So far in the book of Jonah, we’ve seen God give an order and the prophet Jonah decide to go rogue. He boards a ship of mariners headed out across the Mediterranean Sea. Neither Jonah nor the crew has disclosed their religious beliefs at this point.
Jonah and the mariners are headed to southern Spain, and God is pursuing his rogue prophet through an intense storm. The skilled fishermen had been through many storms and their lives were in grave danger.
“Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.” Jonah 1:5, emphasis added
Each one of these sailors starts to call out to their respective gods to come down, prove themselves strong, and rescue them from this storm. It’s amazing to see how religious people become when disasters strike. What about you? Who do you call out to when disaster strikes?
The sailors are all calling out to their own gods. This is a classic display of religious pluralism. All the men praying in different languages, offering different rituals to their gods, totally unashamed, in hopes of finding out exactly whose god is upset and if there’s anyway they can placate his or her rage and to see if maybe he or she will be gracious enough to spare their lives.
So they play a few rounds of Whose-god-will-come-through and come up with nothing!
Who do you cry out to when all is lost?
So, not only do the sailors turn quite religious, but they also don’t neglect the very practical conventional wisdom that it’ll take to spare their lives: they start throwing the cargo overboard into the sea.
It is amazing how our values get purified quickly when it comes down to life and death. These men start throwing their money, their cargo, their livelihood in the sea without a second thought, without one mention of how much they’ll miss their money.
Have you ever stood at a deathbed in a hospital and heard the individual nearing death talk about how bad they wish they had more stuff? No. They start talking about what really matters.
Of course, what they don’t realize is that they’ve yet to address the one true God who is actually responsible for the storm.
But Jonah was in the lower parts of the ship fast asleep!
He’s run away from God and his responsibilities and has totally isolated himself. Sin leads us many places. For some of us, we are like Jonah, and opt for isolation.
He’s got himself convinced, I’m free! I’ve escaped from God and I’m safe now. I can just go on about my business. And what’s amazing is that Jonah can even sleep at all knowing that he’s running away from God’s call on his life! This shows exactly how hard his heart is at this point.
He really thinks he’s escaped God’s call on his life.
Are you escaping?
Are you isolated?
Are you sleeping?
“So the captain came and said to him, ‘What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.’” Jonah 1:6
Look how good and gracious God is here to the rogue prophet: God sends the captain down to the middle of the ship and calls Jonah out of his unconsciousness and wakes Jonah up and says “Jonah! What are you doing? You need to ‘call out to your god!’ We are all about to die!”
If you’re running, God is coming for you.
If you’re a mom or dad and your child is running from God, rest assured, God has a reputation of sending captains to awaken the rebels from their sleep.