Goin’ down, goin’ down, goin’ down

~ Mary J. Blige, “I’m Goin’ Down”

Photo by Rene Mansi, courtesy of iStockphoto

In the Hitchcock thriller Vertigo, Scotty (played by Jimmy Stewart) suffers from acrophobia – or, a fear of heights.[1] Scotty can’t overcome the terror that haunts him – even in life-or-death scenes. Spinning stairs spiraling upward paralyze him, and this horror weighs heavily upon him throughout the movie’s plot.

An equally devastating disorder is bathophobia, or the fear of depths. If Jonah had suffered from this malady, it might have saved him from much grief.[2]

  • The root of poor judgment is self-deception.[3]

The Lord had chosen Jonah to go to Israel’s enemy with a warning of doom. Jonah refused to go. He could’ve stayed where he was, ignoring God’s directive. He could’ve argued for someone else to go. Instead, he sought to escape God’s will completely by going as far away as he could from God’s call.

Self-deception blinded him from his inability to escape God’s reach, or His chastening.

  • The result of poor judgment is self-destruction.[4]

This decision led to a downhill spiral – one that took Jonah to the point of self-destruction.

  • Disobedience to God’s will always takes us down.

In his sermon series on the life of Jonah, Dr. David Jeremiah made an astute observation: when we run from God, we are on a path that takes us down, down, down.[5]

When Jonah tried to escape from God’s will, he went down from the mountain country to Joppa. He traveled down to the harbor to find a boat. He hid down in the ship. When it became apparent there was no other recourse, the sailors threw him down from the vessel. He sank down into the sea. The fish gobbled him down into its belly. The beast dove down to the depths of the abyss.[6]

  • Unrepentant sin catapults us down, down, down.

Sometimes, the descent is subtle; at other times, it’s so violent that it makes us breathless. On occasion, we dive into those depths; at other times, we’re sucked in by an invisible undertow that’s too powerful to overcome.

  • If we’re not careful, we may reach a point of no return.

The downward spiral will overwhelm us beyond our desires or our capacities to recover. Far too many are lost because they’ve taken that hell-bound whorl to their own destruction.

  • At some time or another, we’ve all suffered the detrimental effects of our sin.

Scripture warns us of this truth.

  • While there’s something wrong in going down due to sin, a worse iniquity is staying there.

Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.

~ Muhammad Ali

Whereas Mr. Ali speaks of boxing, God’s will is holiness. Scripture exhorts us not to revel in sin. He’s given us a way to return to His calling upon our lives.

  • What we have to remember is how to return.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

~ 1 John 1:9, HCSB

When Jonah’s misery made him listen to God’s loving voice, he repented. It was only then that he experienced the grace the Lord had extended to him throughout his rebellious trek.

  • Our only hope of rescue from sin’s downward spiral is God’s gracious salvation offered through His Son.

God sometimes has to allow the pain of the great depths to get our focus on His will. Without that proper attention to His commands, we continue to fall away from Him. When we find ourselves in such places, God’s mercy shines in the darkness for those who seek Him with a repentant heart.

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.

~ Joseph Campbell

We should never sin just to experience grace. But when we violate God’s will, we must remember to whom we need to call to get a breath of fresh air.

Jonah did. And God brought him up from the abyss to use him in a mighty way.

[1] Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Hollywood: Paramount Pictures, 1958).

[2] Jonah 1:1 – 2:10.

[3] Boyd Bailey, “Self Destruction,” www.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com, 05/10/2012.

[4] Ibid.

[5] David Jeremiah, Running from God, in The Runaway Prophet: the Book of Jonah, CD (San Diego: Turning Point Ministries, 2005).

[6] Jonah 1 – 2.