Did you ever play hide and seek when you were a kid? You know, the game where someone closes their eyes and counts to 20 and everyone else goes and hides, hoping not to be found. Hide and Seek is a classic children’s game that has been played for centuries.
It is cute to watch little ones play this game. They go and hide in wide open places, thinking they are invisible from the world. In their eyes, no one will ever find them.
How often do we do this in our spiritual lives? Do we play hide and seek with God? Many times we hold on to little areas of sin, or do little things in life, thinking that no one will ever see. We hide from God and what He has called us to do, thinking He doesn’t notice us doing it. We live disobedient lives and think it doesn’t matter. However, nothing is further from the truth. God sees us even when we play hide and seek with Him. How do I know this? Because the Bible tells us of another man who played hide and seek with God. His name was Jonah.
Jonah was a prophet of God. He lived his life in service to God. When God told Him to do something, he did it. When God said to go somewhere, he went. However, one day, God gave Jonah order that he didn’t want to follow.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish . He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
Jonah didn’t like the orders given to him by God, so he started a game of hide and seek with God. He hopped a pagan boat and headed for Tarshish. Two interesting things are seen in this passage. First, instead of going where God told Him to go, Jonah went in the exact opposite direction. It would be like God telling someone in Kansas to go to New York, and they went to California instead. Ninevah and Tarsus were in totally different directions.
The second interesting thing is that Jonah hopped aboard a pagan vessel. The crew was not fellow Israelites. Isn’t it interesting how when Jonah went on the run from God, he went and hung with the unsaved? The man of God, the voice of God, the man who very well could have been trained by the great prophet Elijah, was now hanging out with worldly sailors sailing away from the call God had on his life.
What had happened to Jonah? How could he have changed so much? Well, it started with a level of prejudice in His heart. He tolerated the sin of hate. He despised the people of Ninevah. He didn’t want God to save them. He wanted God to destroy him. So Jonah put his desires and his area of sin ahead of doing God’s will, and began a game of hide and seek with God.
Jonah set sail with the pagan sailors. However, it wasn’t long before the ship ran into trouble. A great storm rose up and the lives of every man on the ship were in danger.
4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
The great storm threatened the lives of all the “sinners”. As is usually the case, the world called out to God for help when they faced a huge problem.
You would think this would be the time when the great prophet of God, Jonah, would rise up, calm the nerves of the sailors, and lead a huge revival, right? Wrong!
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
Where was Jonah during this huge disaster? Hiding in the bottom of the boat. He had found a good hiding spot in his game of hide and seek. However, it wasn’t good enough. God knew he was there, and he rocked the boat to let Jonah know it.
Think of the irony here. The unsaved world is crying out to their gods who had no ability to help them, and God’s man was hiding, having a pout, on the run from the God who could save them. This is the second consequence of disobeying God. Not only does it affect our walk with God, but it keeps us from being able to reach a hurting world around us.
The captain begged Jonah to pray. This should have been Jonah’s natural response. But when we tolerate sin in our lives, it hinders our ability to pray. Jonah should have been the one leading the prayer service. He should have been telling them to reject their god’s and trust in the only true God, but his sin and disobedience kept him from influencing the world around him.
As Jonah continued hiding in the bottom of the boot, refusing to call out to God, the crew of the ship decided it was time to see why they encountered the storm. The worldly crew recognized this was a spiritual issue, not the man of God.
7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land. ”
The sailors were terrified now. Jonah had disobeyed the very God Who created the sea they were rocking back and forth on.
Jonah had to finally come out of hiding. The game of hide and seek was over. He had been found by God. He told the crew to throw him overboard and save their lives.
At first the crew refused, but eventually they realized they had no choice. So they grabbed Jonah and chucked him off the boat and into the sea. Immediately, the storm ended.
God sent a great whale along to get Jonah. The whale swallowed Jonah. Unbenounced to Jonah, the whale made a beeline swim for the coast of Ninevah. All Jonah knew was he had lost his game of hide and seek and was now put into prison. He had two choices, lay down and die, or get on his knees and repent.
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” 10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah gave up his game of hide and seek. He repented of his sin of disobedience, and he surrendered his will to do the will of God. God forgave Jonah of his sins, and caused the fish to puke Jonah out right on the banks of the city of Ninevah. Jonah went and preached God’s message to the people of Ninevah, and a nation-wide revival started.
Jonah’s life shows us it is impossible to play hide and seek with God. To do so causes us to lose our ability to pray. We lose our testimony as God’s children. We are no longer able to be light to a dark world and help the hurting around us. Hide and seek is a deadly game to play with God.
Has this article got you thinking? Do you see areas of sin in your life that are causing you to play hide and seek with God? It could be unforgiveness, anger, deceit, lust, sexual sins, or any assortment of sins, but the common thread is it is something that is causing you to hide from God and others. Does such a sin exist in your life? If so, I encourage you stop hiding today.
Step out of the shadows and show God what you are hiding from Him. Repent. Seek His forgiveness. Humble yourself and ask Him to deliver you from the sin.
Find a trustworthy brother in Christ and expose your secret sin. Ask them to support you and hold you accountable.
Hide and seek is a game you can never win if you are playing it with God. All it will do is cause you pain and heartache. Why not choose instead to approach our loving Father and ask Him for forgiveness and mercy? Come out of hiding and come into God’s Presence.