"'I am a God nearby and not a God far off. Who can hide in secret so that I cannot see? Do I not fill heaven and earth?' says the LORD." - Jeremiah 23:23
You know the Hollywood trope: one character is in hot pursuit of another. The music swells as the hunted runs out of time, space and breath (if female, she will trip once or twice). At some point the hunter cackles to his prey, "You can run but you can't hide!" It's a cocky moment for the pursuer and a bad omen for the pursued.
Not so in the Bible. In the many instances when God says "you can run but you can't hide" as in the above verse, it is good news. Because God is omniscient, omnipresent and compassionate, this is the greatest news possible. Jonah is our best case in point.
God sent Jonah to Ninevah and Jonah booked a ticket to ride in the opposite direction "to escape the presence of the Lord" (Jonah 1:3) which is, of course, laughable. Instead of incinerating Jonah or finding a less recalcitrant prophet, God sent a great fish to swallow and vomit Jonah onto the shores of Nineveh. That's a rather unpleasant exit, but there were two ways out of that fish, and I think God made the more compassionate choice. In laughing at Jonah, we can laugh at ourselves.
You might be running from God by avoiding some helpful task, person or life choice. Or maybe you are running because you've forgotten how to be still. In any case, aren't you tired? Is it time to give up and let God love you?
Lord, just for today, instead of running from you, let me turn around and run straight into your arms.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.