Lessons from Jonah, Part 2
By the Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Jonah 1:7-17
Devotional text: Romans 9:14-16
Last week, we began reading the book of Jonah from the Old Testament. God had sent Jonah, a prophet of God, to travel to the Assyrian city of Nineveh. It would soon become its capital. God had heard of this city’s wickedness and sent Jonah to preach redemption to them.
This mission became a problem for Jonah, because he, like many Israelites, hated the Ninevites for their atrocities and wickedness. Israelites considered the Ninevites their sworn enemies, and Jonah in no way wanted to preach repentance to them.
In his attempt to run away from God, he boarded a ship headed for Tarshish, in the exact opposite direction from Nineveh.
Last week, we left off when a great storm came up. Its violence was strong enough to destroy the ship. When the crewmen decided to cast lots to find out the one responsible for their calamity, the lot fell to Jonah.
Today, we continue the story.
When Jonah spoke to the captain and his crew, he confessed that he was the one who was guilty. He told the sailors he was running from God, and he told them if they tossed him into the sea, the storm would calm down.
Then, in the midst of the storm ready to tear apart the ship, Jonah, the man of God, spoke to them about the one true Almighty God.
In Jonah 1:9, he said to the crew, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” In verse 12, he continued, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
Jonah, still God’s man, made confession to the sailors of his wrong-doing in trying to run from God.
In his own confession, Jonah showed compassion to these men, men who did not know or believe in Jonah’s God. Despite his own peril, Jonah took time to speak about the God of his faith.
You would think this chapter would end here and the crew would gratefully want to get rid of Jonah, but that was not the case.
Instead, we read of the terror of the seamen and how they actually tried to save Jonah. We see a recognition of a God greater than all others because Jonah took the time to introduce the men to him.
The captain and crew didn’t want to be responsible for killing this man of God. What wrath would God release on them for throwing Jonah to his death in the wild sea?
First, they tried to row ashore to disembark the prophet, but the sea grew even more fierce, making that idea impossible.
Let’s read their final words to God before they realized they would have to throw Jonah overboard (Jonah 1:14): “O 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 next verse tells us the sea grew calm once Jonah was thrown overboard. However, it doesn’t end there for the sailors. The scripture tells us they were afraid of the Lord and made “sacrifices and vows to him.”
Here is something else for us to consider: The sailors did not want to be responsible for killing Jonah. Although they did not know his God or God’s intentions, they still acted as compassionate men as they did not want an innocent death on their hands.
As they offered up to God their vows and sacrifices, they were honoring the one great and true God, a God they had seen in action. They had been witnesses to the miracle of the storm.
Before going on to chapter two, I am reminded of a verse from Romans 8:28, which reads, “And we know all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”
Jonah was a man loved by God. We see in the beginning of this Old Testament book that God considered Jonah one of his prophets. That is a high calling to be endowed with. It meant that God found Jonah to be faithful and true to God, and that he had been a trustworthy man to send on missions to the people.
Last week, we conjectured that Jonah had been God’s prophet for numerous years, using Jonah to speak to the people of Israel. Upon further reading, we find truth in this. Jonah is mentioned in the Old Testament book of II Kings.
From II Kings 14:25, Jonah is identified as a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel. We learn that Jonah had begun his years of prophecy in 793 B.C. and ended in 753 B.C., a 40-year period of serving God.
Even here, in this short four-chapter scripture story concerning Jonah, God shows to us that he never left Jonah to die even as Jonah ran from him. For Jonah’s part, he was still preaching about God as he gave his testimony of God’s great power to the men of the sea. They were not likely to soon forget what happened aboard that ship.
We can believe they passed on to friends and family the events of that day when Jonah planted a seed for belief in God Almighty.
Finally, as we end chapter one, we find that throwing Jonah over the side of the ship was not the end of Jonah. Verse 17, tells us, “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”
As we read chapter two next week, we’ll discover Jonah’s quiet time with his God and how he prayed to him from the belly of the fish.