Due to our technical difficulty this past week (our church sound system being stolen), I will be using my blog this week to give a little bit of a recap from my sermon yesterday. We started the book of Jonah 2 weeks ago, and I know what you're thinking, 'Isn't that more for children's church?' Well, yes and it's for adults as well. Because the question is asked to us, 'What do we do when we hear the word of the LORD?'
In Jonah's own book he doesn't even speak till verse 9! Which should give us a scary proposition-we don't need words to disobey God. He runs away, buys a ticket elsewhere and boards a boat. A storm comes but not an ordinary one-a great storm. We need to remember that this isn't just a short book of the Bible. It is a great book of the Bible. It's the story of God calling and us responding.
When we pick up the story in chapter 1:4-5 the storm has come, the sailors are calling out to multiple gods and Jonah is fast asleep in the cargo hold. It's a sad picture of what today looks like sometimes. Unbelievers in times of trouble will call out to what they know, and all of these sailors do not know the LORD. While Jonah, whether he knew what was going on or not, is fast asleep as the ship is going down. I wonder if God looks at me sometimes and sees me fast asleep while those around me are crying out against the storms of their life.
In verse 6, a responsible captain comes down to Jonah to ask him if he would call on his God. Does it strike you as odd that someone who does not know the LORD calls Jonah to come out and pray? This is a reminder that even unbelievers have a concept of the grace, mercy and especially the power of God. But they needed to know His name.
In verse 7 we like to look at these sailors as gambling fools because they decide to cast lots to figure out who is to blame for this storm. We need to be careful though because casting lots was used by rulers in ancient Israel to decide guilt (1 Sam. 14:40-42) and even to decide a king (1 Sam. 10:19-21). What could be considered a silly game will once again prove to us that God can not be stopped.
Verse 8 shows that these sailors have an immense amount of patience with Jonah. Usually when you had 'lost' the casting of lots, there would a swift penalty and judgement. Instead, they want to get to know Jonah a little more, but more importantly find out more about this God.
In verse 9 we hear Jonah speak for the first time. And what does he say?? That he's a Hebrew. Sounds nice, but he didn't even say his name and at this point in history saying you're a Hebrew would be like me asking you what county of Washington you live in and you answer, 'I am an American.' Yes, that's nice but doesn't do a whole lot for me. Saying you were Hebrew didn't give any geographical reference like 'Assyrian' or 'Ninevite'. It doesn't clarify lineage like 'Israelite' meaning 'son of Israel'. And at this point in the Old Testament, it wasn't even linked to a language form yet.
But hey! Jonah makes up for it in his description of his God, the LORD. He tells them that he's the God of heaven (term used by Jews in the Babylonian exile), and that he made the sea and land.
Which now leads us to verse 10 where all the sailors are now freaked out. Most likely after the casting of lots, these sailors assumed that Jonah was running away from his God, but now they have a description of how powerful this God is! He made the sea that is trying to engulf them!! So yes, I'd be terrified. And then they asked a question that wasn't really a question-'What have you done?' When my dogs tear apart a pillow in our garage, I don't ask them, 'What have you done?' because I really don't know. I'm making an announcement. And that's precisely what these sailors are doing. Its the same thing God said to Eve after the first sin (Gen. 3:13) and to Cain after the first murder (Gen. 4:10). Do you really think God didn't know, or was he making an announcement of guilt? Jonah's guilt is most likely painted all over his face. And now the sailors have a big decision to make about Jonah.
I have been where Jonah has been before. No, not on a ship ready to go down with a bunch of unbelieving sailors. But I've had moments in my life where I am caught. I've been caught in my sin. The easiest next step is to do something to forget the pain, but what we will see next week with Jonah, because he tells them about the LORD, they will be saved-not just from this particular storm, but their lives will have the saving mercy from God himself.
People are waiting to see how you react in tough, stormy situations. Will you use the name of the LORD the right way or the wrong way?