“The word of Adonai came to Yonah the son of Amitai: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and proclaim to it that their wickedness has come to my attention.” But Yonah, in order to get away from Adonai, prepared to escape to Tarshish. He went down to Yafo, found a ship headed for Tarshish, paid the fare and went aboard, intending to travel with them to Tarshish and get away from Adonai.” (Jonah 1:1-3 CJB) 

“Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I lie down in Sh’ol, you are there. If I fly away with the wings of the dawn and land beyond the sea, even there your hand would lead me, your right hand would hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7-10 CJB) 

My readings this week have been in the so-called ‘minor Prophets’, including the book of Jonah. They may be classed as ‘minor’ but their messages are ‘major.’ In Jonah’s familiar tale, he is ordered by God to go to Nineveh and preach there. Deciding he doesn’t want this particular commission, he boards a ship headed in the opposite direction. You know the story and you know that he finds there is no hiding place from God. Thrown into the sea and swallowed by a huge fish, he is spewed out on the beach by Nineveh – the very place he was trying to avoid. Truly, he discovers there is nowhere he can run from God’s Spirit and nowhere that he can flee to. God can reach him and bring him back to where he should be.  

               Perhaps Jonah’s story has coloured our perceptions of Psalm 139:7-10? That there is no hiding place from God causes some people to feel afraid and paranoid. But that is not what the Psalmist’s words are implying. The Psalmist is not afraid that God will find him. The Psalmist is afraid that God won’t find him. The only reason for fearing God’s reach is if, like Jonah, we are engaged in a wilful attempt to avoid or evade God. 

               The Psalmist finds tremendous reassurance and comfort in knowing that there is nowhere that he might find himself that will be beyond God’s reach and rescue. This is not just a statement of geography. God can certainly reach us and take hold of us wherever we are physically. But the real joy and beauty of this scripture, affirmed in so many stories, is that God can reach us and rescue us wherever we are emotionally and mentally and spiritually too. If we are in despair, He can reach us. If we are isolated, He can reach us. If we are afraid, He can reach us. If we are bereft, He can reach us. If we are in a place of hopelessness, He can reach us. 

               May we each know His gentle hands taking a firm hold of us wherever we are.