Jonah: A Crisis at SeaReview last week: Jonah was told to go to Nineveh to give them an ultimatum. “Turn to God or be destroyed.” Jonah disobeyed God and ran in the opposite direction.
Read: Jonah 1:4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.
I read a verse like this and wonder how anyone can say that God does not send difficulty our way in order to cause a change. I think sometimes we really do need a slap upside the head in order to get our heads screwed on straight and for us to start listening to and obeying God. What do you guys think?
Read: Jonah 1:5 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.
Hit the panic button! In a time of crisis, we naturally call for help from whatever god or person we believe can save us. The sailors also used their boating skills to try to save themselves – get the dead weight off the boat, raise the height of the ship, and hopefully we won’t sink.
There are a couple of ways to look at this.
1 – They called out to their gods, but did not believe their gods would actually save them. So, they did the work themselves attempting to save their own lives.
2 – They called out to their gods, but they also did what they could while they waited for help.
There are many perspectives on what we are to do in a crisis, but for me, far too often it looks like this.
I cry out “God – Help!”
I think to myself, “This is taking too long.”
I try to fix it myself.
Usually this results in a bad ending as I did not wait for God to do his work, and I mucked up the whole thing creating more work for everyone involved.
In stark contrast to the sailors, Jonah goes below deck and falls asleep. Again, the Bible does not offer us much information as to why he went below deck and fell asleep or how he was able to fall asleep. Besides the potential sea sickness that could come upon you in a storm such as this, how on earth did he fall asleep in such a moment of crisis? The entire ship along with all of its cargo and men was about to be buried at sea.
Again there are many guesses as to how and why Jonah fell asleep. My personal thought is that he was exhausted from running from God. Have you ever been so tired that you literally collapsed into bed and fell asleep? You slept through dinner. You slept through your mom calling you to dinner? You slept until morning came. This is how I picture Jonah – weakened emotionally and spiritually, he faces a massive storm that he knows is his fault. He calls it quits, throws in the towel, goes below deck where he doesn’t have to watch anything happening and collapses into bed – laying down to sleep or die or come what may. At this point, I doubt he really cared.
Read: Jonah 1:6 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.”
I can picture the captain shouting “Wake up and lend a hand here. You are the only one who has not cried out to your god. We don’t want to die you idiot! Wake up!”
Read: Jonah 1:7 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.
Casting lots is a lot like drawing straws except it held more power. It was like saying whoever gets this short straw is responsible for what has happened here. The short straw ends up in Jonah’s hands.
Read: Jonah 1:8 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?”
They riddle him with questions. Who are you? What happened? What’s your story?
Read: Jonah 1:9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
Now he obviously told him more than just that, because in the next verse the Bible says he had already told them he was running away from the Lord.
Read: Jonah 1:10 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.)
They were very scared at this point. Now I find this interesting. Not one of them was a follower of God, but they were afraid when Jonah said he worshipped the God who made the earth and sea. Why do you think that was?
Read: Jonah 1:11 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?”
In verse 10, they basically said “Why did you do this to us? What have you brought down upon our heads?” In verse 11, they are looking for answers. “What are we to do with you to save our lives?” How would you like to be Jonah right now?
Read: Jonah 1:12 “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.”
How many of us would have taken that route? How many of us might have tried an easier way out or tried to blame someone else or even God? Were these the words of man committed to God and his plan or were these the words of a man who had given up?
Read: Jonah 1:13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
Again, they decide to rely on themselves and try to row to safety. No luck! Instead the storm gets worse! Do you think God might be trying to make a point here? Pretty often we end up in a situation where instead of just confessing it is our fault, like Jonah did, we try to shift the focus or blame elsewhere. Then we try to “row” our way out of the problem when in fact, we should have just done what needed to be done in God’s eyes to correct the situation.
Why didn’t they just throw Jonah overboard?
Read: Jonah 1:14 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.”
Ah! There’s the answer. They were afraid of God. They knew throwing Jonah overboard was going to kill him. In the open sea during a storm, his chances of survival were zero. They also knew that killing was wrong. They were afraid of the consequences of killing God’s man.
Read: Jonah 1:15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
One way to tell you’ve made the right decision in the middle of a crisis is peace. They finally decide to throw him overboard, and instantly the sea is calm.
Read: Jonah 1:16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
Seeing the sea become completely calm after nearly losing their lives changed their perspective on God forever. I get the feeling that before throwing Jonah into the sea, they were simply afraid of God, because their lives were on the line. At this point they are running scared of just about anything and everything in a state of panic trying to make sense of what is going on. Jonah is thrown into the sea and the storm stops. The Bible doesn’t say they cheered and hooped and hollered. It says “The men greatly feared the Lord.” Then they changed their lives. They made sacrifices to the Lord and made vows to him.
In Jonah’s life and at his best behavior, he many never have reached the men on the boat. When he is at his weakest moment, that’s when God uses him to change the lives of the sailors.
If you are in the middle of a storm, struggling with your faith or walking through a difficult situation, try to remember that this particular circumstance, this moment in time may not be all about you. God might be changing the life of someone near you or maybe an entire boatload of people around you. Keep your eyes on the Lord and obeying his commands.
Next week: Jonah’s in the water: now what?