Imagine. God pitted against His own prophet. It only takes us reading three verses into this book to see the two very regretful words "But Jonah...". In open defiance, God's own man shakes his fist at YHWH and runs in the opposite direction. But God will not be mocked. We see in verse 4, in a very direct way, YHWH strikes back.
As we saw in the last article on Jonah, the storm was severe. So sever that even the hardened sailors began to pray as they recognized that this storm had a supernatural cause. And as the Captain ran out of options in trying to rescue himself and his crew, he find Jonah "sound asleep" in the hold of the ship (vs 5). Astonished, he cries out "How is it that you are asleep? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish."
Notice the words of the Captains command. Jonah, while trying to gather his senses from his deep sleep, must have thought he was in a nightmare. Being roused suddenly to find himself in a fierce storm, and to hear words that were stingingly close to those of YHWH in verse 2. We recall that the LORD said "Arise, go, cry". And here the Captain says "Get up, Call!" We can constantly be amazed at the detail of Scripture. No word is repeated without meaning.
In verse 7 what we learn is that Jonah shows no sign of repentance. Notice that even at the rebuke of a pagan calling fro the prophet to pray, Jonah refuses. He also refuses to offer any information until the lot falls to his person in verse 7. Jonah, of all people, should be about prayer, about repentance for his actions, and about evangelism (to use a New Testament term) with these men who have been made spiritually sensitive to their need of salvation at least at some elementary level. And so Jonah's defiance continues. The sailors then confront him with a barrage of 5 questions that come in staccato fashion.
"Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?"
And then when we think we have seen the worst from this disobedient prophet, Jonah does the unthinkable. Notice his answer:
"He said to them, 'I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.'"
We first need to clarify that this was not a great, confident declaration of a prophet who had a heart for lost men needing to know the saving power of YHWH. Remember, he is running so that foreigners would not see salvation. Also, this answer does not come from Jonah until he is pressed to speak. So we can read this as a very hesitant answer. With a bit of sanctified imagination, perhaps he barley lifted his eyes when speaking this.
Yet, with all of the designations that Jonah could have chosen to describe the true God, why this one? Why highlight that He is the One who "made the sea and the dry land"?. For one simple reason; He wanted to be tossed overboard. His sinful behavior has so clouded his ability to reason that he considered death by drowning a better choice than obeying the word of YHWH. It is significant to note as well that to the Jewish mindset, drowning in the sea was the worst way to die. This is illustrated by Jesus' words of warning in Matt 18:6:
"but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."
A natural question would be why Jonah would not jump ship himself, if he wanted to die in order to escape God's commands. The text does not say. Perhaps he was acting as a coward. Perhaps he could justify his desire to die if his life was taken by these sailors rather than committing suicide. But either way, Jonah's description of YHWH prompts the men to ask the very question he was waiting to hear in verse 11.
To be continued...
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