Whatever You Do, Don’t Run (Jonah 1:4–16)

 

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“But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.” —Jonah 1:5 (ESV)

 

When dealing with Yahweh, whatever you do, don’t run! Additionally, it’s helpful to know that you’re always dealing with Yahweh. Because God is omnipresent, when you run from Him you can’t but run into Him, and you’ll always find that the side of God you run into is worse for you than the side you are running from.

Do not flee the One who can hurl “great winds.” We think it incredible when a pitcher can hurl a one hundred plus mile-per-hour fastball, and it is, but we can get our fingers on that. The average person can begin to approach that in measure. God grips what we cannot, the wind, in quantities beyond our comprehension, and hurls it so that the sea foams.

Man needs a bulky blower with some power supply to send bits of dust and grass off his driveway. God needs nothing. He hurls the wind simply by wiling it and He can do so with laser precision.

Know this, God does not simply watch the storm and it is a euphemism to say that He allows  storms. He hurls the wind. The psalmist sings, “He commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea,” (Psalm 107:24 ESV). Yahweh is the hurler of great winds and the lifter of waves. Weather patterns are not randomized nor do they run according to some complex algorithm that God programmed into the laws of nature. God didn’t design an automated smart-earth. He operates everything manually.

God doesn’t pitch wild. He can throw full force, straight down the pipe, without tiring. He can smack a giant between the eyes with a stone and He can rock a ship with the wind. This storm smack the glove—a little ship headed for Tarshsish.

If you are so foolish as to flee God, and we all are, don’t think you’re getting away with it because you make it fifty miles. God might just want to demonstrate how far and hard He can throw. God throws comets through the cosmos. He can hit you. He can throw over any distance without losing velocity because every pitch is a short pitch. He can throw such that the wind gains velocity, for He is there carrying the storm along its trajectory at every point.

The scariest thing about running from God is how far He might let you run. Don’t presume He will hurl wind and lift waves to bring you into obedience. He might let you sail off the edge of the world and into hell below. You might be in Israel and not be of Israel. You may grow in the church but prove to be nothing more than a weed to be plucked and thrown into the fire. But if you are His, He will keep you by His sovereign power. Either way, it is best not to test Him. When dealing with Yahweh, whatever you do, don’t run.

Reading Providence (Ruth 2)

“So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.” —Ruth 2:3 (ESV)

Things happen, but things never just happen. Can you picture the wry smile of the author as he pens this line? Can you see the Spirit’s joy as he moves the human author as his pen? Can you see God’s smile as he etches these events in history?

It is not as though God does the big stuff like famine and harvest and leaves the dust to settle where it will. It isn’t as though God sits in the comfort of the air conditioned cab of his tractor, mindful of acres of work but oblivious to the ant mound he just plowed over. God isn’t so big that he passes over the details. He is so big no detail is passed over.

We must look at all reality through these eyes. This was indeed a divine moment—as every moment is. We mustn’t presume, but we must believe in providence. Presumption occurs when we think we can read providence and that it is a story about us. “It was a divine moment—a God-thing. I saved thousands of dollars.” Funny how me-centered your God-thing is?

John Flavel said that “the providence of God is like Hebrew words—it can be read only backwards.” The author wrote this story from the vantage point of the Davidic covenant. We read it from the vantage point of the new covenant. Don’t presume to be able to read the events of your life with the same kind of clarity.

Nonetheless, believe that there is a God ordering all events, some more significant, others less so, but all ordered for His purpose without one ant marching out of place. Providence isn’t meant to be understood but believed. Our confidence and joy in God’s sovereign goodness flow not from our understanding the details God’s plan, but knowing a God of all understanding has a plan to exalt the King of His people.

The Winning Hand (Exodus 14)

Let’s look at a lot of Scripture.

And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly.” —Exodus 14:8 (ESV)

“Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.” —Exodus 14:16 (ESV)

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.’ ” — Exodus 14:26 (ESV)

“So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the LORD threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea.” —Exodus 14:27 (ESV)

“Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.” —Exodus 14:30 (ESV)

“Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.” —Exodus 14:31 (ESV)

The same Hebrew word appears in all six of these verses from chapter fourteen of Exodus. Can you identify it?

Having problems? Maybe these two alternate translations for the first verse and the last verse will help.

“And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.” —Exodus 14:8 (KJV)

“And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” —Exodus 14:31 (NIV)

If you answered “hand,” give yourself a hand.

Israel leaves with a high hand. This gesture can mean defiance and insult (Numbers 15:30), or power and triumph (Micah 5:9). But more important that what is who. Whose hand? Israel went out with a high hand, but was it her hand?

More Scriptures:

“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.” —Exodus 3:19 (ESV)

“Then Moses said to the people, ‘Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place.’ ” —Exodus 13:3 (ESV)

I believe the mighty hand Israel is going out by is Yahweh’s.

The middle passages where “hand” is clearly translated all deal with Moses’ hand save one. Moses’ hand holds a staff (Exodus 14:6). That staff represents God’s power, or, God’s hand. When Moses strikes the Nile with the staff, it is God striking the Nile with the staff (cf. Exodus 7:17, 25).

One more hand is mentioned, and that is the hand of the Egyptians. God delivers Israel from the hand of the Egyptians by a mighty hand.

I don’t care how well you believe the deck is stacked in your favor, you can’t beat Yahweh’s hand. I don’t care how badly you may think the cards are stacked against you, Yahweh’s hand cannot be beaten.

The hand of the Lord is to be feared, and those who fear it are to trust it.

More than Good Directions (Exodus 13:17–22)

God doesn’t defeat the enemies of His people and redeem them, only to wave goodbye from the steps of His embassy in the defeated nation, giving them good directions to make it the rest of the way home on their own. The God who comes down to His people goes with them.

Modern evangelicals are not allergic to all doctrine. There’re some doctrines they’re fond of. One of them is guidance. Unfortunately, we’re severely misguided concerning guidance. Culpably, we are misguided because we don’t like where Biblical guidance goes.

Where does God lead His people? He leads them to a mountain, and then to the promised land. He leads them to a mountain where they receive His law, that they might know how they are to live in that land unto Him. God leads His people into holiness and He leads them home. Holiness is the path home, for home is a place of holiness.

A young man struggling with pornography asks what God’s will is for his life. What he want’s to know is where to go to school, what career to pursue, and who to marry. He want’s to know how to live in a sweet spot so that he can live Disney ever after. Many evangelicals have tried to baptize prosperity theology and make it clean. Such a pursuit of God’s will is nothing but idolatry. What is God’s will for the young man? Stop looking at pornography. Be holy.

We want to be Christian Jedi Knights, in touch with the Spirit, traversing a mine field of danger with supernatural knowledge. We think we’re guided by the Spirit when we miss a traffic accident. True enough. But you were also guided by the sovereign God when you had a traffic accident. God’s guidance isn’t something passive, but active. He is guiding. He faithfully guides His redeemed people into holiness until they come all the way home.

God guides His people into Egypt where they’re oppressed. He guides Moses back, and heavier loads are laid on them. He delivers them and lead them south away from the promised land. He leads them by the Sea where there is no retreat. He leads them in the wilderness. And He leads them home. God’s guidance comes with cloud and fire. It is omnisciently wise and gloriously peculiar. It is an unfailing, active, consistent guidance. It comes not at a distance, nor quietly. It is near and clear.

If your notion of divine guidance causes you more anxiety than peace, you’re doing it wrong. As is often the case, many sing their theology better than they confess it:

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
—John Newton

On Parenthetical Statements and Swallowing Big Pills (Exodus 11:1–10)

Words (parenthesis) more words.

Parenthetical statements explain and clarify. Exodus 11:1–10 has an opening parenthetical statement (vv. 1–3) and a closing one (vv. 9–10). These two parenthetical statements hug the declaration of the tenth wonder as tightly as, well, parenthesis.

Following the ninth plague of darkness, Pharaoh calls for Moses and commands Israel to leave, but without their livestock. No deal. Pharaoh erupts and tells Moses to be heedful not to see him again lest he die. Moses retorts they indeed won’t see one another. What follows explains why Moses could say this with confidence. The parenthetical statement in vv. 1-3 takes us back before Moses appeared in Pharaoh’s court.

The LORD said to Moses, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.

End the first parenthesis. Resume closing salvo against  Pharaoh. Moses declares the last of the wonders before Pharaoh (Exodus 11:8–9). Moses knew the end game from the beginning (Exodus 4:21–23). He knew multiple wonders were God’s want-to, not His have-to, and that the death of the firstborn would be the finale. Now he’s learned that God wishes to round things out at ten. God’s judgment is no mindless rage, but poetic justice. The emphasis, the stress, the accent of God’s poetry weighs on this, His glory.

The closing parenthesis (11:9–10) are just that, half, or the closing of a parenthesis. The first half came in 7:3–4 just before the first sign was done.

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.

Exodus 7:3–4 and 11:9–10 together form what Bible scholars call an inclusio. Think of them as a kind of verbal parenthesis, using similar language to mark off a large section. Note the similarity of the closing half to the opening.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.

I have no fear of being as repetitive as the Bible. Medicine often is repetitive. We need radical healing in our souls. The total sovereignty of God is a big pill to swallow and we need to swallow the whole thing—daily. This is not a drug with a score down the middle so that you can cut it in half. The Bible isn’t perforated such that you can take a half-sovereign and pretend you’ve ingested the a whole. So again, and without trepidation, these multiple wonders are not a have-to because of Pharaoh’s hardness, Pharaoh is hard because multiple wonders are God’s want-to. In redemption God is totally sovereign. This sovereignty expresses both God’s justice and His grace without compromising either. By these mighty acts God makes distinction (Exodus 11:7). In the tenth wonder God will reveal how He can make this distinction. Both Israel and Egypt deserve this tenth wonder, but for His people, He provides a sacrifice. Distinction by sacrifice; this is the gospel of the sovereign Lord.

The Penning Pastor: Strong Sovereignty for Weak Evangelists

The Divine Sovereignty is the best thought we can retreat to for composing and strengthening our minds under the difficulties, discouragements, and disappointments which attend the publication of the Gospel. —John Newton, Works

Thus Says Yahweh (Exodus 5:1–23)

“Thus says Yahweh…,” so chapter six of Exodus begins; by the end, everyone doubts this. There are several conversations in chapter 6: Moses and Aaron speak to Pharaoh (vv. 1–5), Pharaoh speaks to the taskmasters and foremen (vv. 6–9), the taskmasters and foremen speak to Israel (vv. 10–14), the foremen speak to Pharaoh (vv. 15–18), the foremen speak to Moses and Aaron (vv. 19–21), Moses speaks to Yahweh (vv. 22–23). Everyone is talking, no one is listening—to God. Yahweh speaks, men ignore; well, at least, they try. By the end of the book, no one will doubt Yahweh has spoken; well, at least for a while.

Pharaoh’s refusal cannot silence Yahweh’s word’s of judgment. Israel’s grumbling cannot hush Yahweh’s words of grace. Thus says Yahweh. YHWH has spoken. It will be done. “Who is Yahweh?” Pharaoh asks. He will receive an education. Israel has not listened, but God still hears His prophet intercede for His people. He hears Moses’ prayers (Exodus 5:22–6:1ff), He hears His people’s groaning (Exodus 6:5). Pharaoh has not listened to Yahweh, nor does he hear the Hebrew’s cries (Exodus 5:15–19), but God has spoken and God listens.

“Thus says Yahweh,” those words will not fall flat. They may fall as quiet snowflake, but it is the snowflake that starts the avalanche. Yahweh’s words don’t dissipate, they swell. His voice does’t just carry, it’s self-amplifying. They are words so loud they will make the hearing deaf and the deaf hearing.

Yahweh has spoken words of judgement and grace. There’s a lot of talk, and little listening. Yahweh speaks, men ignore, or so they try. By the end of the book, when the author has finished speaking the tale of this age, when His words have swelled to the point that a new heaven and a new earth are on the verge of being, no one will doubt “thus says Yahweh.” On that day, no one will doubt the words of the One whose word holds them together. If He didn’t speak they would not be; recognizing this, all heads will be bowed, with mouths silent and ears attentive, to His words of judgment and grace. Thus says Yahweh.

Unless YHWH Is YHWH (Exodus 4:18–31)

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Pharaoh hardened his heart.

Pharaoh’s heart was hard.

Which one is it? Yes. Perhaps you’d like to pretend that these things were happening at different times and that it all started with Pharaoh hardening his own heart; that God only steps in to further harden that which is already irreparably hard. Make God’s hardening pointless—that’ll solve our problems? Nope. Can’t do that. These are synonymous. These are all happening at the same time; and over them all, God is sovereign. God declares that this is His intention from the beginning (Exodus 3:19, 20; 4:21) , and He tells Pharaoh why, “For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:15–16).” YHWH could have made quick work of Pharaoh, but that won’t do. God want’s wonder upon wonder to fall on Pharaoh so that His renown might echo through the earth.

How’s that for a truth to make palatable? More sugar please? This makes no sense, unless YHWH is YHWH. Own that, and you’ll bow. Jonathan Edwards got this (by got, I mean received; and by received, I mean by grace).

He hath mercy on some, and hardeneth others. When God is here spoken of as hardening some of the children of men, it is not to be understood that God by any positive efficiency hardens any man’s heart. There is no positive act in God, as though he put forth any power to harden the heart. To suppose any such thing would be to make God the immediate author of sin. God is said to harden men in two ways: by withholding the powerful influences of his Spirit, without which their hearts will remain hardened, and grow harder and harder; in this sense he hardens them, as he leaves them to hardness. And again, by ordering those things in his providence which, through the abuse of their corruption, become the occasion of their hardening. Thus God sends his word and ordinances to men which, by their abuse, prove an occasion of their hardening.

There it is. YHWH is YHWH. God is God. Because of the curse, for soil to grow hard and wild, nothing need be done but let it alone. So it is with man’s heart. So it is because of man’s heart. Dirt is a parable (Matthew 13:1–7). Soil isn’t self-softening. The Farmer doesn’t just spread the good seed, He preps the soil. We’re rocks. God restrains. If He did not, we would plunge into darkness. Down. Down. Down. This is our sinful trajectory. We are totally depraved. Sure, we’re not as wicked as we could be, but we are totally, altogether wicked. None does good. Any “civil virtue” we may exhibit is really “pretty idolatry.” In unbeliever’s every “good” act, something is being worshipped, and it ain’t Jesus, or they wouldn’t be unbelievers. Wickedness is in every crevice of our being: will, affections, desires, thoughts, inclinations, et cetera. We’re not a sin blackout, but every part is shaded in. We’re not naturally good. We’re subdued, limited, restrained, and most importantly, graced. Should God let the rocks fall, it would be nothing but an act of justice; a holy, righteous judgment on every son of Adam.

YHWH is YHWH. This is His prerogative. “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy (Exodus 33:19).” “The LORD,” meaning YWHW, and YWHW, in part meaning, “I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Some receive mercy. Some receive justice. No one receives injustice. Behind all of this: YWHW. “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:19–23).” Justice justly falls on some to magnify the graciousness of grace. “But we all deserve grace!” Isn’t that a contradiction? Further, if we’re not in hell, we’re all experiencing some degree of grace (common, non-salvific grace, but grace nonetheless) and spurning it, thus proving, we don’t at all, all deserve grace.

Moses is a sinner. Praise God, Moses, by the Spirit, paints Moses as Moses was. In chapters two through six Moses beats everyone else to the punch and roasts himself. God is the hero. Pharaoh sins again and again and finds justice. Moses, along with Israel, sins again and again, and finds grace. The only thing that makes the difference, is YHWH, the covenant God of unfailing love for His elect people. YHWH is YHWH. Realize this, and you don’t choke on the thought of sovereign justice; you get choked up thinking about sovereign grace.

Satan: God’s Good Farmer (Exodus 1:1–22)

God was faithful to His covenant; in Egypt He made of Jacob a great nation (Genesis 46:3–4), and, in Egypt, they were afflicted (Genesis 15:13–14). Affliction and multiplication were both His brushstrokes. He steps back from the canvass saying, “Very good!” God’s blessing brought persecution; both were part of His plan.

The multiplication led to the oppression, but that isn’t what Moses says in v. 12. He doesn’t say the more they multiplied the more they were oppressed, but, the more they were oppressed the more they multiplied. The serpent tries to stomp out the seed but his stomping is God’s sowing. The people of God are like cells that when you cut them they don’t die, they multiply. God writes blessing bigger than the serpent’s eraser. He also puts a pencil lead into Satan’s eraser. The greater his rage, the more marks there are. The more marks there are, the greater his rage. Repeat cycle. God turns the serpent’s eraser into a pencil to tell His tale.

It always works this way. When the serpent bit the heel of the Seed of the woman, the Seed did die, but He sprouted from the ground the Firstfruits of the harvest. When death tried to kill Life, Life wasn’t extinguished, it was multiplied.

The serpent tries to stomp the seed of Abraham plural. He only makes it more plural. Cells are split, the body of Christ grows. The church caught on quickly. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” says Tertullian. Satan still rages, meaning, he still writes—God’s story. In 1920 the church in China comprised an estimated 2.3 million souls. Now, some say conservatively, thanks to hostile communism, there are 100 million. One could say that the persecution was a brutal as the growth was exponential, but the persecution came first. The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied. As punishment for his sin against man, God is making Satan write Exodus 1:12 on the board a trillion times, and then, hell to follow.

God has not forgotten His covenant. He is multiplying His people still. He is using the serpent still. Don’t get comfortable in this world, find peace in God’s covenant. We’re in Egypt. God is multiplying, but we’re not home yet. The greater Moses has come, and is sure to return.

Handling Toxic Waste Bare Handed Without Effect

Our God is so sovereign and so good, He can use evil in a holy way:

Sin is an evil, yet the futurition [future existence] of sin, or that sin should be future, is not an evil thing. Evil is an evil thing, and yet it may be a good thing that evil should be in the world. There is certainly a difference between the thing itself existing, and its being an evil thing that ever it came into existence. As for instance, it might be an evil thing to crucify Christ, but yet it was a good thing that the crucifying of Christ came to pass. As men’s act, it was evil, but as God ordered it, it was good. Who will deny but that it may be so, that evil’s coming to pass may be an occasion of greater good than it is an evil, and so of there being more good in the whole, than if that evil had not come to pass? And if so, then it is a good thing that that evil comes to pass. When we say the thing is an evil thing in itself, then we mean that it is evil, considering it only within its own bounds. But when we say that it is a good thing that ever it came to pass, then we consider the thing as a thing among events, or as one thing belonging to the series of events, and as related to the rest of the series. —Jonathan Edwards, Remarks on Important Theological Controversies