My dog, Clair, loves to chew on things. If she doesn't have enough toys she will start looking in my office trash can for empty water bottles. The water bottles happen to be one of her favorite things to chew and I might add one of the most annoying because of the crinkly noise the plastic makes as she mauls it...annoying to me and anyone else who happens to be in the same room when she is attacking a plastic water bottle...but I think the noise is, for her, a reward for a bottle well chewed!
Every once in awhile Clair will find something, as do most young dogs not quite out of the puppy stage, that she should not be chewing on. Usually, when she has something in her mouth, I will tell her to show it to me. At that point she will hunch down over the object as she drops it between her two front paws, ready to snatch it up quickly in case I attempt to take it from her. Interestingly enough she rarely runs at this point and I am able to retrieve whatever it is she has chosen to turn into a chew toy.
This morning as I was sitting in my office reading, I noticed that I had not heard any noise from her in awhile so I decided to go find her and see what she was up to...you know the rule...if they are too quiet, they must be into something; same rule that we think of with children. I know...dogs are definitely not children but, strangely enough, there are times when I think Clair has striking similarities to a toddler. Anyway, as I went to check it out I found her on my bed with something in her mouth. I asked her to show me what she had and she did her usual quick drop between her paws, but then immediately grabbed it back up and ran with it in her mouth, as she leapt off the bed, out the door, and into the other room as fast as she could go. It was a Halls cough drop. She must have loved what she had and decided that this time she was going to get what she wanted and the best way to do that was to leave my presence.
Suddenly, a thought hit me! Isn’t this what I do…what we all do...at times? When we know we are coveting something we shouldn’t have…when we are craving after things that are not in God’s will for us...we run from God. We get far away from His presence so that we can feel good about this new thing, or selfish choice, and not feel His displeasure.
Jonah did this too. Remember him, the guy who spent three days in the belly of a big fish because he chose to run from God instead of doing what He knew God wanted of Him? I remember doing an in depth study, an inductive study, on the book of Jonah and even though I had read that story many times before...new truths just jumped out at me. Not only did Jonah run, but he ran in the opposite direction from where God had wanted him to go. He was willfully disobeying God. I had written in my notes, "I can't imagine running from God...but I guess not doing what He clearly tells me to do in His word is the same as running from God." When Job was still on the ship and trouble came, he knew the trouble had come to them because he was running away from God... yet he didn't choose at that point to run back to God. Instead, he chose to be thrown overboard...at which time the great big fish swallowed him. WOW! Talk about stubbornly going your own way! Now I would think at this point he would have immediately called out to God, saying I will go and do whatever you say...but no, he stayed in the belly of that fish for three days, and three nights!!! Yuck and gross!! Can you imagine? Yet, how many times do we choose to wallow in our own self-pity because of the circumstances that our own selfish choices have brought about in our lives. How long before we repent and turn back to God?
The most amazing thing about Jonah's story is that when he finally cried out to God...as he was entrenched in bile, seaweed wrapped around his head, growing faint almost to the point of death...he looked toward the LORD's Temple and acknowledged that salvation comes from the LORD...God heard him! God heard his prayers and rescued Jonah from the pit of despair!! Not only did God hear him but He still allowed Jonah to be His instrument, His prophet. When Jonah ran from God's presence, he was willfully disobeying God; obedience moved him back into God's presence.
Time and time again through the Bible, we see God's people turn away from Him as they choose to go their own way, leading them away from the presence of God; first in the Garden of Eden, then through the sacrifices, the Tabernacle, and the Temple.
Finally, God sends prophets to instruct and warn His people, that even though the Temple will be destroyed, there is One who is coming ,who will set all things right...the Messiah. One of the first names given to this Messiah was Emmanuel, God with us!! Jesus came, God in the flesh, to dwell among us and to offer Himself as the only perfect and acceptable sacrifice for our sins. His death, burial and resurrection give us a hope and a future and provide a way for us back into relationship with God, the Father.
When he ascended to Heaven He didn't leave us to continue on in this harsh, sin ridden world alone. We now have the Holy Spirit...His presence in our lives! Time and time again, we see God establishing His presence among His people. His love never fails...even when we do! The book of Jonah and all of God's Word teaches us that compassion and grace and His active presence in our lives are not given based on what we deserve, but they are based on our responsive steps in the right direction. I am amazed and in awe of how loving and forgiving God is to us all!!
Aren't you glad that we have the stories of the lives of those who have gone before us written in the Word of God that show us how much God loves us and to what great lengths He will go to make sure we are in a right relationship with Him!! So... as the saying goes, "if you don't feel close to God...guess who moved." I, for one, want so very much to be moving in the right direction...in obedience towards my heavenly Father!!
I am so thankful that He gives me these glimpses from time to time, these "sacred echoes", as Margaret Feinberg calls them...as reminders of God's desire for me and my desire for God. Sometimes the glimpses come from a deeper reading of His Word...and sometimes...well sometimes they come in the form of a chocolate brown lab, named Clair.