I survey the expectant faces of the children in my Sunday School class and pray for guidance. Today is the first day of class after the summer break.
We open in prayer and then I begin my introduction. "What is the first and great commandment?" A few of the students hesitantly raise their hands. "Is it having no other gods?" one asks. "That's what I was going to say!" a second chimes in. I shake my head. "Is it loving your neighbour?" a third pipes up. Shaking my head again I repeat the familiar words of Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
"Can we love someone we don't know?" I ask them now. Slowly one by one they shake their heads. "The Bible tells us the same thing," I continue. In Hosea 4:6 it says My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: and Hosea 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
Opening my folder I hand them each a blank paper and a pen. "Write down what you know about God," I tell them and moments later quiet prevails as heads bend low in concentration.
When they are finished they each take turns sharing what they wrote: "God is faithful. God is Creator. God is great. God is powerful. Jesus is God. God is Father, God is love." Although their responses vary, there is one commonality in all their responses: God is kind.
"God is kind?" I continue, "that makes me think of the words of Jonah. In Jonah 4:2 it says ..for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.. Did you know that Jonah was actually upset at God when he said these words?" Everyone shakes their heads. "This is the reason why he didn't want to preach to the Ninevites, because he knew that God was gracious, merciful and kind and he wanted the Ninevites destroyed, not saved."
"If Jonah knew God so well, why did he try to run away from God?" One of the boys pipes up. "That's a good question," I reply. "But sometimes we remember certain things about God, and forget others."
We continue on discussing what we know about God until class time is over.
As Sunday, turns to Monday, and Monday to Tuesday, I can't seem to shake his question from my mind: If Jonah knew God so well, why did he try to run away from God?
Turning on my computer, I look up the verses and find them in Jonah 1: 1-3: Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
It actually repeats the words twice, I muse; from the presence of the Lord.
Didn't David write in one of the Psalms, "Where can I go from thy presence?"
I find the words in Psalm 139:7-8, but other words in that Psalm speak to me as well.
1 O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
I find other scriptures as well:
Jeremiah 23:24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.
Hebrews 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Genesis 16: 13a And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me:
As I now ponder those ancient words of God's presence and all seeing eye, I think about my own life. Do I live daily in that knowledge that God is a God who sees everything? Do I take comfort in that fact and rejoice in it?