“Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.” Jonah 1:10 (all emphases added)
The men were terrified at the power of Jonah’s God. Jonah explained to them that he’s a rogue prophet running from the presence of God, the mission of God, and the people of God. What about you? Have you ever run from God and found yourself actually confessing unbelievers about it? In case you haven’t, let me tell you: there’s a brokenness in that experience that is known nowhere else, telling someone who doesn’t know your God about your distance from him . . .
If you’re a Christian who is running from God today, James says to “confess your sins to one another.” Don’t keep it to yourself and hope it’ll just go away. Don’t just talk to unbelievers about it either. Find some Christians who are walking with Jesus and talk with them, have them pray with you, and put some practical steps in place to help you walk with him.
“Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?’ For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, ‘Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.’” Jonah 1:11–12
Don’t misread this verse right here!
Some of us will want to read this and see Jonah as a type of Christ, a man offering himself as a vicarious sacrifice to save sinners just like Jesus, who dies for sinners. But that’s hijacking the text and making Jonah look like the hero and not the villain! Remember: Jonah’s got it all wrong—he’s running from God, not to God!
Further, his actions don’t square with Old Testament theology. Nowhere does the Bible teach that there must be a human sacrifice of a prophet or priest to satisfy the wrath of God. There’s only one man that can do that, and his name is Jesus and he comes on the scene about 740 years after this is written. Jonah doesn’t acknowledge the Scriptures, nor does he pray. He just throws this thought out there.
Repentance is painful
How many times are we like this? We may be tempted to assume that we know what God wants. Jonah would rather die than repent of own his mistakes and be obedient to God and go to Nineveh. And why is that? Because repentance is one of the most painful things in the world!
Some of you may find yourselves in Jonah’s company today, reluctant to repent. Jonah does not want to be obedient. Obedience to God is very expensive. Our obedience to God’s mission demands that we go to those who are unclean and outside of what we consider to be the bounds of God’s love.
“Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.” Jonah 1:13
The men initially reject Jonah’s request for burial at sea and row harder. And God just turns it up all the more. He’s waiting on Jonah’s repentance! He’s not going to let someone else do Jonah’s repentance for him. He’s going to have to do it himself. No one can do you repenting for you. Repentance is a gift of God.
The pagans give up their gods
“Therefore they called out to the Lord, ‘O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.’ So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.” Jonah 1:14–16
The mariners feared what God would do if they threw Jonah in the sea. Nonetheless, they follow through and the sea stops raging. These polytheists now turn from their false gods to Jonah’s God, the one true God, and worship him! Mysteriously, under God’s providence, Jonah’s rebellion and God’s grace has led to the outbreak of all these unbelieving sailors bowing in prayer before God Almighty.
Where’s your heart?
Isn’t this amazing that the conversion of these sailors and the free giving of their resources in sacrifice to God is done out of gratitude? Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What about you? Where’s your heart?