Jonah Episode 7

Beth's Notes

9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) 

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. 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, and we will not perish.” 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 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 land.”  10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.) 11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”  12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm.  I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”  13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried to the LORD, “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.”  15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him. 17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.  Jonah 1:4-17 (NIV) 

As we stated last week, the principal person in the narrative is God, not Jonah. The full story goes on to tell us that to accomplish His purposes, God sovereignly controlled various events recorded in the book – the wind and the waves, the calming of the sea, the big fish, the revival, the plant and on and on.  Indeed, God overcame Jonah’s rebellion, and opened both the sailors hearts and the Ninevites’ hearts and in our passage for today, God miraculously altered the direction of His servant’s itinerary.

Jonah did not expect a new Captain to take control of the ship but the Lord was now on center stage.  Much like a baseball pitcher, God picked up a “great wind and hurled it into the Mediterranean Sea”.  The result was a “great storm on the sea” and the ship threatened to break up in pieces.  It is no wonder they were all afraid.  What do we do when life gets threatening? Do we do like the ship which started to break into pieces and fall apart?  Or do we do like the sailors and take things into our own hands as they did by throwing their wage earning cargo overboard and crying out to the wrong ‘gods’ of the world getting them nowhere fast?  Or do we do like the Prophet Jonah and hide out inaccessible wanting to be left alone, selfishly sleeping when we could be praying to save both ourselves and others?  Certainly none of these should the believer emulate when calamity strikes.  A wonderful example – and one worthy of emulation – is found in 2 Kings 18 and 19 when King Hezekiah of Judah was threatened by King Sennacherib of Assyria (the very people Jonah was sent to by God to seek their repentance):

19 The field commander said to them, "Tell Hezekiah: "'This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 20 You say you have strategy and military strength--but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 2 Kings 18:19-20 (NIV) 

28 Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. 30 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the LORD when he says, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’”  2 Kings 18:28-30 (NIV)

They were right, King Sennacherib of Assyria could have leveled Judah in one fell swoop.  But what they had not considered was the God of all Creation – which was Hezekiah’s God!  What I want you to see is what Hezekiah did next:
1 When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD. 2 Kings 19:1 (NIV)

He looked up.  Scripture records his prayer:

15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. 17 It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands. 19 Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” 2 Kings 19:15-19 (NIV)

It is no surprise what God’s answer was to Hezekiah through the Prophet Isaiah:

21 This is the word that the LORD has spoken against him: “‘The Virgin Daughter of Zion despises you and mocks you. The Daughter of Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee. 22 Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! 23 By your messengers you have heaped insults on the Lord. And you have said, ‘With my many chariots I have ascended the heights of the mountains, the utmost heights of Lebanon. I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its pines. I have reached its remotest parts, the finest of its forests. 24 I have dug wells in foreign lands and drunk the water there. With the soles of my feet I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.’
25 “Have you not heard?  Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone. 26 Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame.  They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up. 27 But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me. 28 Because you rage against me and your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.”  29 “This will be the sign for you, O Hezekiah:  This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 30 Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.
31 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. 32 Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria: “He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. 33 By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the LORD. 34 I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.”  35 That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning--there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. 37 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer cut him down with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king. 2 Kings 19:21-37 (NIV) 

“In a storm there is no shelter like the wings of God.  He is the safest, happiest, and wisest that lays himself under divine protection.”  Thomas Brooks

Believer, this great God is on our side as well – in “messing with” us they are “messing with” Him!!  Remember what Jesus said when He called Saul turned Paul on the Road to Damascus in Acts?:

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. Acts 9:3-5 (NIV) 

In persecuting Jesus’ followers Saul was persecuting Jesus.  If the eye is on the sparrow you know He watches over us!  Now back to our story….. 

It appears that both God and the ship were both against Jonah’s attempts to flee from the Lord’s Presence.  God can and often does thwart attempts to flee from His will.  Therefore, attempting to run away from God is a rather foolish thing to do, amen?  Yet, that is precisely what our prophet did by seeking to go to the other end of the world at that time and boarding a cargo ship on which the crew were non-Israelite merchants.  God has a mission for His people beyond their own borders, their own prejudices and their on self-satisfied attitudes.  

The fact that each sailor cried out to his own god suggests that many individual deities were worshiped by the Phoenicians.  In their desperation,  as seasoned seamen, they cast their merchandise overboard – which previously stated was something of value to them.  They did this in hopes that the lighter ship would not sink.  Later, Scripture states they also cast lots and then they finally cast Jonah.  God was all about getting everyone’s attention – even the pagan sailors.  And get their attention He did!  

First we discovered Jonah, heading down to Joppa to flee from the Lord’s will.  Today, we discover him heading down into the belly of the ship and then down into the water and then eventually down into the belly of the whale as Scripture points out.  Make no mistake about it, a journey away from God’s Presence is always a journey downward.  As long as we willingly choose to delve into sin we break our relationship with the Lord.  He has not made us as robots but allows us to choose our own paths – His way or our way - and sadly, we very often choose wrongly!  When we knowingly choose the wrong path – like Jonah – we will suffer loss (to say the least!) and so will many in our spheres as we will soon see.  As we talked about last week, there will always be consequence to sin just as surely as there are blessings in obedience.  And the tentacles of both consequences and blessings can be far reaching.  We are not stagnant people and we do not stay the same in our walks – we will either be going upward or downward.  Remember how low the prodigal son went before he eventually looked up.  There is nothing new under the sun is there?  Therefore, Scripture calls us to be spiritually vigilant.

Jonah needed a good dose of vigilant love.  He didn’t care for the lost in Nineveh – indeed, he wanted no part in seeking their repentance – hence his fleeing from the Lord.  And his vigilance appears to wane as much as his love did as he slept soundly in the belly of the ship – so soundly it was as if he were “dead” asleep and as if the “belly” of the ship were the grave itself. 

Jonah’s passivity contrasts greatly with the sailors’ frantic activity, does it not?  His thoughts were on sleep not on safety or revival or obedience for that matter.  Jonah had to learn the danger of trying to maneuver his life to suit his feelings and needs rather than aligning himself with God and His will for Jonah’s life.  We, too, must learn that we cannot pick the mission to accomplish for God.  We have to align our own lives with God, listen for His message to us, and steer ourselves only where He leads.  God does not call us to determine what we want to do and then to ask Him to bless our choices.  Mission for God is not a smorgasbord of choices, it is a command to join God where He is at work.  And, I might add, there is nothing like it as it is an enormous blessing to stand firm in God’s will mature and fully assured.  

Jonah’s attitude and reaction are nothing short of amazing particularly in contrast with the concern of the pagan mariners.  He is below deck, asleep, undisturbed by the storm’s tossing of the ship.  Perhaps he felt secure there.  Obviously he was insensitive to the danger both to him and to others.  It is  ironic that a pagan ship captain had to call a man of God to prayer.  The captain was desperate and even appeared snarling when he woke him up.  “The great one of the ropes” (quite literally the Hebrew rendering for captain), wanted  every known god appealed to, every base covered, so that one of them perhaps  might grant relief from their peril and they would not all perish.  Calamities always call us to cry out to a higher authority – even pagans.  The need was so great that the men despaired for their lives; yet God’s servant slept. What an object lesson to God’s people to awaken from their apathy as crying people perish on the sea of life.

“Oh! that I had a trumpet voice to warn you.  Oh! while you are dying, while you are sinking into perdition, may I not cry to you; may not these eyes weep for you!  Take to heart, I beseech you, the realities of eternity.  Oh, turn, turn!  Why will you die?  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved.”   Charles H. Spurgeon at Exeter Hall on Sunday morning, February 26, 1869 

We are merely beggars telling other beggars where to get Bread.

As we pointed out last week, God loves all men and He desires for all to accept Him and be saved.  God’s definition of love, unlike Hollywood’s, is a love that “does” rather than merely being a “feeling”.  In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul describes this love clearly.  We are to “Do” as an act of the will and the “feeling” will follow.  Emotions are always the caboose so to speak.  They wax and wane up and down.  For example, it is hard to remain angry at someone when you are sincerely interceding for them.  

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV) 

I love the fact that “love never fails” (verse 8). 

We certainly don’t “feel the love” here with Jonah!  He didn’t care about the people of Nineveh nor did he care about the sailors on the boat nor his own life for that matter!  His wandering mimics those of us who are finally just “Done” with it all.  Ever been there? We may feel like hiding from God when He seeks to interrupt our lives.  Other times we get caught up in our busyness or make excuses when we sense He might be trying to get our attention.  More often than not, indifference overtakes us.  Things just seem too hard – we just want to give up.  Others appear to have it so easy.  Unfortunately, I can relate here!  It is surely not a way to bring God glory and reeks of walking in the flesh.  Remember, all flesh will eventually fail us and will never make it through the fire that will test the quality of each man’s work – that’s why we all so desperately need a Savior and praise Jesus we have One.  In our daily lives or especially when God asks of us something that seems so out of our ability to accomplish (and BTW isn’t that everything???) , He will give us the power we need to do it.  We must constantly remember what Paul tells us in Philippians 4:13:

13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

“Everything” is an all-encompassing word – is it not? - leaving us with no “if, ands, or buts” added!  Furthermore, whatever God calls us to do, we can rest assured that He will equip us to do it!  We can do nothing eternal in our own power.  Works that are eternal are always done through His power for His glory alone.  To “walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel” is impossible to sustain in the flesh and we therefore need His power moment by moment to accomplish this so great an endeavor.  As we do His will, we can be confident we will have His power readily available. Which is, quite frankly, needed in all of life!  And, like I said before, His will is always for our good.  Yet sadly, we are all such selfish sinners desirous of our own ways and like Jonah we can spiral down so quickly.  This is why our spiritual vigilance is of utmost importance.  Michael Youssef states: 

“Maybe you are feeling the weight of your circumstances closing in on you. You have longed to be free, but you have remained shackled to this world in ways that only God knows and understands. If you seek Him, He will set you free from the sin of worry, doubt, fear, hopelessness, lustful feelings, and more. When you pray with a sincere heart, the Lord will be found by you. Then your witness and testimony will become a way to glorify God and lead others into His throne room of mercy and grace.”  Michael Youssef 

Remember in Genesis 12:1-3 God had called the Jews through Abram to be a blessing to all nations of the earth and His people are still to be a blessing to others:

1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3 (NIV) 

God reiterated the promise to Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, in Genesis 28:

13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”  Genesis 28:13-14 (NIV)

Yet whenever the Jews were out of the will of God, they brought trouble instead of blessing.  Consider for a moment all that Jonah lost in not being a blessing to others:  First, he lost the voice of God.  We do not read that “the Word of the Lord came to Jonah,” but that a great storm broke loose over the waters.  God was no longer speaking to Jonah through His Word; He was speaking to him through His works; the sea, the wind, the rain, the thunder, and even the great fish.  Sadly, everything in nature obeyed God except His servant!

Secondly, Jonah also lost his spiritual energy and vigilance.  He went soundly to sleep during a fierce storm and was totally unconcerned about the safety of others.  The sailors were throwing their livelihood overboard in casting their wares and cargo into the sea and Jonah too was about to lose everything yet he slept on.  Even the captain came to him asking him how could he sleep during such a calamity and to get up and pray to his God so that they would not perish.  His lack of spiritual energy is reminiscent to those written of in Proverbs 24:33-34:

33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- 34 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. Proverbs 24:33-34 (NIV)

Thirdly, Jonah lost his power in prayer.  The heathen sailors were calling on their gods for help while Jonah slept through the prayer meeting – the one man on board who knew the true God and could pray to Him.  Of course, Jonah knew if he turned to the Lord in prayer  he would first have had to confess his sins and determine to obey God, something he was not at that time at all interested in doing.  Psalms 66:18 tells us:

18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.  Psalm 66:18 (NIV) 

Loss of power in prayer is one of the first indications that we are far from the Lord and need to get right with Him.

Fourth and lastly, Jonah sadly lost his testimony.  He certainly was not living up to his name meaning “dove” which is a symbol of peace nor of his father’s name Ammitai meaning faithful and truthful.  These were something Jonah was not.

We have already seen that Jonah wasn’t living up to his high calling as a Jew, for he had brought everybody trouble instead of blessing, nor was he living up to his calling as a prophet, for he had no message for them from God.  While the captain attempted to arouse Jonah, the sailors concluded that the tragic storm was the result of divine wrath on the wrongdoing of some man on board.  The casting of lots to determine a decision, in this case to find the culprit, was common in Israel and other countries in the ancient Near East. The pious sailors – not the priest or the prophet – decided to cast lots.  And God gave His revelation to the sailors, not the prophet.  When the lot pointed to Jonah as the culprit, he could no longer avoid making a decision.  Now everyone knew his secret.  He was the one responsible for this calamity.  

The Old Testament refers several times to “casting lots” as a means of discovering God’s decision in a specific case.  Lots were used to determine how to divide the promised land in Joshua, who was to lead the attack in the battle in Judges, who was the chosen king in 1 Samuel, what families were to live in Jerusalem in Nehemiah, and how to allot the Levitical cities in Joshua.  Lots could apparently give yes/no, either/or decisions.  The exact nature and method of using lots has been lost in the mist of history.  Apparently small stones or similar items were used, somewhat like dice.  The result of a decision by lot was then specified as one’s lot, particularly in cases of the division of property.  

Once Jonah was found out he remained silent, not defending himself as the sailors rattled off many questions.  “Who is responsible…?”  “What do you do…?”  “Where do you come from…?”  They wanted some answers for this perilous situation they were now in!  Finally Jonah speaks and basically gives them his name, rank and serial number.  He was a Hebrew.  This Hebrew term does not occur very often and usually it is in the presence of or from the lips of foreigners to indicate the distinctive racial features of Israel and its ancestors.  “Hebrew” was the way foreigners identified Israelites.  Perhaps Jonah felt he was a bit of an outsider to Israel since he was fleeing from God.

Jonah gave one more description of himself to the sailors.  In doing so he placed the divine name first in the sentence – a Hebrew method of centering the attention on this name rather than on himself as subject of the sentence.  He quite literally proclaimed:  “I myself am fearing Yahweh, the God of the heavens who made the sea and the dry land.”  Quite an appropriate answer for sea-weary sailors who lived most of their lives under the heavens and categorized life as on the sea or on the dry land.  Yet this was not the normal Israelite confession of God because it ignored the people of Israel and God’s miraculous acts in Egypt that created the nation.  

The sailors reacted to this with much terror.  The Hebrew is literally “the men (not sailors) feared a great fear”. The narrative moves away from the men’s professional identity and places them on level ground with Jonah as a man and Jonah’s admission flat out terrified them.  Their terror was heightened in the fact that Jonah had already told them that he was fleeing from the face of the Lord.  Hearing that Jonah’s God controls the sea, and knowing that Jonah was rebelling against his God, the sailors concluded that the upheaval of the sea evidenced God’s great displeasure with him.  This brought fear to the sailors, for they felt helpless in appeasing someone else’s god. Perhaps too they sensed, superstitiously, that Jonah’s God was holding them responsible as accomplices in Jonah’s “crime.”  By their question, What have you done? the seamen chided the prophet for his senseless action.  This question affirmed emphatically that he was responsible for their predicament.  It was more a statement of horror at Jonah’s disobedience than a question of inquiry. The pagan sailors seemed to grasp the seriousness of Jonah’s disobedience even more than the prophet did!  It was no wonder that they had experienced such trouble!  This, of course, begged for more details from him and the asked “What have you done?”.  It was no doubt Jonah had done something to cause him to run away from the Lord.  But as King David states in Psalms 139:7 there is no fleeing from God’s presence:

7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.  Psalm 139:7-12 (NIV)

We also see in 2 Chronicles:

9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV)

The sailors’ perceptiveness is again evident.  Believing that Jonah’s God controls the sea, as he had told them, they appealed to Jonah for a resolution to their heightening dilemma.  They sensed that since he was responsible for the storm, they needed to do something to him.  Only then would the storm be abated.  These guys were men of action.  They did more than simply question “Why?”.  They sought a solution for the problem and asked:  “What should we do to make the sea calm down for us?”  Surely, they thought, Jonah would know how to appease this God whom he had angered. 

Jonah’s response was penitent.  Recognizing the gravity of his disobedience that resulted in the great storm, he was willing to endure punishment, even death.  So he told them to throw him into the sea.  Only then, when he was overboard, would the sea be calm.  Perhaps Jonah also thought this would be a way out of his assignment. But God had other plans!

Charles Spurgeon said that God never allows His children to sin successfully, and Jonah is proof of the truth of that statement.  As we stated from Hebrews 12:5-8 last week:

5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”  7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.  Hebrews 12:5-8 (NIV)

We must not make the mistake of giving Jonah the high and admirable name of “martyr” for the title would be undeserved.  Martyr’s die for the glory of God, but Jonah offered to die because selfishly he would rather die than obey the will of God!  He should not be classified with people who were willing to be martyred like Moses in Exodus 32:30-35:

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”  31 So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold.
32 But now, please forgive their sin--but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”  33 The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

Or Esther in Esther 4:15-16:

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:15-16 (NIV)

Or Paul in Romans 9:1-3 who did eventually die the death of a martyr.

1 I speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit--2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race.  Romans 9:1-3 (NIV) 

These were all willing to give their lives to God in order to rescue others.  Jonah is to be commended for telling the Truth but not for taking his life in his own hands.  He should have surrendered his life to the Lord and let Him give the orders.  Had he fallen to his knees and confessed his sins to God, Jonah might have seen the storm cease and the door open to a great opportunity for witness on the ship.    

The sailors, however, were not anxious to take human life for fear they would be held accountable for murder.  It is significant that the heathen sailors at first rejected Jonah’s offer and began to work harder to save the ship.  They did more for Jonah than he was willing to do for them.  This contrasts sharply with Jonah’s lack of compassion for the Ninevites as well.  So the men on the ship (except for Jonah) tried again to get back to land.  Yet against the Sovereign Lord, the sailors meager efforts brought no relief.  In fact the storm intensified.  Recognizing the futility of their hard work and seeing the cause was hopeless, as well as believing Jonah’s God controls the sea, they realized Jonah’s instructions had to be carried out.   They began to ask Jonah’s God for forgiveness in anticipation for throwing him into the stormy sea.  They did not want innocent blood on their hands.  They feared what God would do if they killed Jonah.  They confessed God’s power to create the storm when and how He wanted to.  

Interestingly, those Gentiles, not having the Law of God, instinctively recognized the worth of human life and pleaded for God’s mercy on them for killing an innocent man.  By their words, You, O Lord, have done as You pleased, the sailors were acknowledging His divine sovereignty and providence in the storm as well as in the casting of the lots.  Here is complete role reversal – pagan sailors acting like the most pious Israelite, with the Israelite prophet fleeing from God like the most pagan foreigner.  Also, sometimes unsaved people put believers to shame by their honesty, sympathy and sacrifice.  

It is evident these pagan sailors at the very least knew some basic theology:  the existence of Jonah’s God, His judgment of sin, their own guilt before Him, and His sovereignty over creation. They confessed in Jonah 1:14:

“for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.” Jonah 1:14 (NIV) 

However, there is no evidence that they abandoned their old gods; they merely added Jehovah to their “god shelf”.

Finally, after all else had failed, the seasoned sailors lifted Jonah and hurled him to the sea and immediately God stopped the sea and it raged no longer.  They had thrown themselves on God’s mercy and then threw Jonah into the raging sea and God stopped the storm. 

This showed them the reality and power of the God of Israel.  Their early terror gave way to respect and worship yet the aspect of terror never completely left the scene.  They stood in awe of – feared - the Lord.   He had done what their gods could not do. The sudden calm was an answer to the sailors’ prayers.  The calm also revealed that the storm had resulted from Jonah’s disobedience and that an innocent life had not been snuffed out in casting him overboard.  Utterly amazed at the sudden calm, they offered a sacrifice in praise to the Lord (Yahweh Israel’s God) and promised (made vows) to continue their praise. Again the sailors are seen in contrast with their former passenger.  Whereas Jonah was disobedient to God, they were praising Him!  Their worshipful fear did not remain a feeling or an emotion – it led to an action.

For us to rebel against God’s will, as Jonah did, is to invite the chastening hand of God.  That is why the Westminster Catechism states:  “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  We glorify God by enjoying His will and doing it from our hearts.  Paul tells us in Colossians 3:22-25:

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.  Colossians 3:22-25 (NIV)

And it was on this very point that Jonah failed miserably.  God loved Jonah even in his fleeing so much so that He went with Jonah, seeking to show Jonah just how big His love was.  Jonah’s small love covered himself and his own people.  But God’s big love covered all the world, even Nineveh and the pagan sailors on the ship.  Jonah could not rest on his past laurels, banking on what he had already accomplished for God and neither can we.  Jonah, as do we, must follow God wherever He chooses to lead.  God chastened him severely but he was not given over to death.  Jonah could rightly say with the psalmist in Psalms 118:18:

18 The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.  Psalm 118:18 (NIV)

God was in pursuit of this fleeing prophet and even the depths of the sea could not stop the hunt.  God had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and protect his life for three days and three nights.  He used a fish to preserve Jonah’s life.  God  can do whatever He wants to do and the Bible invites us to have the same boldness in confessing God’s power.  In closing, I am reminded of the Prophet Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 46:8-11:

8 “Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. 9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. 11 From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.”  Isaiah 46:8-11 (NIV)

These are Beth’s personal notes, due to this fact sources are not often stated.

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