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    by Gino Geraci

Commentary on Jonah 1:3
Date Posted: October 11, 2007

But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.. .

Was it really possible for Jonah to flee from the presence of the Lord? Psalm 139:7-10 reads, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, 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.”

It is likely that Jonah was closely acquainted with this Psalm. As a prophet, he was familiar with the writings of Moses and David, and David had been dead for at least 200 years. Do you know what Jonah likely did? For a moment he entertained the idea that maybe the Bible wasn’t true. Maybe he could run away from God.

Tarshish represents the place that you think you can go to escape the will of God for your life. We each have a place like that. If Nineveh is the capitol of faithfulness and obedience to where God wants you, and Tarshish is the place of rebellion and disobedience, then Tarshish represents the place to hide out until God no longer makes a claim on your life. Have you ever done that? Have you ever been in a place where in disobedience you think, I’m just going to hold up in this particular place and maybe God will forget what He asked me to do in relationship to that person or thing. Maybe if I run away from it, it will all go away.

When you run from God, you may feel that you’re through with God, but the truth of the matter is, God is not through with you. God’s fellowship and relationship with you isn’t as dependent on you as you might think. His plan and purpose for you can transcend your selfishness and rebellion in order to accomplish His will and purpose for your life.

It’s possible to run from God without ever leaving your geographical circumstances. Tarshish can be just a far distant place inside the surface of your soul that you run and hide in. In fact, it’s possible to go to church and read your Bible and on the outside look like you’re a fine upstanding Christian, and still be running from God. At times, Tarshish and Nineveh can be confused. In fact, it’s possible to glorify your family, your job, and even your ministry above your relationship with the Lord.

You can also run away from God by filling your life with hobbies, activities, events, education, and relationships. You can run from God by squeezing every activity, other than the most important activity – time for God – into your schedule. Some of us run in every direction imaginable, but not by the direction of God. Don’t misunderstand me; hobbies, activities, and relationships are not evil in and of themselves. However, we become evil when we sinfully substitute them and use them as an excuse not to do what God has called us to do.

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

Jonah went down to Joppa. Many Bible commentators have expressed the idea that when you are running away from God, you are never going up; you are always going down.

Jonah found a ship going to Tarshish, which was the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. From where Jonah was, it was north and east. Imagine if God told you to go to Hollywood, and instead you went to New York. Tarshish was in exactly the opposite direction of Nineveh. It was a city that was right near what was known as the Gates of Gibraltar, or the Pillars of Hercules. North Africa was on one side, and on the other side would have been the last outpost between Spain and Portugal. It would have taken a year to get there by boat, with all of the stops along the way. In the ancient world, Tarshish was literally the end of the earth. Jonah tried to get as far away as he possibly could from the place God asked him to go.

Nineveh and Tarshish become a symbol, a line of demarcation. They aren’t simply a place God has asked you to go versus a place you can escape to; they’re the place of obedience or the place of disobedience.

Make note of the fact that Jonah paid the fare. This is significant because what you’ll discover in your life is that when you make a choice to disobey, turn, and run from God, you will pay the fare, my friend. The devil may say, “I’ll pick up the tab,” but I don’t think so. I know this, because later on, when Jonah was on the boat, and he told the sailors to toss him overboard, nothing in the text indicates that he got his money back, even though he only made it half way to Tarshish. Trust me, when you run from God, you will pay the fare. In contrast, when you embark on a course of obedience to God, He pays.

There’s another example of this in the Bible. In the book of Genesis, Moses’ mother and father weren’t supposed to have babies because the Pharaoh was killing them all. They knew their baby was special, so when they couldn’t keep the baby quiet, and the baby’s presence was sure to become known, Moses’ mother built a basket of reeds and covered it with pitch. She placed Moses in the basket and sent it down the river. Her daughter Miriam followed the basket to the place where Pharaoh’s sister was. You may recall that when Pharaoh’s sister took the baby from the basket, his sister asked, “Is there anything I can serve you with?” and Pharaoh’s sister said, “Yes. Do you know anyone who can nurse the baby? I’ll pay her to do it.” Can you believe it? Not only do you not pay, but God is actually willing to supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory if you will simply embark on a course of obedience.

© 2007 by Gino Geraci

(Jonah 1:3).
(Jonah 1:3 NKJV).

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Biography Information:
Gino Geraci is the founding Pastor of Calvary South Denver.

He has served as a police chaplain for several police departments and currently serves as a Police Chaplain for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department. Gino has provided emergency service support in many national tragedies. He was a first responder at Columbine High School, Ground Zero in New York, and Platte Canyon High School.

Gino has appeared on scores of national and local radio programs as a guest, including television appearances with Lee Stroebel's Faith Under Fire. He currently hosts a daily radio program with Salem Media in Denver, Colorado area.

Gino is a much sought after conference speaker. He has conducted leadership conferences, Bible conferences, and emergency service support conferences with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritans' Purse, Gospel for Asia in India and Sri Lanka, the Bible League in Africa, Food For The Poor in Jamaica, Mike McIntosh Crusades in Mexico, Somebody Loves You Bible Conferences with Raul Ries in Chile, Columbia and Peru, and pastor's conferences in much of the continental United States.

Gino is currently the pastor of Calvary South Denver where he continues to minister, preach, teach, and serve.
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