Contend Earnestly: Jonah Pt. 4 - A Divine Decree

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Jonah Pt. 4 - A Divine Decree

Jonah, in defiance, had settled in his mind that he was willing to die rather than obey YHWH. As we read the end of chapter one and the beginning of chapter two, Jonah will quickly realize that what he thinks he wants (to die in order to escape) is much worse than what he envisioned. This is a reminder to us how sin can cloud our judgment and perception of reality. In an amazing display of mercy, God will preserve His prophet. In a strong reminder of humility, God's preservation of Jonah is not His main concern. He desires to save Nineveh from their sin.

You'll recall that Jonah reluctantly confessed who he was, and what God he served, to the sailors on the ship. In his description of YHWH, he described him as "the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land". This statement, on the heels of a barrage of questions from the panicked sailors, was designed to do one thing - convince them to throw him overboard. Notice their reaction in vs 10:

"Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, "How could you do this?" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. "

Their fear has now increased, as they realize that Jonah is truly the cause of this terrible storm in which they are about to die. So they naturally ask the question we see in verse 11. Something that Jonah has been waiting for:

"So they said to him, "What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?"--for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy. "

As the confrontation continued, the storm grew worse. Jonah's suggestion of a resolution does not strike the sailors as a viable option, at first.

"He said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you." However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them. "

Notice another rebuked to Jonah. These men, these foreign, pagan-worshipping unbelievers understood the sanctity of life and looked for another resolution. They were doing everything possible to keep themselves, and Jonah, alive. They tried all things at their disposal to save him physically. Yet the prophet of YHWH did nothing to try and share salvation with these men so that they could be saved spiritually, and eternally. And he also did everything to avoid bringing news of salvation to Nineveh as well. The selfishness and callousness of Jonah is quite staggering.

Some might wonder why Jonah did not jump overboard himself, if he wished to die. Ultimately, the text does not tell us. A couple of reasonable explanations may include that he simply could have been acting as a coward, and could not do so. Or, in light of how his sin had distorted his judgment, he may have reasoned, however wrongly, that if he was tossed overboard he could save himself from the guilt of taking his own life. What makes Jonah's suggestion even more shocking is the truth that to the Jewish mindset, death by drowning was one of the worst ways to die. Remember when Christ employed this shocking statement:

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."

But even though Jonah felt that he was in control of the circumstance, we will see in chapter two that God's sovereignty is the back of all events in human history. Notice that when the men tried to row to shore in an attempt to save Jonah's life, the storm became even worse. It is amazing that, as it would first appear, God Himself is preventing a "good" action. But He has a greater plan to fulfill. When the men realized that there was no other option, even they recognized that YHWH was indeed directing these decision. A great truth to remember when we are tempted to analyze our own trials. We need to remember that our vision is severly limited, and God is infintley great in all He does.

"Then they called on the LORD and said, "We earnestly pray, O LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man's life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased." So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging."

As this chapter concludes, the reaction of sailors may indicate that salvation did come to these foreign men; the very thing Jonah had tried to run from. The text tells us that they called on Him with the covenant name YHWH, offered a sacrifice and made vows (perhaps to continue to worship the true God). God will save whom He will save!

Verse 17, in the original Hebrew, more naturally belongs in chapter 2 in our English Bible's. During our next installment, we will investigate this great type of Christ.


Seth McBee said...

I pray that I am not as blinded to those who are lost without a Saviour as Jonah was. Incredible...I have heard it said before that you have Jonah who didn't want to help save a people and God gave him an abundance of people who were ready to repent and then you have Jeremiah who wanted nothing more to see repentance and yet was given none...God is sovereign and I am not

Justin Evans said...

Seth, at the risk of starting a splinter discussion under the "comment" section, I was thinking about fruit the other day and Jeremiah came to mind. The question I had was "what is fruitful?". Was Jeremiah's minsitry unfruitful, even though he was obedient to the call of God?

Gomarus, thank you for the encouragement. As I have studied this book, God's word again has amazed me at it's depth of truth.

Seth McBee said...

to me this is a very easy question to answer. We know that the end result is NOT the crux of whether something is fruit or not. The real crux of the "fruit" issue is the heart and reason the action or servitude was done in the first place. We see this in 1 Cor 3:14,15 when talking of the "testing of the works."

If we said that Jeremiah was unfruitful because of the number of converts we would have to say that everything that looked like fruit truly is fruit. So anything that is growing and looks good IS good.

I have heard it said that if we test on numbers then we would have to concede that Islam and Mormonism is very fruitful and Christ, who started with 5000 ended up with 12 scattered apostles, with one betraying him and then committing suicide, was fruitless and a failure.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for going through this study of Jonah. R.C. Sproul went through it about 3 weeks ago in a week's worth of radio sessions. It has been nice to get a follow up lesson. It has become one of my favorite character studies!!

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