Lew read me something very encouraging yesterday from The Minor Prophets by James Montgomery Boice. This is from the chapter on Jonah 1:1-3...it is such a good reminder of how our God provides for us when we simply seek his will and obey, something that has been quite a struggle for me lately! I want to have my own plan sometimes, I see an outcome that I desire and I think if I do this and this and that everything should go according to plan. Oh, but that usually is not the case, usually things don't turn out how I planned and it's then that I realize that God is the one who knows what is best for me, if only I would seek His will and obey. I am reminded every day that I am just a "work in progress"....just like Jonah...unfortunately he learned the hard way too....except his "hard way" was in the belly of a whale...I guess I should consider myself blessed!
At this point we find our first great lesson regarding God's sovereignty. Built into Jonah's first attempts to get away from God are two results that will follow anyone who tries to disobey him.
First Jonah's course was downhill. He would not have described it that way. He would have said that he was improving his life, just as we do when we choose our own course instead of God's. But it was downhill nevertheless. This is suggested in verse 3, where we are told that Jonah went "down" to Joppa. It is always that way when a person runs from the presence of the Lord. The way of the Lord is up! Consequently, any way that is away from him is down. The way may look beautiful when we start. The seas may look peaceful and the ship attractive, but the way is still down.
There was another result. In his excellent preaching on Jonah, Donal Grey Barnhouse often called attention to it by highlighting the phrase about Jonah "paying the fare." He noted that Jonah did not get to where he was going , since he was thrown overboard, and that he obviously didn't get a refund back on his ticket. So he paid the full fare and did not get to the end of his journey. Barnehouse said, "It is always that way. When you run away from the Lord you never get to where you are going, and you always pay your own fare. On the other hand, when you go the Lord's way you always get where you are going and he pays the fare."
Jonah illustrates one half of that statement. The story of Moses' mother, Jochebed, illustrates the other half. Jochebed conceived Moses during a time of great persecution by the Egyptions, a time in which Hebrew male infants were being thrown into the Nile River to die. When the child was born Jochebed and her husband, Amran, tried to hide him as long as possible, suspecting, I believe, that this was the one who had been promised by God to be the deliverer of the people. But at last the baby's cries grew too loud, and another plan was necessary. The mother made a little boat of bulrushes covering it with tar. She placed Moses in it and set it in the reeds by the riverbank. Then she stationed Miriam, Moses' sister, at a distance to see what would become of him. Though she wanted her baby more than anything else in the world, Jochebed entrusted the matter to God, allowing him to do as he wished with the child.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to the river, saw the ark in the water, and sent her maids to fetch it. When it was opened, she saw the baby. He was crying. This so touched the woman's heart that she determined to save him and raise him in the palace. But what was she to do? The child needed a wet nurse. Where could she find one? At this point, Miriam, who had been watching from a distance, came forward and asked if she could be of assistance. "Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?" Miriam asked.
"Yes" said the princess. Jochebed was brought.
Jochebed was about to receive back the child she most dearly wanted. She would have done anything to have kept him. She would have scrubbed the floors in the palace! In fact, if the daughter of Pharaoh had said "I am going to give you this child to raise, but I want you to know that I have seen through your stratagem. I know that this young girl was not up on that hill watching by accident. She must be the sister of this baby, and therefore, you must be the mother. You can have your child. But as a sign of your disobedience to the Pharaoh, I am going to cut off your right hand"--if she had said that, Moses' mother would probably have held out both hands, if only she could have had the child back. But that is not what happened. Instead Pharaoh's daughter gave the child back declaring, "Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you" (Exod.2:9).
"I will pay you." This is the point for which I tell you the story. Jonah went his own way, paid his own fare, and got nothing. Jochebed went God's way. Consequently, God paid the fare, and she got everything. I repeat it once more: When you run away from the Lord you never get to where you are going and you always pay your own fare. But when you go the Lord's way you always get where you are going, and he pays the fare."