Jonah…and Then Some

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

Today I am going to take a look at a less popular aspect of the story of Jonah. I am going to pull out a few verses from chapter 1. Let’s start with Jonah 1:5:

Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.

When Jonah disobeyed God he went on a ship to Tarshish to flee from the Lord. God sent a storm to torment this ship. The sailors each had their own (little “g”) gods that they cried out to for help. They even started to throw some of their cargo into the water in hopes that it would save them and the boat. Once they realized this wasn’t working, they found sleeping Jonah and asked him to call on his God. They asked him more questions to try to figure out if he was bringing this trouble on them. Then in verses 9 and 10 we see this:

So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

They then reasoned with Jonah to see what to do. This is when Jonah told them to throw him overboard. In verse 13 it says:

13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them.

Earlier Jonah told them what to do, but they really did not want to throw him overboard, so they rowed harder and harder. Don’t we often do this? We know what God is asking us to do, but we think if we just try harder we can fix it on our own. After seeing that the storm grew worse and worse we see this in verse 14:

14 Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.”

I love stories like this in the Bible where those who once prayed to other gods come to the realization (often out of desperation) that God is the only one that can hear them and answer their prayers. Finally, we will look at verses 15 and 16:

15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.

As soon as they threw him overboard, they experienced the breaking of the storm. God performed a miracle and they responded accordingly. They turned from fearing the seas to fearing God. They sacrificed to God and made promises to him. So, we started with a ship full of fearful idol worshippers and we ended up with a ship full of devoted followers of God (without any record of one having been lost in the storm). Now, I am certainly not praising Jonah for his disobedience. What I want to highlight is the fact that God can make good things come from anything, even a situation that is the result of a sin. If Jonah had not ended up on that boat perhaps those sailors would have never had another chance to experience the power of God or commit their lives to Him. I also find it interesting that no harm came to any of the sailors on that ship. Yes, God sent a storm to redirect Jonah, but no one died in the process. In fact, they found the opposite, the source of true life. Think about this experience from the sailor’s perspective. They think they are going for a simple boat ride. Then they experience a tempestuous (blowing with violence) storm. They must have been convinced they were close to death or they would not have started to throw the ship’s contents overboard. Desperate prayers to their gods were of no avail. Then, they think they are committing murder by throwing Jonah overboard only to see the storm cease from its raging. Finally, they sacrifice to the one true God and commit themselves to Him. I mean, could any of us have scripted something like that? God redirects a stubborn man, saves a ship full of unrighteous sailors and then saves Jonah from the open waters using a giant fish. In the end, Jonah, a ship full of people going to Tarshish and all of Nineveh turned from their wicked ways to follow God. Talk about multitasking efficiencies!

Final Thoughts…

God is no respecter of persons. He will welcome anyone that is willing to turn from their ways and follow Him. He seized the opportunity to add more arrows into his quiver at every bend in this story. We all enjoy the incredible story of Jonah, but today I couldn’t help but notice the incredible miracle that happened before Jonah could even obey God. There are no coincidences in this life. God loves scripting this beautiful symphony of individual sounds and blending them into a true masterpiece. He is not sitting up in heaven hoping we will all be good little robots and saying, “Oh well” when we make a wrong move. He can still weave something beautiful out of all the imperfect bumps and breaks. He is just that good.