Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jonah 1:10-12

10Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, "How could you do this?" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.

11So they said to him, "What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?"--for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy.

12He said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you."

Jonah's revelation of his calling to the sailors was most likely much more detailed than what we actually read in the book of Jonah last week. As we open this week's passage, the sailors are "extremely frightened." They have gained enough of an understanding that Jonah has made the one true God angry, and no one wants to be in the hands of an angry God.

"But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath."
--Jeremiah 10:10

The question in verse 10 as written in the New American Standard Bible is "How could you do this?" Other translations use "What have you done...?" [NIV] or "Why hast thou done this?" [KJV]. These quick-study sailors question Jonah in disbelief over his actions, which is what we have been doing since we started Chapter 1. Interesting that there was not an answer offered at this point, or, at least, no answer revealed. Even though Jonah has just spoken boldly of his service to God, when faced with his decision to flee, he is left speechless--certainly out of guilt and, at this point, probably out of utter embarrassment and shame.

Once again, the silence is what is getting the best of Jonah. Perhaps he truly thought what wasn't said wasn't heard by anyone, even by God. Woe to him (and us) when we misunderstand that our God looks past our actions to see the motivations of our hearts.

"What appears to us harmless, or, at least, but a small offence, may be a great sin in the eye of God, who discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. Even ungodly men can discern evil tempers and wrong conduct in believers, of which they themselves often remain unconscious. But God seldom allows those whom he loves the pleasures they sinfully covet."
--InterVarsity Press New Testament Commentaries

The sailors have completely discovered the "wrong conduct" in Jonah and continue their conversation with haste, as the storm is not abating. Where there had been different word choices for their question, their next statement is clear across all translations: "What should we do to you?..." What do I find most significant about this? "Do to you...." I guess there was no motion made to consider a prayer on behalf of all. The lot had been cast, and God pointed to Jonah. I wonder what options the sailors were considering. God was already angry. What would happen if they made the wrong choice with the man of God's choosing, runaway shirker though he be?!

This time, it is Jonah who doesn't hesitate in his response. This would seem a heroic sacrifice, given the urgency of the situation. Jonah recognized the plight of the innocent sailors and did not wish God to strike them down. But, in the light of how this whole situation developed--through Jonah's choice to not follow through on his calling to Ninevah--this seems yet another feeble choice on his part. He would die a hero to a few Gentile sailors while forever avoiding stepping foot into Ninevah. [Nevermind the lost opportunity to bring the Word of God to thousands of Gentiles there!]

As the lot had been cast, it would seem the next step had been cast as well. Or, had it?.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Jonah 1:13-17

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).