Men run away for various reasons, sometimes it is to avoid a confrontation for past deceptions, at other times it is because they fear the road they must travel if they remain in obedience, and yes, there are even those for whom the pull of the world is so strong that they run away from the safety of God’s protection and love to seek out the pleasure that will in the end turn out to be empty and void of any lasting joy. Today I want to discuss the runaways, and the roads the runaways take, because even within God’s own house there are runaways, there are individuals who have not remained where God commanded them to remain, and as goats they have wandered off on their own looking for something different, something exciting, something more, and tragically it is something that they will never find absent God.
The first of three roads a runaway takes is the road of deception.
The story of Jacob deceiving his brother Esau is well known to us, and what’s even more tragic is that Jacob learned to perpetrate the deception on his father from his own mother. Jacob cheated, as many today cheat God with their time, with their resources, with their commitment and with their love. We cheat God out of what is rightfully His, thinking that He will never find us out, thinking He will never discover our deception, but the God who knows all things, knows that we dedicate more time to entertaining the flesh than to fellowshipping with Him, the God who knows all things knows that we dedicate more of our resources to making this flesh comfortable than we do to further His kingdom, He knows all things and He waits patiently for us to be honest with Him and render unto Him what is rightly His.
There are consequences to taking the road of deception, as there are consequences for every choice we make in life. Jacob had to flee the wrath of Esau for cheating him out of his birthright, because Esau was set on killing Jacob as soon as the days of mourning for his father were done.
Genesis 27:42-45, “And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she went and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, ‘surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran, and stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away, until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?”
It was naïve for Rebekah to think that in a few days Esau’s fury would turn away, and what was supposed to be a few days, turned into many years of being far from home for the deception Jacob perpetrated upon his brother. Even after many years, Jacob lived with the fear of his brother’s vengeance when they at last met again, but Esau’s fury was finally turned away and he embraced his brother in love.
The second of three roads that runaways take is the road of disobedience.
When the word of the Lord came to Jonah, it was very clear on what he was expected to do. He was to arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it, for their wickedness had come before God. It might not have been an easy task, but it was a clear task, one Jonah chose to disobey. Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah arose and fled to Tarshish, thinking he could somehow flee from the presence of the Lord. If one were to look at a map, and identify both Nineveh and Tarshish, then see where Jonah was, we realize that he traveled in the complete opposite direction from where God told him to go. The fare he paid was by no means cheap, historical records telling us that it was the equivalent of two years of labor. The way of disobedience is never cheap; there is always a high price to pay, yet some choose to pay the steep price nevertheless.
The third road the runaways take is the road of ingratitude or ungratefulness.
There was absolutely nothing that the prodigal son was lacking in his father’s house, everything he needed, everything he wanted was provided for him. Yet, one day he came to his father and asked for the portion of goods that fell to him even though he had done nothing to deserve any of his father’s goods. It was his father’s goods, it was his father’s possessions, but with the brazen arrogance of youth the young man went and asked of his father that which he felt entitled to. Being the loving father that he was, he gave the prodigal part of his livelihood, and the prodigal, ungrateful for all that his father had done for him, turns his back and journeys to a far country where he wastes his possessions.
How many things do we receive from the hand of God on a daily basis, things that we neither labored nor worked for that we are ungrateful for receiving? We take for granted those priceless things we receive from the hand of God, yet never label ourselves as ungrateful children lacking in gratitude because it would be too stark a portrait to paint of ourselves.
The good news, and the reason I began this journey, as well as chose these three examples is that there are also roads upon which the runaways can and do return home.
The road, upon which Jacob returns home, is the road of forgiveness.
At first he attempts to bribe Esau with goats and sheep in order to obtain his brother’s forgiveness, but his brother sends back a message telling Jacob that he is forgiven, without the goats and the sheep. We can’t bribe our way into God’s forgiveness, we need only receive it.
The road, upon which Jonah returns home, is the road of obedience.
Yes it took being swallowed by a fish for Jonah to see the light, but in the end he went to Nineveh and preached a sermon that was neither long or elaborate, or multifaceted, a sermon that had no title or introduction, his entire sermon was summed up in eight words: ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’
The people didn’t wait thirty nine days, and then repent on the fortieth day, they believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. They didn’t wait to see if Jonah was right, or if it would happen, or if it did happen if it would happen exactly as Jonah said, they believed God, and repented.
Jonah 3:10, “Then God saw their works, that they had turned form their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”
We find a myriad of excuses to delay repentance, we find myriad of excuses for putting off humbling ourselves before God, and rather than repent, we attempt to justify, rather than humble ourselves we tell ourselves we have more time, or that the man crying out ‘judgment is coming’ is just off his meds.
The road, upon which the prodigal son returned home, is the road of mercy.
When all his money was spent, and he filled his stomach with the carob pods that the swine ate, when no one gave him anything and he was alone and hungry and destitute, he remembered his father’s house, and came to himself. He did not know how his father would react, he had after all left on bad terms, but he hoped that his father would make him like one of his hired servants, because his father was good and gracious and kind and treated his servants well.
Luke 16:20, “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”
If you are one of the runaways, if you are one who has chosen either the road of deception, disobedience, or ungratefulness, know that there is a way back to the love of God, know that there is a way back to His forgiveness, and grace and mercy. He is waiting, but just as you chose to be a runaway, you must choose to return home.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.