December 14: “Obedience and God’s Presence”

7 Minute Read + Scripture readings


Jonah 1:1–4:11
Revelation 5:1-14
Psalm 133:1-3
Proverbs 29:26-27


Jonah 1:1-3 (CSB): “The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because their evil has come up before me.’ Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the LORD’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the LORD’s presence.”


When studying God’s Word, there are certain clues that are often found in the text that let us know what the Big Idea is. They tell us what the Lord is trying to convey to us. And the serious Bible student will keep his or her eyes open for those clues.

One of those clues is when a word or phrase is repeated. If it shows up twice in the biblical text, you need to pay attention. If it shows up more than that, it has become obvious what God is conveying.

In Jonah 1, there is a phrase that shows up three times. I will underline it in the following two verses.

Jonah 1:3 (CSB): “Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the LORD’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the LORD’s presence.”

Jonah 1:10 (CSB): “Then the men were seized by a great fear and said to him, ‘What is this you’ve done?’ The men knew he was fleeing from the LORD’s presence because he had told them.”

That’s the Big Idea in Jonah 1. Jonah was going “from the LORD’s presence.”

So, with that phrase rising up and demanding that we pay attention, we need to ask another question: “Is there something that Jonah did that caused him to go “from the LORD’s presence?”

After reading Jonah 1, we realize that another Big Idea in the chapter is the theme of disobedience. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn them of impending judgment before of their sin. Instead of obeying God, Jonah hopped onto a boat headed the other way. He was in blatant disobedience to God’s command.

So, when we put these two Big Ideas together, we realize that it was disobedience to God’s commands that took Jonah away “from the LORD’s presence.”

But, then we ask another question: “Was Jonah really away from God’s presence or does this phrase simply mean that he was away from God’s favor?” Obviously, we’re talking about the latter. God was present with Jonah on the boat and He was present when He ordered the massive fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah was simply, by his disobedience, removing himself from a place where God could bless him.

So, we learn a principle here that applies to us as well. Obeying God is incredibly important. When we read in Scripture that we are to think a certain way or act a certain way but we refuse to make the adjustments to comply, we are walking away from the Lord’s favor. He still loves us and we can never get away from Him. Yet, He won’t be free to bless us because we are in sin. We have departed “from the LORD’s presence.”

So, when the Lord reveals something to you in His Word that requires adjustments on your part, do it. Make the changes. Repent if necessary. God’s blessed presence is worth whatever it takes to remain in it.

I took this picture of the Mediterranian Sea on the roof of a hotel in Tel Aviv. It is close to where Jonah would have boarded the ship headed for Tarshish.

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

2 thoughts on “December 14: “Obedience and God’s Presence”

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