The Pursuit of God
The Pursuit of God
“While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.”
Many critics of the bible point to Jonah as an example of a fabricated story. They point to science and the impossibility of a person living for three days in the belly of a whale. The problem is not their science and their understanding of marine biology. The problem is their failure to understand God. The God who created the universe and natural law is a God who has both the power and authority to supersede natural law to accomplish his purpose. The issue is not the size of the whale; the problem is the size of God. Jonah 1:17 begins by stating that the Lord appointed a great fish. The word “appointed,” which refers to something or someone selected for a specific purpose, is used four times in this book (the fish, the gourd, the worm, and the hot wind), pointing to God's complete control over the events that were transpiring. This was not a case of a hungry fish looking for a meal. This is a case of God orchestrating the events of nature to achieve his purpose. Jesus himself recognized the historical reality and the miraculous events of Jonah being in the whale for three days when he used it as an analogy for the three days he would be in the tomb.
We can only imagine the utter misery Jonah experienced while engulfed in the belly of a whale. We get hints of his distress in his prayer. He compares his circumstances to that of Hell itself. In verse 5, we can easily picture his misery as he sits in the darkness with the water in the belly of the whale splashing upon him and the seaweed about him. For Jonah, death was tolerable, but he could not deal with the complete misery he felt as he sat in the darkness of the whale. Death would have been an escape. His pain seemed unending. Yet, amid the darkness of his torment, his spiritual light was rekindled. Jonah realized that God’s purpose cannot be thwarted and that one cannot flee from the presence of a God who is present in all corners of the universe. Not only did he begin to understand the power of God, but he also began to realize the grace of God. God is the relentless pursuer who continues to pursue those who attempt to run from him.
In his poem “The Hound of Heaven,” Francis Thompson captures the pursuit of God for the one seeking to flee him.
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 midst of tears,
I hid from him and under running laughter. …
But with unhurrying chase
and unperturbed pace,
deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following Feet,
No matter how much we may try to flee from God, he relentlessly pursues us to give us the opportunity to find him. God pursues with his grace even as we seek to escape his presence. Then when we find that we are at the end of our rope and robbed of any more ability to find joy and salvation, we turn and discover that He has been there all along, ready to respond when we pray to Him.