Running in the Wrong Direction

Bible Book: Jonah  1 : 1-3
Subject: Will, God's
Series: Life on the Run


This morning I want to introduce you to a man whose life story is very similar to yours and mine. He had many struggles. Anybody here ever had a struggle? That looks like most of us here.

When God clearly told him what he needed to do … rather than obeying God’s word, he disobeyed God’s word. Anybody here like that?

And then .. this man repented after God got his attention and God gave him a second chance. Anybody here today ever received a second chance from God?

You say .. Pastor .. who is this man? Well .. his name is Jonah and his story is found in the Old Testament book named after him: Jonah. So take your Bible and join me in the OT book of Jonah. In fact .. not only this morning .. but for the next several Sunday mornings .. from the book of Jonah .. we’re going to be thinking under the heading: LIFE ON THE RUN.

Now when most people think about the book of Jonah .. what is the first thing that comes to mind? A big fish! But did you know that there are only 3 verses in these 4 chapters that deal with a big fish.

Jonah’s story is not primarily about a big fish .. it’s about his struggles .. his disobedience to God’s Word .. his prayer life. It’s about the story of a man whom God gave a second chance too!

And this morning .. if you need a second chance from God .. then this book is for you! And today if you don’t need a second chance from God … this book is for you too because the odds are .. before this week is over .. you too will need a second chance from God!

Now before we begin reading in chapter 1 … whenever you mention the story of Jonah .. there seems to always be a cynic that raises the question: do you believe the story of Jonah is literal or figurative? Is it Fact of Fiction?

Well .. let me ask you a question. Do you believe Jesus was literally raised from the grave or figuratively raised from the grave? Is the resurrection of Jesus fact or fiction?

You say, “What does the resurrection of Jesus have to do with Jonah? Help me to connect the dots.” All right .. I will do just that. If you have trouble believing what happened to Jonah .. then you’re going to have trouble believing what happened to Jesus!

Let me show you what I mean. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 12.40-41, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”

That’s why I believe in a literal Jonah who was swallowed by a literal fish that was swimming in some literal water … because Jesus did! In fact .. if what happened to Jonah WASN’T literal .. then what happened to Jesus WASN’T literal! We’re talking about a real man who had real parents who points us to a real Jesus and to a real God who gives real people like us a second chance!

Now look with me to Jonah 1 as we find this man …


Jonah 1.1-3

“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son a Amittai (un mit igh), saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.’ 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.”

So what is your story today? Are you .. like Jonah .. running in the wrong direction? Now for Jonah .. it was Nineveh. What’s your Nineveh today? Perhaps you’re running from reconciliation. You’ve said something to offend somebody. You’ve slandered somebody. There’s not that sweet fellowship that you once enjoyed. And for you .. your Nineveh is reconciliation and like Jonah .. you’re running in the wrong direction!

Your Nineveh may not be reconciliation .. it may be repentance. You’re caught up in a sin that is driving a wedge between you and God and that wedge is just getting deeper and deeper by the day because of that sin that’s in your life. And like Jonah .. you’re running in the wrong direction!

Rather than headed toward Nineveh in obedience to God’s word and will .. you’re headed to Tarshish in disobedience to God’s word and will! Which direction are you headed? Nineveh or Tarshish? Obedience or disobedience?

That’s what chapter 1 is all about! And you’re going to find yourself in one of these four chapters! You may find yourself living in CHAPT ER 1: Running from God. Or you may find yourself living in CHAPTER TWO: Running to God. Some of you may find yourself living in CHAPTER THREE: Running with God. And some of you will find yourself living in CHAPTER 4: Running ahead of God.

And you didn’t think the book of Jonah was a relevant and practical book! You’re either running from God .. running to God .. running with God .. or running ahead of God!

Well .. in chapter 1 … we find this prophet … like some of you .. running in the wrong direction. Let’s see what Jonah’s story meant then .. what it means today and what it means for us personally.

Now let’s see what happened:


Verse 1, “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah ..” Now the word that Jonah received from the Lord ….

–was a personal word.

Now remember … Jonah was a real man who lived in a real place and like today .. God called him to a task. God had a personal word to say to His servant.

Now we’re not told how the word of the LORD came to Jonah. Perhaps God spoke audibly as He did with Abraham. Perhaps God gave him a vision as He did with Peter. Or perhaps God spoke to him in a dream like he did with Joseph. Or perhaps God simply made an impression on his heart.

I don’t know how God spoke to him .. but I do know this: “that the word of the LORD came to Jonah.” Somebody says, “Pastor, does God speak to you like that?” He does! God speaks personally and clearly to me and God speaks clearly to you!

You say, “I never hear God speaking to me.” Well .. I’m afraid that it’s not that God isn’t speaking to you .. you’re not listening to what He’s saying! Psalm 16.11, “God makes known to us the path of life, and in His presence is fullness of joy.”

You can know that God still speaks a personal word to us! How? He speaks to us through the Scriptures! He speaks to us through His Spirit! He speaks to us through His Saints!

And to think that all mighty God speaks to us personally! God has something to say to us .. personally! Yes .. God knows your name! He knows where you live … so stop feeling sorry for yourself! Quit moping around looking like you’re sucking on lemons. God cares about you! God knows all about you and He STILL loves you!

Yes … it was a personal word. But notice in verse 2 that not only was it a personal word …

-it was a pointed word.

Verse 2, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city …” Do you sense the urgency in those words? “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city ..” And great it was! Nineveh was located just off of the Tigris River in modern day Iraq! It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Historians tells us that the city was surrounded by walls that were 100 feet high.

And inside those walls were a people of great wickedness and the Israelites knew all about it. They were known for being cruel and heartless. They would often times bury their enemies alive .. sometimes they would skin them alive and leave them for dead! Just the mention of their name brought out the passions of the Israelites. And how they longed to see God wipe them off the map!

In fact .. the main reason Jonah ran was that he knew that if they heard the gospel that they would repent and that God would forgive them. And rather than forgive them .. he wanted God to destroy them! 4.2, “So he prayed to the LORD, and said, ‘Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.”

Yes .. it was a personal word and a pointed word. It was also a very purposeful word. And now God instructs His prophet to go THERE .. to the wicked and godless city of Nineveh to preach the gospel! It was the last place on earth Jonah wanted to go! Verse 2, “cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” What an assignment! Going to Nineveh to preach to gospel would be like going fishing in an aquarium! At Nineveh … the entire city was a prospect for Jesus! So the stage was set! God had selected His man to go preach the gospel to a city whose citizens were on their way to Hell … with the hope that those living in the dark would step into the light of Christ.



And don’t think that Jonah was simply running from the will of God .. he was running from the presence of God. In fact .. twice in verse 3 we read, “from the presence of the LORD .. from the presence of the LORD.”

Now as he ran from the presence of God .. I want you to notice with me a few things you need to know .. especially for you who are running from God today!

–the direction of his steps.

Verse 3, “ … 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.”

What direction were his steps as he began running from God? D O W N! “He went DOWN to Joppa …. and went DOWN into it ...” Do you see it? He went down to Joppa .. he went down into the boat. Later we’re going to read that he went DOWN into the belly of the fish. Jonah’s life was spiraling down .. down .. down.

Put it down: whenever you run from God ..your direction is down .. down .. down! Do you remember what happened to King David? He started going down when he caught a glimpse of Bathsheba taking a bath. He went down a little further when he called for her. He went down still a little further into adultery. He went down a little further when he tried to cover his sin. He just kept going down .. down …down.

Learn this: you will never go up while you’re living in rebellion against God! That’s why I believe that God has placed such a burden on my life about the condition of the average church and our need for revival! Our churches will never go up in baptisms .. go up in membership .. go up in finances .. go up in prayer .. go up in unity as long as the membership and staff and pastors are living in rebellion against God! We’ll just continue seeing our churches going down in baptisms .. down in attendance .. down in effective ministry. That’s why we must continue blowing the trumpet and waving the banner of revival! It’s our only hope!

Down is always the direction when there is rebellion against God! That’s true in our personal life .. our married life .. our parental life and our church life!

So .. there was the direction of his steps.

-the destination of his ship.

Verse 3, “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” By the way .. whenever you run from God … the Devil will make sure that there is a ship for you to get on!

Why Tarshish? I’ll can tell you why! Because Tarshish was as far away as any place on earth in that day! Most believe that Tarshish was in Spain .. over 2000 miles from Joppa!

Tarshish was as far West as you could go and Nineveh was in his backyard just North East of Joppa or modern day Tel Aviv. When you run from God … you always go as far as you can go! When you set sail for Tarshish .. you go without God’s blessing!

Not only was there the direction of his steps and the destination of his ship … there was

-the desperation of his soul.

Verse 3, “ .. so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” His soul was so desperate to run from God .. he was willing to pay the fare .. that is .. the price for a ticket to get on board!

Every time you run in the wrong direction .. it’s going to cost you! There is a price to pay! In fact .. the rest of the book of Jonah shows us just how much running from God cost.

Have you ever stopped to consider the price you’re paying for running from God? I’ve known some men who left their families who have paid a high price. I’ve known some people hooked on drugs or alcohol who are now paying the price for having paid the fare! Our prisons are full of people who are running from God who have paid the fare.

When you run from the presence of God .. it will always cost you! Ask the prostitute who is 40 years old and looks like she’s 60. Ask the man who God called into full-time ministry who instead set sail for Tarshish. Ask the teenager girl who decided to pay the fare and get an abortion and today lives with regret and grief and guilt and depression. There’s a high price to pay for running from God.

I see people everyday that are paying the fare because they are running from God! Galatians 6.7, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” The most expensive thing you can do is to run from God. But how wonderful to know that Jesus Christ paid our fare on the cross .. He died so that we might live.

It’s time you stop running from God and enjoy the fellowship and blessing He longs to give you!