Jonah 4:5-11

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered.When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
(Jonah 4:5-11 NIV)

In our previous time together, we saw that Jonah was angry that God had mercy on Nineveh after everyone in the city repented.  God appealed to Jonah and asked Jonah if he was angry because God did something good.  Jonah had a short memory of the kindness and grace that God had shown him when he was disobedient and repented… something about three days in the belly of the fish – how could he forget so soon?

In today’s text, Jonah leaves Nineveh and makes himself a little makeshift shelter just outside the city.  Jonah still has an unforgiving attitude toward the Ninevites.  Jonah doesn’t want the people of Nineveh redeemed and reconciled with God – he wants them dead.

Jonah was hoping that the Ninevites’ repentance was temporary and that God would see through their mascarade and change His mind again, destroying the Ninevites.  Instead of rejoicing in the entire city turning to the Lord, Jonah was harboring a grudge and still wanted God to judge the city and all its inhabitants.  And Jonah wanted a front row seat for the show.

So God decided to give Jonah another object lesson on grace.  The Lord raised up a leafy plant overnight, giving Jonah shelter from the harshness of the Middle Eastern sun.  The plant’s broad leaves provided shade and shelter over Jonah’s shelter.  Obviously, Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.

The first part of the lesson went well.  The second part, not so much.

The next day, the Lord then appointed a lowly worm to eat on the plant so that the plant died.  On top of the dead plant, the Lord stirred up a scorching east wind that made Jonah almost faint under the furnace-like heat.  The plant was gone, and Jonah’s shelter provided no relief, as the hot wind blew directly into the opening.

Once again, Jonah had a pity party and said he would be better off dead.

And once again, God questioned Jonah’s attitude, asking Jonah if he was justified in feeling sorry for himself.  Jonah was focused on himself and reiterated his feelings of anger, that he would be better off dead than to experience his current suffering.

The Lord then reminded Jonah that he had nothing to do with the plant – this was all God’s doing.  If God had shown grace to Jonah for 24 hours, how much more grace would He show to a city of 120,000 people?  And not just the people, but all of His creation (the animals) as well?

As the Lord describes Nineveh, He uses the phrase “more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left”.  Some scholars take this to mean that there were 120,000 young children who had not learned the difference between their left and right hands.

More scholars, however, believe this refers to the spiritual maturity of the Ninevites.  Here was Jonah, fully trained in God’s ways and Law, yet with a hardened heart toward the Lord’s grace shown to an entire city that repented.

Yet, the Lord showed grace to an entire city that had a mere child’s view and understanding of the God of the Hebrews, not even knowing, as it were, the difference between their spiritual left and right hands, knowing nothing about God’s Law.  And yet they responded as a child to the overwhelming love of their new Heavenly Father who showed grace and love toward them.

May we experience God’s love and grace today, even if it’s just for 24 hours as Jonah did.

And may we freely share God’s love with those who are opposed to God, not desiring evil on them when they turn to Christ.

After all, we were once enemies of God before we repented and became His sons and daughters.

We finish the book of Jonah where we started – with God’s love and grace abounding.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 4:1-4

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
(Jonah 4:1-4 NIV)

Last time we walked through Chapter 3, as God gave Jonah a second chance to obey.  God called Jonah once again to go preach to the Ninevites, and Jonah obeyed.  After Jonah’s first day of preaching, the entire city, including the king, repents and turns to the Lord.  God then spares Nineveh the punishment He had for them because they repented and turned to the God of the Hebrews.

So what would your attitude be if you preached to a wicked city, and after the first day, the entire city turned to the Lord?  You and I would likely be amazed, be jumping for joy, and worshiping the Lord with all our might, praising Him for what He had done!

So what was Jonah’s attitude to Nineveh repenting, and to God’s relenting of the destruction He had planned?

Jonah was MAD!

Jonah’s response gives us some insight into the tone of his message to the Ninevites.  Jonah’s words were not a proclamation of love, but of hatred and disdain.  Jonah didn’t want the Ninevites saved; he wanted them dead.

Jonah knew God quite well – and we see Jonah’s reasoning for his earlier disobedience as he prayed:

“Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (v. 2)

How quickly Jonah had forgotten his earlier prayer from inside the fish (2:1-9), pleading for God to rescue him, begging for God’s grace and mercy.

Notice how many times Jonah says “I” in verse 2… sounds like Jonah was having a pity party, doesn’t it?

Of course, you and I would never be so inwardly focused and self-absorbed, would we?

In verse 3, Jonah tells God to just kill him; he does not want to go on with life.  I think the translators were being kind to Jonah here.  In reading several scholars, it seems that Jonah’s attitude and sentiments were more like “Rescue Nineveh over my dead body, God!”

Just as God showed grace and mercy on Nineveh when the city repented, God shows grace toward Jonah and does not grant his request.  God answers Jonah and asks him in a kind tone, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

God is asking Jonah, “Is my doing good toward Nineveh displeasing to you, Jonah?”

In Jonah’s world, bad behavior should lead to bad consequences.  Justice should be administered, and the Ninevites had it coming big time.  AN eye for an eye was the law of the land.  According to God’s Law, that was certainly the case.

Except for God’s intervention of grace.

How often do we want God to intervene on our behalf, when we’ve been wronged, or others that we love and care for have suffered at the hands of bad people?

But when the bad people repent, do we still hold on to our hatred, our demand for justice, or wanting to see things made right again?

When it comes to matters of eternal life, God shows His heart of compassion toward even the worst of sinners, as exemplified by the people of Nineveh.  Remember, one sin is just as offensive to a holy God as a million sins are.  There are no degrees of comparison to one another that will justify our behavior before God.   His standard is sinlessness perfection; the standard is Himself.

God’s love for people is not just in the Old Testament, in Jonah’s day; His love for people like you and I is extended into the New Testament as well.  Listen to Peter’s words:

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

May we remember God’s heart for the Ninevites, and for us, and for others.

May we extend that same grace to others as God has given grace to us.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 3:1-10

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
(Jonah 3:1-10 NIV)

When we last saw Jonah, he had just arrived back on shore, courtesy of God’s appointed sea creature.  Both the fish and Jonah felt much better after parting ways.

As we begin chapter 3, we see the Lord calling Jonah once again.  There is no running away this time – God calls and Jonah obeys.  God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh – the same destination as God’s first command to Jonah.  We don’t know how long it was from the time Jonah and the fish parted ways until God’s calling, nor do we know where Jonah landed, or how far away Jonah was from Nineveh.  All we know is that when God called, Jonah obeyed immediately.

The text tells us that Nineveh was a large city (v. 3); later in Chapter 4, we’ll see that God tells us that the population is about 120,000 people.  The text says that it took three days to go through the city.  This meant to walk up and down every street in the city.

Remember that in Jonah’s day there was no Internet, no public address systems, no phones, no newspaper, just Jonah walking up and down each street and proclaiming God’s message along the way.

And what was the message?

“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Imagine, for a moment, the sight and sound of this strange messenger, walking up and down the streets of Nineveh preaching repentance.  If we take our cues from more recent survivors who were swallowed by a fish, Jonah’s appearance would be almost ghoulish – he likely had no hair (including missing eyebrows), and his skin was likely discolored, with brown, yellow, and red blotches.  Three days in the belly of the fish, marinating in the fish’s digestive juices did nothing for his good looks.

So what happened?  Verse 4 tells us that Jonah finished his first day of preaching God’s word; verse 5 tells us that the entire city repented!  Jonah had only finished one-third of his appointed task, and the entire city bowed its knee before Almighty God.

Even the king heard the message and repented (v. 6).  The king declared that the entire city should repent, and passed a law to make it mandatory (vv. 7-28).  Every man and beast was to be covered in sackcloth, and there was to be no food or water for people or animals.  All were to call urgently upon God, to repent of their evil ways and of their violence.  They knew the history of the God of Israel, and they knew that unless they changed and turned to God, they would be destroyed.

While they knew the wrath of the Hebrew God, they also knew of His compassion and love toward those that obeyed Him.  They saw God’s blessings upon Israel, His hand of favor in every aspect of their lives.  The king of Nineveh asked everyone in the city to throw themselves on God’s mercy by repenting, by turning from their wicked, sinful ways, asking God to spare them.

And indeed, verse 10 tells us that the Lord did show compassion and mercy to the city of Nineveh because they changed their ways and put their faith in God.

Can you imagine the magnitude of this change?  An entire city comes to God!  We often look at the smaller story of Jonah, when the bigger story is that this is likely the biggest revival in history!  An entire city – 120,000 people – come to faith!

And what was the origin of this revival?

God at work, convicting people of their sins.

And the obedience of one man – Jonah.

Isn’t God great, giving Jonah a second chance?

And so this same God gives us “do-overs”, second chances as well.
He doesn’t have to, but He chooses to because He loves us.

Yes, there are consequences for our disobedience.
We might have some equivalent of Jonah’s blotchy complexion and no eyebrows in our lives, but God still loves us and gives us another try, because He loves us and has a purpose for each of us in His work and world.

Be encouraged, friends – and take that next step of repentance and obedience to what God is calling you to be and do today.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 1:17 – 2:10 (Part 3)

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
(Jonah 1:17-2:10 NIV)

We have looked at this passage from the text itself, and as one of the sailors.  Today, let’s use our Biblically informed imaginations to drop into Jonah’s story, not as Jonah, but as ourselves.  When I say “Biblically informed imagination”, I am saying we must stay true to the text of the Scripture passage while envisioning what it might have been like to go through this experience.

Today, let’s see this passage as if we were in Jonah’s place.

God had told you to go to Nineveh, but you hated the Ninevites.  They were barbarians, evil and cruel to the core.  You would rather see them go up in flames like Sodom and Gomorrah rather than see them repent.

You buy a ticket headed in the opposite direction, as far away from Nineveh as you can imagine.  You love God but have given up your calling as a prophet.  Nobody ever warned you that it would be this hard, and that God would expect you to go to the capital city of your most hated and feared enemy.

Mentally exhausted, you go below deck and find some large bags of grain.  You quickly arrange them into a semi-flat surface, curl up, and promptly fall asleep.

The next thing you know, the ship captain is yelling at you to wake up and pray to your god.  The ship is tossing violently, and you hear the wind howling.  The wooden ship creaks and groans with every wave.  The crew yells to one other above deck.

As the fog lifts from your sleepy mind, your thoughts quickly form:

This is all my fault.
My disobedience to the Lord has brought God’s judgment on me and this ship and crew.
I am not going back to Nineveh.
I am a dead man.

The crew has cast lots, and the lot points to you.  When they ask what you have done, you tell them everything:  You are running away from God, and the only solution is to throw you overboard.  The crew is afraid of the storm, and even more terrified of God, the God of the Hebrews.  They know His reputation and power extends beyond Israel to the whole world.

As the crew reluctantly picks you up and tosses you over the side of the ship, you suddenly realize how your emotions have carried you away to a very bad decision.  As soon as you hit the water, your natural instincts of survival kick in.

You sink below the surface of the raging sea, then resurface briefly for just a second, gasping for air.  The wind has stopped, but the waves are still crashing around an over you.  With all your clothes on, you begin to sink below the surface again.

You think to yourself – “This is it – I am going to die here.  This is my watery grave.”

Out of desperation, you cry out:  “Lord, save me!  I have no right to ask, but I beg of You, rescue me!  I only desire to serve You once again in Your temple, in Your house!”

You surface one more time, just for a moment.  Coughing up sea water and gasping for air, you see the boat a little ways off.  As you quickly turn around, you see the open mouth of a giant sea creature of some kind, and it’s right behind you.

Terrified, you duck below the surface of the water, hoping to miss it.  But it’s too late – you are swallowed up inside the fish’s mouth, along with other fish, seaweed, and everything else in its path.

In a heartbeat, all goes dark as the fish closes its mouth.  Your ribs feel like they will break as the fish pushes all the water out its gills and swallows you and the remaining contents in its mouth.

You cry out to God again, knowing that He is fully justified to let you stay right here and perish.  You beg God for mercy, the same mercy that you know he would show to the Ninevites if they turned from their wicked ways and acknowledged Him.  Strangely, you sense His presence in this living Sheol, deep in the belly of this sea beast.

The utter darkness, the burning of the beast’s stomach acid on your skin, the limited air, the smell and the heat are all overwhelming.  You wonder how long you will survive.  You count the time with each heartbeat, with each breath.  The seconds tick by into minutes, the minutes trickle by into days.  You drift in and out of consciousness.

You wonder, “am I alive, or am I dead?  Is this the belly of the beast, or is this Sheol, the place of the dead?”

Then suddenly, the great beast lurches to a stop.  Everything in the belly of the beast, including you, are ejected out on the shore.  You squint to adjust to the sunlight – you have been in total darkness for three days.

Your only thought is to worship God for His rescue and redemption.

Wherever God chooses to use you again, even going to Nineveh, you will go, no questions asked.

Over and over, you praise the name and might hand of God Most High.
It’s not your one thought, it’s your only thought.

 

May we be like Jonah with our praise today.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 1:17 – 2:10 (Part 2)

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
(Jonah 1:17 – 2:10 NIV)

The last time, we looked at this passage from the text itself, seeing what we can learn along the way.  Today, let’s use our Biblically informed imaginations to drop into Jonah’s story, not as Jonah, but as ourselves.  When I say “Biblically informed imagination”, I am saying we must stay true to the text of the Scripture passage while envisioning what it might have been like to go through this experience.

First of all, imagine being a sailor on the deck of the ship, completely drenched, the wind howling, the ship being tossed back and forth in the waves, holding on to whatever is nearby for fear of being swept off the boat.  Jonah has just admitted his sin of running away from his god, and this storm is his god’s doing.

Jonah, in his stubbornness, will not repent and make peace with his god; instead, he tells you to just throw him overboard to halt the storm.  Jonah won’t take action on his own to save the ship and crew; he puts the burden on your shoulders to take his life by throwing him overboard.

You have already prayed to your god, and there has been no answer.  You know the stories of old about the God of the Hebrews – how He wiped out the entire Egyptian army and how He empowered a little kid to kill a Philistine giant then made that kid a king, and so many more tales of Jonah’s God intervening in history.

You and your fellow mates are in a terrible dilemma – if you don’t do what Jonah says, you will die in the sea as the storm destroys your boat; if you do what Jonah says, the Hebrew God will take your life for essentially killing Jonah by throwing him overboard.  Either way, you’re a dead man.  You cry out to this God of the Hebrews in desperation, asking Him to spare your life and not hold you accountable for Jonah’s death.

As you and your shipmates grab Jonah and throw him over the rail, and he splashes into the raging sea.  As soon as Jonah hits the water, the wind subsides and the waves quickly dissipate.  The sun begins to peek through the clouds, and you see Jonah bobbing in the water a little ways from the ship.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a great fish of epic proportions surfaces for just a second and lunges to where Jonah had been.  With a flip of its mighty tail, the sea creature is gone, and so is Jonah.

This is overwhelming!  You and your shipmates immediately fall to your knees and worship the God of the Hebrews.  Jonah’s God has spared your life and Jonah’s life has been taken in place of yours.  You make promises to Jonah’s God to worship Him and Him alone for the rest of your days.

May we remember that the same God who spared the lives of the shipmates is the same God who is engaged in our lives.  He loves us too much to let us run away when He calls us to Himself, and will pursue us to the ends of the earth to wins us back.

May we, like the sailors, fall on our knees and worship Him today for all He has done, is doing, and will do.

 

The next time, we’ll look at this passage and experience the story in Jonah’s place.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 1:17-2:10 (Part 1)

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
(Jonah 1:17-2:10 NIV)

As a quick recap:

God calls Jonah – Jonah runs away.
God brings the storm to get Jonah’s attention – Jonah is still unrepentant.
Jonah tells the crew to throw him overboard to calm the storm – the crew follows God;  Jonah does not.

As we begin today’s text, I began with the last verse of Chapter 1, as it is the first verse of Chapter 2 in the Hebrew text and it fits together well as a logical block of thought.  As we read today’s text, we see 1:17 and 2:10 as bookends of the story, with 2:1 – 2:9 being Jonah’s prayer, the contents of the story.

Today, we’ll take a look at the text of the story; the next time, we’ll experience the story with Jonah.

In verse 2, we see Jonah crying out for help from the “realm of the dead”.  The Hebrew word Jonah uses is “Sheol”, the place of the dead.  And what happens?  God hears Jonah and answers.  Truly God is the God of the living and the dead!

In verse 3, Jonah acknowledges God’s judgment for his disobedience as he sinks beneath the waves.  In verse 4, Jonah knows he has been expelled from God’s sight, but yet he still turns to the Lord for rescue, because he knows the power and goodness of God.

In verses 5 – 7, Jonah describes his descent into his watery grave.  Just when Jonah felt like death’s door had slammed shut behind him, he realizes God’s rescue and redemption.  Once again, Jonah prays to the Lord for help, as he knows the goodness and love of God.

In verses 8 – 9, Jonah confesses both his idolatry (in the form of self-reliance as he runs from God) as well as the idolatry of the sailors (as they prayed to their gods to no avail back in chapter 1).  Both Jonah and the sailors turned to the One True God, the God of Israel, who heard their pleas and rescued both Jonah and the sailors.

Jonah vows to sacrifice to the Lord when he gets out of the fish’s belly; for now, Jonah will offer a sacrifice of praise with his voice.  Just as the sailors experienced a miracle above the sea, Jonah experienced a miracle below the sea.  God has clearly been their rescuer, and in thanksgiving, both Jonah and the sailors make vows to the Lord.

Three days and three nights later, God commands the fish to swim to shore and expel its indigestible stomach contents onto the shore.  The fish is relieved of its sour stomach, and Jonah is restored to life once again.  Both feel much better.

There are two schools of thought for those who believe that the story of Jonah is real.

One school of thought says that Jonah was alive in the belly of the fish for three days.  This is entirely plausible, as in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, there were documented cases of men falling overboard and being swallowed by great sea creatures (whales and sharks).  The fishing boats pursued and captured these great sea creatures after a couple of days, and found their shipmates unconscious but still alive in the belly of these creatures.  They were hospitalized and later restored to full health.

Another school of thought is that Jonah died in the belly of the fish.  All the talk in Jonah’s prayer is real – he did go to Sheol, the place of the dead and the experience was real.  And that means that God raised Jonah from the dead.

I don’t have a particular position on these two schools of thought – either is plausible.  The only question I have – which one brings God the most glory?

In today’s text, we see the meta-narrative of God’s story, the “big picture” of what God has done, is doing, and will do:  Creation, the fall (sin), redemption, and restoration.

May we have confidence that what God has done in the larger story, He is actively doing in our life and the lives of those around us, even when we run away from what God is calling us to be and to do.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 1:11-16

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 out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, 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.
(Jonah 1:11-16 NIV)

In our previous sessions, we saw the Lord call Jonah to go preach to the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh.  Jonah deliberately disobeyed God and headed in the opposite direction, hoping that God would not spare Nineveh, but would destroy them as He did Sodom and Gomorrah.  However, running away was not in God’s plans for Jonah.  God tracked down Jonah by bringing a huge storm on the boat Jonah was in.  Jonah was found out and admitted to the captain and crew that he was running away from the Lord. As we saw, the captain and the crew were incredulous (“what have you done, Jonah?!?”) and terrified of what Jonah’s God would do to him and to them.

As we pick up today’s text, Jonah and the crew are still in the midst of the raging storm.  Faced with the fact that this storm is supernatural, brought on by Jonah’s God, and because of Jonah’s sin, the captain and crew ask Jonah what they should do to appease Jonah’s God and save their lives.  They certainly know the God of the Hebrews, but were not familiar with the details of His ways.  The last thing they want to do is to make matters worse and seal their own fate and death.

Jonah’s answer was shockingly selfish.  Rather than repent and seek God’s mercy for his disobedience, Jonah would rather die than obey God and go preach to the Ninevites.  And Jonah would not jump off the boat voluntarily to save the ship and the crew.  Instead, Jonah tells the crew that they must throw him overboard.  Jonah was avoiding the responsibility for his sins and was attempting to put the responsibility of his life on the sailors, not on himself.  Jonah needed to die to himself but was unwilling to do so.

For the sailors, this put them in an even worse predicament.  In their minds, Jonah’s God was already taking out His wrath on them because of Jonah’s simple disobedience.  How much more would Jonah’s God punish them for killing Jonah by throwing him overboard?  Remember that the rule of the day for that culture was “a life for a life”.  If they essentially killed Jonah by throwing him overboard, then they would all be killed for doing so.

In their attempt to appease Jonah’s God and avoid taking Jonah’s life, the sailors tried to row to land so they could drop Jonah off, or at least get close enough where Jonah could swim to shore.  When they were exhausted and finally gave up their human attempts to resolve the situation, the sailors knew they must do what Jonah said.

Before throwing Jonah overboard, however, they pleaded with God to not hold them accountable for what they were about to do, for taking Jonah’s life.  At this point, the sailors were more righteous in God’s sight for their attitudes and actions than Jonah was.

So with fear and trepidation, the sailors threw Jonah overboard.  And rather than God destroying their ship and taking their lives in retribution for their actions, God showed His mercy on the sailors and immediately calmed the sea.  The sailors were shocked and feared God even more for sparing their lives and calming the waves.  Their fears turned into worship and adoration and solemn vows (presumably to serve this Hebrew God, Jonah’s God, for all their remaining days).

What is our response when we sin and it affects others?  Do we repent and ask forgiveness, or do we suffer the consequences and force others to suffer with us?

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Romans 6:23 NIV).

As we’ll see, Jonah had to die to self in order to live.

And so must we.

May we die to self, to our sinful desires of self-preservation, fear, hatred, unforgiveness, and every other sin, and experience new life in Christ.

Blessings,
~kevin