Institutional First Baptist Church Weekly Sermon
Delivered By
Dr. E. G. Sherman, Jr
Delivered On
September 13, 2015 at 10:45 AM
Subject
Running in the Right Direction
Description
Dr. E. G. Sherman, Jr. Sunday September 13, 2015
Running in the Right Direction
“But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and he found a ship going to Tarshish: sso he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. Jonah 1:3
Life is a brief journey during which each traveler moves in various 
directions at differing rates of speed. Some people become clearly focused 
at an early age and they, diligently, utilize their energies to pursue their goals. 
Such focused persons may move at a moderate rate but they are conditioned 
for the long haul. There are other individuals, however, who have no clearly 
defined goals and, generally, are indifferent about their daily movements. 
Within both groups ( the focused and the unfocused ) is a common need 
for the capacity to endure. While endurance is an admirable capacity as 
reflected in the marathon runner, it must be evaluated in terms of the goal 
toward which the individual is pursuing. 
Our sermon today, while continuing the theme from last Sunday on 
Pray and then Choose, will be anchored by the account of Jonah, a minor 
prophet, whose life reflected a myriad of decisions personal choices 
before prayer for direction. It will seek to document the fact that prayer is 
more important than speed, especially with respect to ethics, morality, and 
Christianity. To document this assertion - prayer should precede choice, three 
scenes involving Jonah will be lifted from the earlier read text. They 
are: 1) Running from God, 2) Running for God, and 3) Running against God. 
P. 2 
Prior to exploring these scenes, attention will be focused on Jonah. 
His life is a biblical story that cuts across age and bible study groups. It is 
frequently incorrectly told as a whale swallowing Jonah whereas the Bible 
says that the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah ( Jonah 1:17). 
Herbert Lockyer, in All The Men of the Bible, records that Jonah’s name 
denotes a dove; however, Lockyer narrative of Jonah describes him as the 
man who ran away. Jonah lived at a time when the United Kingdom had been 
divided and he was saddened by the Israelites’ experiences under the 
Assyrian Empire. As a prophet. Jonah felt that God would forgive person or 
nation who repented. That belief made Jonah unpopular among his 
people, the Israelites. Much to his surprise, Jonah heard the word of the Lord 
say to him, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their 
wickedness is come up before me” ( Jonah 1:2 ). According to J. Lawrence 
Eason, in The New Bible Survey, “...Jonah was unwilling to go, because the 
Assyrians had been engaged in destroying his native land”. Accordingly, he 
chose to go in the opposite direction. This fact leads to the first of three 
scenes chosen to present Jonah as The Marathon Runner. It is that of running 
from God. Before delving into this scene, let us comment on the word, 
marathon. The word goes back to Ancient Greece to the plains of Attica 
when the Athenians defeated the Persians in 490 (B.C.) According to Greek 
history there was a Greek runner who went from Marathon to Athens, a 
p. 3 
distance of 26 miles, to spread the news of the Athenian victory over Persia. 
That account has since become a symbol of endurance in a race. Jonah, 
in this connection, was a person with the capacity to endure; he was 
a marathon runner; but he was, unfortunately, not always running in the 
right direction. 
In scene one, Jonah was running from God. Our Bible tells us that 
Jonah clearly heard the message from the Lord. His response, however, was to 
disobey the divine instruction and go in an opposite direction. Thus, he made 
immediate plans to sail to Tarshish - thinking that he flee from the presence 
of the Lord. Through this act, Jonah was running from God - he thought. 
Apparently, we was unaware of or indifferent to David acknowledgment of 
the omnipresent God when he wrote, “Whither shall I go from thou spirit? or 
whither shall I flee from thy presence” ( Ps. 139:7 ). 
In pursuance of his intent, Jonah boarded a ship at Joppa for the trip 
to Tarshish. Soon after the ship set sail, the Lord sent out a great wind into the 
sea. The turbulent wind seemed as if it would break the ship. The mariners 
were afraid and, behold, they found Jonah asleep. After a brief conversation 
with him, they followed his suggestion and threw him overboard. But that was 
not the end of Jonah because the Bible tells us that the Lord had prepared 
A great fish to swallow Jonah where, in its belly, he would reside three days 
and three nights. Amidst the tightly enclosed belly of the fish, Jonah prayed 
p. 4 
unto the Lord his God. Included his prayer, Jonah admitted his error and 
begged for another opportunity to do the Master’s bidding. The forgiving 
Lord believed Jonah and decided to deliver him from the belly of the great 
fish; thus, the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon
dry land. That episode leads to the second scene in this sermon on the 
Marathon Runner, namely, Running for God. Our Bible tells us that the 
word of the Lord come unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto 
Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 
That time, Jonah arose and went unto Nineveh where preach the message of 
the Lord. Because he had animosities toward the Ninevites, Jonah hoped that 
they would reject his message. But much to his dismay, the people of 
Nineveh believed him and they repented. That action was displeasing to Jonah 
because he wanted the Lord to destroy them for their wrong doings toward 
the Israelites, Jonah’s people. 
Their repentance leads to the final scene in this sermon on The 
Marathon Runner, namely, running against God. Our Bible tells us that 
Jonah was displeased by the people of Nineveh in their act of repentance. 
In fact, he became angry and, therefore, prayed unto the Lord to take his 
life for it is better for him to be dead than to live. ( Jonah 4:3). Jonah left the 
city, running against God, and made a little hut to keep the sun from shining 
on him. God, in his mercy, caused a gourd vine to spring up and provide 
p. 5 
cover from Jonah. That act was pleasing to Jonah, but God allowed a worm 
to smote the gourd and it withered. The next morning, Jonah was distraught 
by the withering of the gourd and inquired of the Lord as to why he would 
allow the worm to destroy it. In response to Jonah’s question, the Lord 
inquired of Jonah as to why he would place more emphasis on saving a 
gourd vine than saving a repented nation. Beloved, no record is given of 
Jonah’s response; it may well be that the account of Jonah’s leaps across 
the pages of history to every person with a warning: do not run from God, 
do not run against God, but run for God. 
In closing, this account of Jonah leaps across the annals of time 
and speaks aloud to believers beseeching them, including the pastor, to
remember and embrace the modality for effecting praying i.e. which is 
pray and then choose. Remember: do not run from God, resolve to run 
for God, and avoid the proclivity to run against God Amen!
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