Scripture from the ESV
4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners… [click to view full text]
The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea
In His mercy, God sent Jonah trouble, but not only Jonah.
The mariners were afraid
So as to emphasize the terror of the storm, even the seamen were in fear. Why should other’s suffer for Jonah’s sin? Conversely, why should other be blessed because of our blessings? Did not Jonah have this very thought at the outset?
Each cried out to his god
They were pagans, but not idle. They petitioned their gods, yet to no effect.
They hurled the cargo
They had given themselves up to loss unless the most extreme measures were taken.
Those goods which provided substance for their lives were as nothing now. Such cargo, of worldly value, could do nothing for them and even threatened to sink their vessel.
Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep
The racking of the ship does not disturb his slumber because this slumber is already disturbed. It is a slumber of death and despair.
So the captain came and said to him
Just as in the ship on the Sea of Galilee, there is a storm which disturbs the men on the boat. The disciples, like the captain to Jonah, cannot understand how Jesus could be asleep. But in Galilee, it was a sleep of trust, of restfulness in the God who watched and loved all. For Jonah it was the sleep of death and flight from a God who seemed almost to lack dedication to His peculiar people. For Jonah, the storm pursued his sin. For Jesus, the storm was an instrument of God’s glory. In Jonah’s case, the storm also magnifies God’s glory, but Jonah is not in harmony with that God.
“What do you mean, you sleeper?
How is it even possible you are asleep right now? Perhaps you care not whether you live or die? The captain recognizes something is strange here, possibly supernatural.
Jonah does not arouse himself from his slumber. God speaks to Jonah through the captain, and in the very same words (1:2). Jonah obeys the captain. We are quicker to obey human authority than divine. He has arisen, but he is not yet awake .
Call out to your god!
What sort of man are you that you do not pray [a] God to save you?
Both an accusation and a hope:
–He is a Hebrew and should be a priest to the nations, yet he has been asleep and has interceded for none.
–For the captain, a probable polytheist, perhaps there is a god who has not been petitioned who might yet save them.
Let us cast lots
Life is not full of accidents, though it appear so. There is a divine will which commands the all creation. Though the casting of lots can be superstitious or playing on chance, it is also a way of putting circumstances into the same power that has governed all the chance of the entire universe, that is, that same will which governs heaven and earth. The casting of lots is something occasionally performed by Hebrews and Christians in the scriptures.
The lot fell on Jonah.
God does not hide his hand here or hid His Hebrew.
They are gracious and do not simply throw him overboard. Jonah is forced to declare who he is and uncover his shame before gentiles.
I am a Hebrew,
There is so much that may be said here:
-thus I already understand my guilt for fleeing the Lord?
-I am still above you?
-You must despise me?
-I am still one of God’s special children?
I fear the Lord
He fears God, but less than these gentiles. More so, he fears what God might do or have him do; Jonah does not fear God as he ought.
The God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.
Jonah does not claim the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but the God of all the earth, all the seas, of everything that is. This certainly unites Jonah with the sailors, a unity he probably abhors or admits reluctantly, such as under life threatening circumstances.
The prophets increasingly reveal God as the God of all peoples, places, and things. Though His plan especially involves the Israel, it does not exclude the gentiles, not even in this stage of salvation history.
The fact that God is merciful to other nations is fraught with tension for Israel because it threatens their status as the chosen people. When foreign nations prevail in scripture it is often a rebuke to Israel, but this is different. Here, God has simply chosen to show mercy to a people regardless of Israel.
Is Jonah speaking this way in order to suit his speech to an audience who may never have heard of Abraham? Or, is he disgusted with God a this point, disowning Him as the God of Israel? The God of these terrible waves and of the vaulted heavens is powerful, but what cares He for my people? And what cares He for me now that I have fled?
Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
There is a lacuna here. It is unclear how the men know this. Has Jonah told them by his manner, his words, or is it through divine revelation?
Either way, they recognize the terrible power of God and recoil in horror from one who would do such a thing, thus displaying a form of piety or reverence.
What shall we do to you
They fear to lay hands on him, just as one might fear to be involved with one who has committed sacrilege. Though desperate to save their own lives, they seek to protect this foreigner as if he were one of them.
The sea grew more and more tempestuous.
God’s displeasure with the man is made clear before all
Pick me up and hurl me into the sea
Jonah wishes for oblivion. He is now a burden to all who cast their lot in with him. He has no place left to flee. He will not continue to endanger these men. In the sea he can no longer harm anyone. Ashamed and disgusted, he wishes to die, to disappear from the face of the heavens and earth, death is his final refuge.
Yet even in the sea he cannot escape himself or God. As Pastor Nate points out, Psalm 139 can be read in this light and corresponds remarkably to the situation.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
(Psalm 139 7-12)
When we sin, when we are truly undone, mercy can appear more terrible than justice, and we are not entirely wrong, for it means owning our brokenness and shame and relying solely upon Love. It is God’s mercy which sustains us and keeps us from perishing in such moments
Nevertheless, the men rowed hard
It is yet a terrible thing to kill a man, even one guilty of sacrilege. The God who has hurled this storm at them is not one they would wish to offend. Can such a sinner know the will of God.
In some manner they have cast their lots in with Jonah
but they could not
God gives them a sign that it is His will, and that there is finally no escape for Jonah.
Therefore they called out to the Lord,
In Jonah’s sin, God has yet made his glory known, not only in his power, but in his mercy and love. These men who had called upon their gods (elohim), now cry out to the Lord (YHWH) by that name which he made himself known to Israel , a name he has now made know to them through Jonah. Despite himself, Jonah has spread the name of God unto these people
“O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.”
Jonah is offered up on behalf of these men. Christ is offered on our behalf. They do not accuse Jonah of sin, but recognize that God has ordained it, and so they cast him overboard.
So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.
As Moses cast a stick into bitter waters and made them sweet, as Christ cast his lot in with all humanity and through the cross sends forth living waters, so Jonah is in like manner cast into the waters.
The will of God is peace in heaven and on earth. It is God’s pleasure to give these men a sign and safe passage.
The unformed nothing of primeval darkness and terror, the deep, recedes and becomes passable ocean once again. That oblivion which Jonah sought has receded and given way to ordered creation. The NIV Commentary on Jonah connects the unformed creation (tohu Gen 1:2) with the deep (tehom). Jonah’s oblivion is a kind of de-creation, but one which God ultimately does not wish for the world. Indeed he wishes to preserve Jonah, just as He wishes to preserve the Ninevites from destruction.
Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
The Wednesday Lenten series Nate is leading is The Way Up is the Way Down. Jonah is about to hit bottom. But Jonah’s grief is the sailors relief. God’s purposes bare fruit throughout this Book.