is “Hide and Seek”. The thrill of running away while the person who is seeking has their eyes closed. You look for a safe haven in which you will be able to remain while the seeker is searching hard. Sometimes a child thinks they are in great hiding spot, but the reality is they aren’t. Other times, they are and the seeker will never find them.
It is amazing that we can actually deceive ourselves into thinking that we can run away from and then effectively hide from God. How do we run from God? Running away from God is seen in any attempt or act of disobeying His Word.
Scripture provides a number of examples of people who “ran away from God”. These acts were unquestionably disobedient and were reflections of their rebellion. An insightful example of someone “running away” from God is Jonah. God spoke to Jonah instructing him,
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2).
Instead of doing what God said, Jonah got aboard a ship and went in the opposite direction (Jonah 1:3). He was running away from God’s will. Jonah’s running from God came as a result of reluctance to do what God commanded. Granted, there was a lot of difficulty on Jonah’s side to accept such a task given the brutality and evil that had taken place by the hand of the Ninevites. Nonetheless, this is what God required.
In this act of running away from his responsibilities, Jonah may have felt free. However, this did not last long. Jonah could run, but he certainly could not hide! God, who is the Sovereign of the universe, sent a storm that placed fear into the sailors (Jonah 1:5-6). After some conversation and commotion, Jonah acknowledged “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9). He then told the sailors to hurl him into the sea (Jonah 1:12), and after they did this, the sea was calm (Jonah 1:15) and they got converted (Jonah 1:16)! Once he was thrown into the sea we read,
“the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).
Despite his selfish and rebellious act of running away from God, the Lord certainly chased him and got his attention. The rest of the book goes on to provide further valuable lessons concerning God’s sovereignty, mercy and grace.
Going back to the theme of this post. We may look at Jonah and think quite poorly of his behaviour, and rightly so. However, we need to be honest and acknowledge that we are not that different. Every time we reject the commands and precepts of Scripture, and choose to follow our own selfish desires, there is a sense in which we are running away from God. This is not a good place to be. The problem with running away from God is that He will not allow us to defy Him. We must not fool ourselves into believing the lie that defying God’s Word equates with freedom. It is nothing more than bondage to sin. Despite the apparent “freedom” of living our own way, if you are His child, He is jealous for you and He will do as He pleases to correct your sinful actions. This is actually very gracious and serious.
Despite our attempts, we can never truly escape His presence. We may think we have hidden, but He always knows where we are and what we are doing (or not doing). David understood this,
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:7-12)