Fleeing From The Lord
Jonah ministered during the reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel. National decay continued, and it was a time of idolatry and immorality. Jeroboam II did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and led his people into sin. The Lord saw the suffering of his people and stepped in to give relief. In spite of the sin of the people, Jonah is directed to prophesy that the country’s borders, which had been eaten away through repeated foreign incursions, would be restored. The word of the Lord came to Jonah instructing him to go to Nineveh and call out against it because of their evil. Jonah had received another word from the Lord, but this time his response was different. He did not obey the Lord. Instead, he decided to flee from the presence of the Lord. Imagine the absurdity of God's prophet running from the almighty God. Jonah's downward spiral began when he went down to Joppa with the intention of taking a ship and going to Tarshish. After paying the fare, he went down into the ship. The sailors finished their preparations, and they set out to sea. Little did they know that their Israelite passenger would almost cost them their lives. The Lord hurled a great storm and the ship, her crew, and the passenger was suddenly in great danger. The mariners who had spent much of their life on the sea were so frightened that they were calling on their gods and throwing their cargo into the sea in order to lighten their load. This was no ordinary storm. These men had weathered storms at sea before, but nothing like this. The storm was so bad that these sailors were willing to forfeit their cargo and every opportunity for financial gain just to save their lives. On the deck of the ship, the captain made an observation. Someone was missing from this crowd, and it was the passenger they picked up in Joppa. Once again, Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had fallen asleep. When the captain found him, he called him the same way that God had called him and told him to arise. They were facing death, and this guy was asleep so the captain awakened him and instructed him to call out to his god in the hopes that they might be spared.
God Of Creation
The men gathered on the deck of the ship and cast lots to discover who was responsible for their trouble. Jonah must have known that the lot would fall to him and when it did, he found himself staring into the eyes of some mariners who were terrified by the storm. The questions must have come in rapid succession. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? Of what people are you? Jonah was surrounded, and he needed an explanation for what was taking place. The words quickly flowed from his mouth, but they must have rung hollow. Jonah identifies himself as a Hebrew who fears the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land. Jonah was in the place he so desperately wanted to avoid, surrounded by pagans and declaring the truth about God. The men asked him what could be done to appease God so that the sea would quiet down. Jonah's answer must have come as somewhat of a surprise. Jonah's response was for these men to throw him overboard because this was his fault. The mariners refused to comply, and they tried with all their might to row back to dry land. It was useless. They were no match for the sea, and the sea obeyed its maker. Fear seized them as the begged the Lord for mercy. They pleaded with the Lord not to kill them for what they were about to do to Jonah. They had no doubt that God was powerful and they feared that if this was the wrong thing to do that he might strike them for taking the life of Jonah. They picked up Jonah, and they cast him into the sea. To their amazement, the sea grew quiet immediately, and they were exceedingly afraid. They offered a sacrifice and made vows to God. The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah would spend the next three days and nights in the great fish. The downward spiral had gone even beyond what Jonah could imagine, and his sin proved costly.
Things To Consider:
- How does God speak today?
- How does God deal with evil?
- Are you running from God? Why?
- What are some ways we ignore God's word?
- If God is sovereign over creation, how should we think of storms or natural disasters?
- Why does death make people think about religion?
- Do your words match your behavior?
- Why do you think Jonah suggested that they throw him overboard?
- Why do you think the men tried one more time to reach the shore?
- Why do you think these men offered sacrifices and made vows to God?
- What sacrifices have you offered lately? Why?
- What vows have you made lately? Why?
- What are the implications of God appointing the great fish?