I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
…From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat – and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet –
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
~The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson
This Sunday we’ll be continuing in our study of Jonah and we’ll be covering all of chapter one. Jonah has four main acts or movements. The first is in chapter one, where Jonah runs from God. In this part of the story we see Jonah’s determination to go as far away from God’s calling on his life as he can, and the cost of making that run. As the character from Thompson’s poem realizes – when we run from God, all the things we chase after for fulfillment will betray us. God won’t let them satisfy us. That’s not meanness on his part – it’s mercy.
In v 4-6 we see a contrast of actions. What are the pagan sailors doing? What is Jonah doing? Who is it that reminds Jonah what he should be doing? Compare the words of the ship’s captain to God’s original command to Jonah. What significance do you find there?
Jonah gets exposed as the epicenter of the storm in v7-10. When Jonah explains that his “occupation”, or job, is to fear (revere and serve) Yahweh we see a clear contradiction between his job description and his present way of life. The sailors catch it too. “You’re supposed to serve the God who made the sea, but instead you’re running from Him…….on OUR BOAT!?” When our culture tells us that what we do privately is our own business and has no bearing on others – do you believe that? Do you really believe that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? What sort of ways can you imagine that our resistance to God’s way of life affects those around us?
In v11-16 scholars are divided about what’s happening with Jonah. Some believe he’s coming to his senses and repenting because he feels bad for the sailors he’s brought into this. Others see this as just another move away from God’s original calling, to go to Nineveh. What do you think – is he repenting or not, and why? Have you ever made a move to fix an immediate crisis without really dealing with the root problem? How well did that work for you?
In v 14 we have the first prayer offered to God. Who does it come from? What seems significant about that to you?
Finally, in v17 we get to the big fish! What do you think – is the fish a judgment or a mercy…or both? Remember the Hound of Heaven – “All things betray thee, who betrayest Me”.
Hope you’re liking this study – I’m really enjoying it! See you Sunday!