December 14: “Obedience and God’s Presence”

14 Minute Read

Be Still

To the best of your ability, get rid of all distractions. Take a couple of minutes to breathe deeply, to quiet yourself in the Lord’s presence. Then, prayerfully ask the Lord to speak to you in this time and let Him know that you will be listening and will make whatever adjustments He will reveal to you.

Today’s Bible Reading:

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

Listen to the Lord

Slowly and reflectively read the following verses and listen to what God will say to you through them. Then, consider writing down any insights He reveals to you.

Jonah 1:1-3 (NLT): “The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.’ But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish.”

Reflections from Scripture:

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

One of those clues is revealed when a word or phrase is repeated. You need to pay attention if a word or phrase shows up twice in the biblical text. If it shows up more than that, well, you get the idea.

In Jonah 1, there is a phrase that shows up three times. See if you can pick up on what that phrase is…

Jonah 1:3 (NLT): “But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish.”

Jonah 1:10 (NLT): “The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the LORD. ‘Oh, why did you do it?’ they groaned.”

Did you notice which phrase shows up three times in Jonah 1

  • “to get away from the Lord.”
  • “hoping to escape from the Lord.”
  • “running away from the Lord.”

That’s the Big Idea in Jonah 1. Jonah was trying to get away “from the Lord.”

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 gave him the illusion that he could get away from the Lord?”

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. 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 moved Jonah away “from the Lord.”

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 actively disobeying Him. Our disobedience has caused us to move away “from the Lord.”

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.

Spend Time in Prayer

“I need Thee every hour
Stay Thou nearby
Temptations lose their power
When Thou art nigh
I need Thee, O I need Thee
Every hour I need Thee
O bless me now, my Savior
I come to Thee.”
I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Matt Ellis is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida ( His latest book is God’s Grace in the Real World. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash

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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.

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