Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jonah 1:4-6

4The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.

5Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep.

6So the captain approached him and said, "How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish."

Last week left us pondering if Jonah would outrun the Lord, as the prophet made a decision to flee from the assignment God had given him. Not surprising, God had a plan in mind, and He would expect Jonah to fulfill the role given to him--even if it meant some creative maneuvering on the Lord's part!

Rather than speak directly to Jonah or physically stop his pursuit of the sea, God allows Jonah to board a ship for Tarshish. But the weather forecast is not going to make for smooth sailing. We see, in verse 4, that God "hurled a great wind." In the Hebrew, 'hurled' carries the connotation of something being cast down or reeling, as if an unwinding, unfurling spool of line. This was not a run-of-the-mill wind. Indeed, the verse ends with the development of a great storm, powerful enough to break the ship into pieces.

Veteran sailors know how to handle themselves on the water. But, this storm would seem to have brought out the rawest of feelings in these men and prompted the direst of actions.

"Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters;
They have seen the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep.
For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; their soul melted away in their misery.
They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wits' end.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses."
--Psalm 107: 23-28

A cross-reference for verse 5, this portion of Psalm 107 gets to the heart of the sailors' response. My study Bible has a note on verse 27 that 'wits' end' means "all their wisdom was swallowed up." [Foreshadowing, if I do say so myself.] In light of their situation, they cry out to their gods (and hear nothing, no surprise) and throw the ship's cargo overboard to try and save the ship. I found it interesting that the Hebrew wording for throwing the cargo is the same expression as God hurling forth the great wind. The sailors' response is clearly one of confusion and desperation--a last-ditch effort to save themselves.

Take a moment, here, and consider what this verse is saying. What happens when our "ships" seem to be breaking apart? Do we call on God to save us, acting out of faith, recognizing His mighty power, or do we cry out to everything but God to pull us through, panicking and stressing as we look to jettison anything that might be inhibiting the progress toward our goals?

"Oh that men would be thus wise for their souls, and would be willing to part with that wealth, pleasure, and honour, which they cannot keep without making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, and ruining their souls for ever!"
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

At this time, we find Jonah not on the deck of the ship, throwing cargo overboard, but in the recesses of the ship, continuing his efforts to hide out. As if Jesus in the storm on the disciples' boat, Jonah manages to lie down and fall asleep in the midst of all the calamity. The captain finds Jonah, asking him how he can sleep. (The King James says, "What meanest thou, O sleeper?") All hands are on deck. All hands are praying, albeit to unknown gods. And here is Jonah, shirking.

God would certainly not allow this moment to be lost on His servant. God had every intention of having him discovered, and by the one in earthly charge of the boat, no less. The shipmaster would surely have spoken in terms of the immediate situation at hand, desperately hoping for a way out of the trouble. But is God not providing a word for all to hear, and most certainly Jonah?

"Arise, call upon thy God...." (vs. 6, KJV)

God knows exactly where Jonah is and what Jonah is trying to do. But just as He calls Jonah in verse 2 to arise and go to Ninevah, He tells Jonah, again, to arise. "Get up! Call on me! Be a witness of Who I am to this crew, to my people!" It's not just a matter of physically getting up, but of standing up for the Lord, fulfilling what God has called one to be and to do.

Even the shipmaster seemed to have the understanding that some power could be called upon to save them in this storm. It was just a matter of finding the right one. And, perhaps, that one would have the concern, the compassion, the mercy to save them.

Next week, does Jonah arise?.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Jonah 1:7-9

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).