“But Jonah arose 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 from the presence of the Lord.”
from the presence of the Lord
This is the second time we have the phrase “presence of the LORD.” The word “presence” is literally face. There was no place Jonah could go to get away from the face of the Lord. “Face” is a metaphor for the personal presence of the Lord. If he ran from the presence of the LORD, where was he going to go? He could not outrun an omnipresent God. He could not escape the long arm of the Lord.
No one can escape the long arm of God.
Our first parents tried running from the presence of the Lord. Many of us have no appetite or stomach for the will of God. This was true of our first parents and their first child.
Ge 3:8, “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
Ge 4:16, “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.”
Je 23:24, “’Can anyone hide himself in secret places,
So I shall not see him?’ says the Lord;
‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the Lord.”
Moses rationalized this way: “I don’t have the right training; I’m not man for the job; I don’t have the right background; I am not eloquent or fluent. We rationalize our rebellion, just like Moses. Moses said in effect, “Who am I? I am nobody. I don’t have talent or gifts. Why use me?”
Ex 3:10-17, 10 “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ 11 So the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? 12 ‘Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.’ 13 But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.’ 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and He said: ‘Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 ‘Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do. 16 ‘So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God. 17 ‘And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs.’”
When a person tries to run from God, he always finds a rationale for rationalizing his sin. He will find a ship ready to depart. The devil will make available circumstances so that he can disobey God. Escapism is a form of sublimation. There is always an answer “over there,” but not here.
We will never succeed in running a footrace with the Lord. God has many agencies such as a fish, a storm, and a wind to send harrowing experiences our way. Jonah bore the scars of his harrowing experience to his grave. If we do the will of God, it will save us a lot of headaches.