What is God really like? He is in control. He allows us to make our choices but still works around us to get our attention. God continues to pursue us and unbelievers in many ways. From Jonah chapter one we see that…
- God is in control
Jonah ran from God and jumped on a ship in Joppa. Almost as soon as they were out of the harbor verse 4 says that …the Lord SENT a great wind on the sea and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. The Hebrew language implies that God “threw a storm at Jonah and his ship.” Wow, a special storm designed just for him. Have you been in a storm like that? This was no typical storm. It was more perfect than the perfect storm in that George Clooney movie. The sailors on this Tarshish-bound ship were probably Phonecians, some of history’s greatest sailors. They were well-acquainted with storms at sea and they knew this was no NATURAL storm and that in fact it was SUPERNATURAL in origin so they cried out to their pagan gods for help and threw cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. Now while all this was going on where was Jonah? Down in below deck sound asleep. How could he sleep at a time like this? I think the answer to this question provides us with another lesson from Jonah’s disobedience school.
- God will Let Us Run from Him, but we’ll be exhausted.
This is because we are DESIGNED to walk in relationship with God and when we disobey Him we break that relationship. In relationship with God…in obedience to God…we have access to His strength. But when we disobey Him, when we break fellowship with Him, we are reduced to trudging through this sinful world on our own power. And you and I can’t make any headway against the storms of life on our own strength. Sin slows us down by draining our strength. It’s like trying to swim with a stone tied around your neck. In Psalm 32 verse 4 David says that when He disobeyed God his, bones wasted away…his strength was sapped as in the heat of the summer. So this is why Jonah slept. This prophet of God who was used to relying on God’s strength had lived the past few days on his own. Like an astronaut returning to earth’s gravity after weeks of weightlessness in space he quickly grew exhausted.
Another thing to note is that, as a Christ follower…
- We can’t run from God and it not be obvious to everyone.
As Numbers 32:23 warns, You can be sure that your sins will find you out. And this is what happened to Jonah. As soon as he paid his fare, he didn’t talk to anyone or introduce himself. He headed to the hold and fell asleep. But when the storm broke the captain came to him and encouraged him to join them in praying to their individual gods for help in dealing with this perfect storm. Can you see the irony in an unbelieving captain having to beg a Hebrew prophet to pray? They cast lots to see whose fault this storm was and the lot just happened to fall on Jonah. Of course this was no coincidence. God was at work. God is in control of storms and of dice.
I read somewhere that a coincidence is a miracle for which God chooses to remain anonymous.
And that is what happened here. God CAUSED Jonah to have the dice roll to him and spotlight fell on him. The sailors pestered him with questions, saying, Who are you? What have you done to cause this storm? And Jonah had to fess up and tell them his story. Then in verse 9 he said, I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven who made the SEA and the dry land.
We think we can sin and no one know but that is not true. God always knows! In Job 24 it says, When the daylight is gone, the murderer rises up and kills the poor and needy; in the night he steals forth like a thief. The adulterer watches for dusk, he thinks, ‘No one will see me,’ and he keeps his face concealed. In the dark, men break into houses. God may let [disobedient people] rest in a feeling of security but His eyes are on their ways. God always sees what we do and sometimes, as Jonah discovered, He allows others to see the folly of our disobedience as well. God does this because often it is the shame at being found out that drives us to repentance. I think this is why in Luke 12:3 Jesus said, What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. Another lesson to learn from Jonah is that…
- When we disobey God, we aren’t the only ones who suffer.
Our sin hurts others as well. Those sailors suffered because of Jonah. The merchants whose cargo was lost suffered. We don’t sin in seclusion. Like second-hand smoke, or an explosion our disobedience wounds the people around us. When we defy God’s law we establish a downward spiral, like a whirlpool or a funnel that seizes us and others and pulls us down.
And, Christ followers, the greatest damage we do when we disobey God is that we often push the lost away from personal faith in Christ. One of the greatest causes of unbelief today is the sinful lifestyles and hypocrisy of believers.
These sailors asked Jonah what they should do to stop the storm. He instructed them to throw him overboard which shows He would rather drown than witness to the Ninevites. Instead these men did all they could do to row back to land. They cared more about Jonah than he did about them or the Assyrians! When rowing didn’t work, they did something Jonah still had not done at this point. They prayed to God and then they followed Jonah’s instructions and threw him into the sea. Immediately the raging waves fell to serenity, like the waves in the wave pool at SIX FLAGS when the motors are turned off. Instant calm. God is in control of the sea and the waves and many of life’s circumstances.
- God reveals himself to unbelievers in many ways.
These sailors responded to this calm by worshiping GOD. Earlier they were praying to their “gods” “All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god.” Jonah 1:5 Now they are praying to the one true GOD making thank offerings to Him, pledging to live lives of gratitude for His saving grace. “At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him. Jonah 1:16
It’s a very strange twist, if you think about it. Jonah wouldn’t go to Nineveh to prophesy to the unbelievers there, but through his own choices, when he tried to escape, he was put into a situation where unbelieving sailors put their faith in the one true God because of Jonah’s weak, brief, and halfhearted witness given under duress.
As we remember Jonah, a person like many of us who was disobedient to God, lets also remember another Man, God’s only Son Who, when commissioned by God did NOT run, even thought He was sent to a planet full of sinful people…enemies of God….people who would despise and reject Him…people who would treat Him so cruelly that He would become well-acquainted with sorrows. Jesus was the only One in fact Who has ever been perfectly OBEDIENT to God? Paul tells us that Jesus Christ was…
…in very nature God, [HE] did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became OBEDIENT to death even death on the cross. Philippians 2:6-8
Jesus faced the most difficult command God ever issued. He knew the unimaginable pain and separation He would suffer on our behalf if He were to obey. He even asked God if there were another way .but when the answer was NO Jesus was obedient and we are here today enjoying relationship with God only because of that obedience.
I believe that God DOES speak to people today…people like you and me. Today if you listen you may hear God use one of two words.
He may be telling you to “GO.” Just as He told Jonah to GO to the people of Nineveh, there may be someone God is commissioning you to GO to…and tell of His love. To “GO” and forgive. Perhaps there is someone you have a hard time loving, someone you need to forgive. If that is true then I urge you not to make Jonah’s mistake. Obey God. Commit right now to go to that person. Or, you may hear another word from God, “STOP.” “Stop running.” “Stop doing things your way. I love you, I forgive you, I have a purpose for your life. Your way is not working, trust me.”
Will you listen as God is reaching out to you?