The Perfect Storm (Part 1)
Last week we left Jonah and the sailors in their prayer meeting. After the sailors spend much time and effort seeking their gods and hearing no response and receiving no help, they turn quickly turn to plan B. They decide that casting lots would be a way to find out who is responsible for this mess. They knew that something was wrong somewhere because this was no ordinary storm at sea. This storm was of Divine origin. Rather than being storm chasers, they were the ones being chased. This hurricane was coming after them and they knew it. All the cargo had been jettisoned, all the prayers had been said, now it’s time to find out the truth. Who is the dead weight? They were about to find out that there is one more piece of needless cargo and its name is Jonah.
*Please Read Jonah 1:7-16
Let’s look together at how the Lord revealed Jonah to the sailors. They practiced the ancient custom of casting lots. The sailors resort to an ancient method of learning the truth. Casting of lots was sort of like flipping coins. Each person had a flat rock, one side was white one side was black. If the stones all came up black, the answer was no. If all sides came up white the answer was yes. If they were mixed they rolled again. The answer came up no that is until it was Jonah’s turn. All the rocks said yes.
It’s interesting to see so far in this passage that everything is obeying God except Jonah. So far it seems everyone involved has spiritual sensitivity except Jonah.
The sailors start their interrogation of this visitor. It is question and answer time. It’s time the sailors found out what’s going on here and who is responsible. Let’s look together at the sailor’s questions:
Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. Who’s responsible Jonah? Jonah is this storm because of you? Is it actually chasing you and we’re just caught up in the middle? Why is this happening Jonah?
What is your occupation? Are you involved in a shady deal? Have you recently cheated someone? Are you a spiritualist, medium? Are you involved in some occult practice? Are you some kind of hit man or something?
And where do you come from? What is your country? Are you from a country like Chaldea known for its lying? Are you from Arabia known for its thievery? Where do you call home Jonah?
And of what people are you? What god do your people worship? Is he a good god or a mean god? He must be a mean god, why else would you be running and why would he create this storm to track you down, he must be mean.
I want us to see just how puzzled these men were with Jonah’s conduct. Do you get the picture here? By Jonah’s actions he is telling these strangers that the god he worships is not very good. He is not worth obeying. Jonah has forsaken God.
All through Israel’s history those words come up again and again. They have forsaken God to serve false gods. This is what Jonah is doing. He has turned his back on God and chosen not to listen or obey.
Notice the irony of this account. Jonah had attempted to run away from the presence of God. He was in this tight spot because he would not go and preach to pagans. Guess what is happening? Jonah is about to preach to pagans. Where Jonah’s witness leaves off the storm sent by God makes up. Jonah doesn’t give the sailors an intense message but God sends an intense storm. God’s purposes will always be accomplished even in our disobedience.
Jonah’s first sermon– “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
I am a Hebrew Think about the impact this would have on these men. They were sailors. Going from port to port all around the Mediterranean Sea they probably had heard of the God of the Hebrews. They probably heard about Egypt and how the God of the Hebrews conquered the Egyptians through the plagues and through commanding the sea to part for His people and to fall back in place to drown the Egyptian army. They probably heard about how the God of the Hebrews held back the Jordan River and smashed the walls of Jericho. They no doubt had heard this about the God of the Hebrews.
God says the reason He did what He did in Egypt was for His namesake (Exodus 9:16; Romans 9:17). In other words, the reason God did what He did in Egypt was so that His name would become famous among the nations. Everyone heard about the plagues of Egypt.
I fear the Lord the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” You see this ocean of water. You see these waves that are about to cover us over? You know the dry land that you’d like to set your feet on? My God made all this. Everything you see God made.
They desperately needed the God who could save them from this terrible storm. They also wished more than anything to be on dry ground. Jonah says that the God he fears made both. That was all the sailors needed to hear. It is not by accident that after Jonah tells them who he is that the text says, Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” The sailors heard about this great God.
Here is Jonah’s chance to repent. If Jonah had confessed his sin and turned to God in repentance who knows what would have happened? Perhaps the sailors would have given Jonah a ride to Nineveh on their ship. Jonah’s heart is too hard.
The sailor’s rebuked Jonah and were also amazed at the fact that someone would disobey the God who created everything.
Jonah, what are thinking? You’re telling us that this God you worship made the sea and you are trying to run away from Him by the sea! This question was an amazing question coming from pagan sailors. They were possibly thinking things like this: Did your God do something terrible that caused you to flee from Him? Did God deal so harshly and unkindly that you had no choice but to flee? Had you found out something about this God that was dishonorable? What reason do you have for fleeing, Jonah? What is this that you have done!” These pagan sailors could not understand why if Jonah’s God was so powerful why he would forsake Him and turn and go in the opposite direction.
Well we must stop for this week. Join us next week as we see together what the Lord does in the life of these sailors and in the life of His reluctant prophet, Jonah. I’m Pastor Brian Evans from Grace Community Church in Waverly (www.gccWaverly.com) Join me next time for more Grace for Today
Grace and Peace,