Contend Earnestly: Jonah, Pt. 3 - "The Confrontation"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Jonah, Pt. 3 - "The Confrontation"

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...


Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. Certainly, the pagans put Jonah to shame, as many do today, as a matter of fact. I also thought it interesting that Jonah preferred drowning to obedience. That is certainly the case. We do that, too, I think! We would rather "dare God to do His worst" than obey Him. Not exactly the path of wisdom.

Seth McBee said...

Great insight to Jonah's thoughts and actions. Never did I take him wanting suicide but I took him as finally taking action against his sin. How pathetic am I? Your making me never want to even think of naming a child Jonah. It would like naming your child Cain or Ichabod.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to note sailors' reaction to the Jonah story. In the movie "Master and Commander," a Jonah is someone who pulls the ship down. It's very intresting to see how that theme plays out in the movie, a very good movie, by the way.

Seth McBee said...

I know you are well read...and a pastor, now a movie critic? How many of you are there?

Anonymous said...

Looks like you did the hack just right. The reason, by the way, for following those directions so precisely is so that Blogge will read the time stamp correctly, such that the comments will appear in the right order (just in case you were wondering).

Anonymous said...

There's just one of me. There are a lot of movies out there which I don't see. But I read World magazine and try to get a feel for every movie that is important.

Justin Evans said...

Sorry I haven't been joining the conversation. We are in the midst of a huge paint day in our living room!

But, I agree with you, Lane, that the sailors reactions are very interesting, and something I have never considered before when reading this great book. If I have time, I'll put together part 4 tonight which will bring more of those details out. What a great study this has been! We are going through this with our College/Career group right now, with an aim to finish by New Years. That 'ole clock and calendar are always the enemy when there is so much great spiritual truth to be gleaned from the inexhaustible word.

Seth, I agree about naming a child Jonah! I will walk this line carefully, as that is my Nephew's name! The character represented in this Prophet is certainly not what we want to model. But then again, Jonah was God's chosen man. And He preserved Him nonetheless. Not a bad name after all. We are all like Jonah at times, just more polished on the outside.

Seth McBee said...

Yeah...sorry about that line I asked you to walk, remembered after I commented. The good thing is that the name means "dove" so the name itself is great, just the connatations would be tough. Kind of like the name Judas, which means "Jehovah Leads"

What is funny is that if you go to the name Judas is considered rare and virtually has no statistics as far as growth in popularity. Go to Jonah, which you would think would have same connotations being that he was so vile towards God, it is a popular name and is growing in popularity. Interesting...

Justin Evans said...

No worries. My son's name is Matthew. He was a despied tax collector who sold his loyalty to his own people for ill-gotten gain. But, Christ called Him as well. Plus, I just love that name...(probably has something to do with my son as well!)

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