Pursued on the Sea

Jonah 1:4-17

Might think “why do we need to know from the OT how determined God is to save people? He sent his Son…” True, does show the depths of God’s love for his people, also love Father had for his Son. Father loved the Son so much he gave him his heart’s desire – a people who would be one with him, redeemed by him, purchased as his inheritance.

A different aspect of God’s character is shown here in Jonah. Simply sending Jesus did not accomplish everything lost people need to be saved. Remember Paul: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” The lost, regardless of BC or AD need to hear truth, hear good news in order to come to faith. And… through Jonah God demonstrates just how much he loves the lost and how much he will do to bring them to salvation. God didn’t simply say “I made the way, it’s up to you to find it.” Jonah would have been quite content with that approach. Jonah not happy with God’s methods, God’s persistence and determination to save people Jonah thought didn’t deserve salvation. We must guard against thinking of the lost as Jonah did… regardless of reasons we might have to think that way.

Jonah was determined, if God insisted on saving some of people of Nineveh, he would have to use some other prophet. Jonah’s preference for them to stay lost, his definite intention whichever way God moved he would not be part of solution. God had other ideas, and no cranky sinner like Jonah would derail God’s redemptive plan for either Jew or Gentile, before or after hinge of history at the cross. And… God would make it absolutely plain to all concerned what he intended to do and who he expected to do it. At same time, God showed patience and gentleness beyond measure to reluctant servant who in no way deserved it.

A. God sends a wind v.4-5

an extraordinary wind

great wind, great tempest – piling on the words to communicate just how fierce storm was that God “hurled down” on the sea

ship itself “considered breaking up” – personified, in life and death struggle with the storm, moaning and groaning and about ready to give up the fight

should have served as rebuke to prophet – what we think of as “forces of nature” fully cooperated with God, he did not!

frightening prospect

journey from Joppa to Tarshish not for faint of heart – long and often dangerous, usually attempted only by experienced highly skilled sailors

those who knew worst nature normally threw at them thought they were gonna die, seriously – doing everything they knew to keep from drowning

emergency measures

appears from description was a cargo ship, not passenger vessel – carrying expensive items from middle and far East to western European port

many things at risk solely because of Jonah’s disobedience: ship itself, expensive cargo, supplies for sailors, lives of all aboard

self-willed prophet jeopardizing sailor’s profit – had to lighten ship so wouldn’t sink, needed enough ballast so didn’t capsize

sleeping prophet

ship threatening to disassemble around him, Jonah oblivious to it all, sound asleep – perhaps figuring out of sight, out of mind… God’s mind at least

important note: here a genuine servant of God, should have major guilty conscience, could turn down volume enough to sleep through his world coming apart

B. God sends a word v.6-9

awakened by the captain

captain and crew well aware this no ordinary storm, will take more than ordinary means to survive – requires divine help

some god, any god, pray for help so we don’t all die out here – least you can do, if not going to help any other way, is pray!

was Jonah going to pray? to his God? NOT! he knew truth of their situation, knew also how God would respond if he did pray… except in sincere repentance

Jonah not even close to repentance at this point – probably at point of stubbornness where would say at least better to die than go to Nineveh, and by actions showing total unconcern for how many he took with him

rebuked by the crew

sailors figured out – by no means normal kind of storm, a fury that could only come from divine being displeased with someone

cast lots to figure out who was cause of danger – relying on divine power of some kind to oversee lot and direct its outcome

lot fell to Jonah, crew fell upon Jonah with words if not hands, demanded whole story – perhaps thought details would help them form successful strategy to stay alive

knew from the lot Jonah was guilty, were holding him accountable for his sinful action, if for no other reason than he put them at risk by foolish actions

cornered by confession

identified himself, identified his God by name and description – he worshiped YHWH, creator God as distinct from sailors’ gods

had previously told them, probably when he booked passage, he was running away from his God – likely thought he meant one of tribal territorial gods with limited range

no longer a mystery – everyone knows Jonah trying to hide from god of sea/land… iow, one who can hunt him down anywhere

sailors may have connected YHWH with legendary accounts of his mighty acts on behalf of Hebrews – think Rahab and Red Sea

C. God sends a wave v.10-15

running out of time

now they’re terrified, more certain than ever they’re gonna die – their “why” question could have number of qualifiers: why this stupid thing, why involve us, why this way of escape….

all the while fury of storm is increasing – remember source of wind, “God hurled…”, and his purpose not simply to cause fear

put burden on Jonah – it’s your fault, you got us into this, what do we do to you so we don’t all die? …giving Jonah full accountability for foolish and dangerous action

one last try

don’t like Jonah’s answer, to throw him overboard, even though made full confession, took full responsibility for predicament

God knew Jonah’s heart, didn’t want to be back on dry land – looking for “suicide by sailor” as way out of God’s appointed task

Jonah would have stayed asleep until all drowned but sailors had higher moral standard than Jonah – would continue to risk their own lives if could save his in the process

God had different plan, as we know did not involve any loss of life… only temporary loss of freedom for Jonah

“forgive the sin we are about to commit”

sailors were not absolutely convinced Jonah’s solution would work – afraid Jonah’s god might take anger out on them for how treated Jonah

at same time, were completely out of options – all would be in the water any minute, last chance to do as Jonah had told them

what they did, hoping against all odds he was right and all on board would survive, escape punishment by Jonah’s god

instant relief

deep breath, look around, check to make sure it’s real – as soon as Jonah hit the water, calm wind and sea as he said

almost more unsettling than fury of storm the instant calm that followed – without question the result of supernatural power

D. God receives worship v.16

fear increased

feared for their lives, feared power of storm, fear the God who governs it all more than all the rest, not sure what to expect

are swift enough to know this God above all others deserves worship and honor – may have added YHWH to god-shelf, but for a time was first in line before the rest

they did get some right – “You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” – is totally correct, Jonah will eventually learn from experience God always gets his way

thankfulness expressed

had received undeserved favor from God, they were idol-worshipers after all – correct response to express thanks to right God

probably did not offer animal sacrifice on the spot, they did take vows to do so at first opportunity – needed to find land soon and resupply, find another cargo

F. God sends a whale v.17

prepared by God

was right creature with right characteristics to serve God’s purpose – don’t know all details how God prepared fish, is enough to know that God did it

nice, heartwarming to know some scientists (or others) have found/seen sea creatures large enough to swallow man whole

don’t forget fish isn’t star of the story, neither is Jonah – central figure is God, his unquenchable love for lost people and determination to save them

positioned by God

fish precisely on target according to God’s knowledge / plan – impeccable timing / location, personal rescue vehicle for Jonah

llike the storm, was God’s intent that Jonah first, then all who hear/read the story will know none of this occurred by accident

preserved by God

fish was prepared to preserve Jonah, not digest him! is a one-on-one training / correcting / disciplining session Jonah needed to complete so he would serve God’s purpose

Jonah not easily persuaded to obey, had deeply embedded prejudices not fully overcome even by end of his story

God does only what is necessary for Jonah to be useful even though reluctant servant

Don’t be too hard on Jonah, he just put into action what many of us would given the opportunity. What is more amazing / surprising / encouraging is incredible patience and gentleness God showed toward Jonah. Didn’t give up on him, didn’t abandon / throw him away, didn’t punish him with lost opportunity. Step by step God brought Jonah to place of submission and usefulness while at same time keeping redemptive plan on track.

Key to it all is this: people need change of heart. Not just hard-hearted pagans who need God to change their heart. God’s children need heart change also. Brought to point of submissive obedience to God’s will in all things, large and small, public and private.


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