Without slowing down a bit and taking this story in, we might miss the fact that God uses Jonah even before he's swallowed up by a great fish! These sailors, who are being introduced to the LORD for the first time, have a huge decision to make about Jonah, but through that decision they will accept the LORD. Which is cause for excitement!! The church really needs to be excited more, right?? How many times do we hear that Bobby or Julie gave their hearts to the Lord and we are like, 'Oh, that's nice. About time.' Are you kidding me?? Break out the streamers and party hats!! Another name is added to the list of life!! Alright, I'll settle down.
V. 11: ‘And they said to him, ‘What shall we do with you, so the sea will be calm for us?’: The word of the LORD has come to Jonah-he says no by not saying anything at all. He boards a boat, has a sleeping problem and falls asleep during a storm. The sailors of the boat throw some dice around and find Jonah guilty of the storm. They figure out that Jonah’s God is at fault for the storm. Jonah reveals to them that his God is not just any god, but Thee God. He is Yahweh. The creator of the sea and the land. The sailors are terrified. Now, they look to the near future.
‘For the sea was getting more and more stormy.’ If they don’t get things right with Jonah-and soon-they die. Before the storm was bad enough to 'break apart' the boat, now it's gotten worse!
V. 12: ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied: Some may look at this and say Jonah has suicidal tendencies, but I would disagree. I believe by saying this Jonah has actually found relief. It means that he gets to stop fleeing. And yet in handing himself over to God in this way, Jonah is also at his most Christlike. He gives up his life so that others might live. He treats the lives of these good sailors as more valuable than his own.
‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’: We see this admission of guilt from Jonah. It doesn’t inform them of anything new but rather reminds them of what they already know, with the aim of convincing them that they’re not going to get out of this alive so long as Jonah is with them.
V. 13: Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. This is you, and this is me. We hear from the LORD, or in this case these sailors hear from a prophet from the LORD aaaaaaand instead. Sometimes 'instead' rules our lives. I know what the Bible says about giving buuuuuut-instead. I know what the Bible says about loving my neighbor buuuuuuut-instead. I even know what the Bible says about Jesus being the only way, the only truth, and the only way to eternal life buuuuuut-instead.
The sailors rowed as best they can, but they couldn’t make it back to land. They had no power to save themselves. We have no power to save ourselves.
V. 14: Then they cried out to the LORD, ‘Please, LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.’ The first prayer to the LORD in this story comes from the mouth of Gentiles. The picture on the deck of this ship has completely changed. Instead of everyone screaming to their own god, all of them are now crying out to one God, the LORD. This is one of the surprises of this great book that we’ve been reading. The people on this boat are not incidental to the story, instruments that the LORD uses to deal with Jonah. On the contrary, Jonah is the instrument that the LORD uses to deal with them. These sailors were worried about innocent blood. They tried to first row back. But now a choice has to be made. It echoes Pilate washing his hands of innocent blood (Matt. 27:24), but these sailors have no noisy crowd intimidating them, they have the God of heaven himself. The sailors acknowledge not only that the sea is his to do with as he desires (Ps. 95:5), but that Jonah is his prophet, so that the word of Jonah is the word of the LORD.
V. 15 ‘Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard and the raging sea grew calm.’ It happens as Jonah promised. As the water closes around his head, and sucks his body to the bottom of the sea, it calms. Like an angry lion suddenly tamed. Jonah by the grace of God accomplished the sort of thing Christ accomplishes: calming the sea, converting the Gentiles, and teaching them the name of the LORD.
V. 16 ‘At this the men greatly feared the LORD,’ For the second time the sailors fear a great fear (1:10), but this time it is described as the fear of the LORD, the reverent fear that is the ground for worship, thanksgiving and praise. All is well, and they know why.
‘and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.’ Vows of sacrifice are the fruits of gratitude. The vows also serve to show that the sailor’s conversion to the LORD will last beyond the time they get off the boat.
The fact that these Gentile sailors were ready to make sacrifices and vows to the LORD like this made me re-examine my vow to the LORD. These past 2 weekends I’ve had the privilege to lead 2 couples in marriage vows. As I think about my marriage, it would begin to be strained if I didn’t tell anyone that I had a wife. And yes, if Kelsey chose not to tell people she had a husband I would have a hard time with that.
Somehow, someway we have neglected letting others know about our vow to the LORD. It’s gone from something exciting and cherished to something moderate and secret. Maybe it’s time for you to go back to the beginning of your love with the LORD. Remember the fire you had in your soul, when you saw life for the first time.
I’m excited about what Jesus is doing in my life, I’m excited about what Jesus is doing in this community and in our neighborhoods.
He wants his people to grow. For his children to turn back and run to him, and as the church it’s not a duty-I know some of you think, ‘Here we go-invite your neighbors to church.’ Well, you know we talk about Jesus right?!?! The source of life!! Or maybe we are still consumed with 'instead'.
It shouldn't be a duty, it’s a privilege that we share. Jonah simply shared the name of the LORD with these sailors and they gave their lives to Him. Think about your neighbor doing the same.
V. 17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. This verse is for next Sunday-Discovery Channel has Shark Week, we have Fish Week!!