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Jonah 1 Part 3 - God Sends a Great Storm
Jonah 1:4-6; John 12:25-26 - Are you sleeping while God seeks you?
“The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.””
Jonah 1:4-6 NASB1995
God sends a great storm on the sea after the disobedient Jonah gets on the boat to Tarshish and then retreats into the hold of the ship to sleep. The sailors on-board are afraid that the ship will break up, crying out to their gods, and they throw cargo overboard. The storm is because of Jonah, because he had no business being on board that ship and should have been making his way to Nineveh. Commentary from Enduring Word, quoting Charles Spurgeon, is thought-provoking for answering this disobedience:
Jonah might have wondered: “I can go to Tarshish if I want to. I paid the fare. I’m not a stowaway.” Yet, “Apologies for disobedience are mere refuges of lies. If you do a wrong thing in the rightest way in which it can be done, it does not make it right. If you go contrary to the Lord’s will, even though you do it in the most decent, and, perhaps, in the most devout manner, it is, nevertheless, sinful, and it will bring you under condemnation.” (Spurgeon)
Humans can rationalize anything, especially sinful behaviors and disobedience. Jonah was so secure in his rationalization of his behavior that he fell into a sound sleep. Doing a wrong thing can be rationalized in these ways and usually deflects the sin onto someone else or some circumstance or back at God:
I was tired and someone’s behavior (snarky comment, bad driving, rudeness) made me angry and I responded.
I was busy doing something else and someone’s interruption made me impatient and I responded.
I had a terrible day at work and I deserve extra drinks tonight to relax or I deserve to sit in front of the TV watching garbage.
I was trying to be polite and friendly until a co-worker/relative had to make a political comment, showing me that they were “one of them” so I responded. We cannot live with them - they are the “enemy”.
God told me to go and call out the sins and wickedness of Nineveh and I could not believe it - I thought God was “on our side” and not the Gentiles. They hate us and hate God. Why would He do this? I must save myself from this insanity and go far away until God changes His mind.
The crew also calls out to their gods because of their fear. We can put off doing business with God until a “better time”, but running to Him in fear when we have done nothing else to acknowledge Him is very presumptuous. Back in my wandering years, I sometimes called out to God for protection when flying or doing something else that I perceived as risky, then I would revert right back to my mocking agnosticism when things turned out all right. Lord, forgive me!! What a horrible sin of pride and arrogance!
The captain wakes up his passenger and asks Jonah to call on his God for help because their pleas are not being answered. Enduring Word has superb commentary about this the sleeping Jonah, the plea to him, and about “sleeping Christians”:
Was fast asleep: While the storm raged, Jonah slept. Perhaps because the storm outside seemed insignificant to him in comparison to the storm inside, the storm that came from his resistance against God.
What a curious and tragic scene! All the sailors were religious men, devout in their prayers to their gods. Yet their gods were really nothing and could do nothing. There was one man on board who had a relationship with the true God, who knew His word, and who worshiped Him – yet he was asleep!
“Jonah was asleep amid all that confusion and noise; and, O Christian man, for you to be indifferent to all that is going on in such a world as this, for you to be negligent of God’s work in such a time as this is just as strange. The devil alone is making noise enough to wake all the Jonahs if they only want to awake…. All around us there is tumult and storm, yet some professing Christians are able, like Jonah, to go to sleep in the sides of the ship.” (Charles Spurgeon)
The nature of Jonah’s sleep is also instructive, and too much like the sleep of the careless Christian:
Jonah slept in a place where he hoped no one would see him or disturb him. “Sleeping Christians” like to “hide out” among the Church.
Jonah slept in a place where he could not help with the work that needed to be done. “Sleeping Christians” stay away from the work of the Lord.
Jonah slept while there was a prayer meeting up on the deck. “Sleeping Christians” don’t like prayer meetings!
Jonah slept and had no idea of the problems around him. “Sleeping Christians” don’t know what is really going on.
Jonah slept when he was in great danger. “Sleeping Christians” are in danger, but don’t know it.
Jonah slept while the heathen needed him. “Sleeping Christians” snooze on while the world needs their message and testimony.
Some sleeping Christians protest that they are not asleep at all.
“We talk about Jesus” – but you can talk in your sleep.
“We walk with Jesus” – but you can walk in your sleep.
“We have passion for Jesus – I just wept in worship the other day” – but you can cry in your sleep.
“We have joy and rejoice in Jesus” – but you can laugh in your sleep.
“We think about Jesus all the time” – but you can think while you are asleep; we call it dreaming.
Charles Spurgeon described how the believer might know that he is not asleep. “What do you mean by a man’s being really awake? I mean two or three things. I mean, first, his having a thorough consciousness of the reality of spiritual things. When I speak of a wakeful man, I mean one who does not take the soul to be a fancy, nor heaven to be a fiction, nor hell to be a tale, but who acts among the sons of men as though these were the only substances, and all other things the shadows. I want men of stern resolution, for no Christian is awake unless he steadfastly determines to serve his God, come fair, come foul.”
I found this to be so convicting!! I have done these things, trying to stay away from the work of the Lord and still compartmentalizing and rationalizing what I want to do versus what God wants me to do in this life. Heaven is real, hell is real, we have souls and we have a singular purpose in this life. Jesus told us what to do:
“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”
John 12:25-26 NASB1995
My next devotional examines Jonah 1:7-10, where the sailors on-board discover that Jonah is the source of their woes and he talks about his fear of the very Lord that he is fleeing.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please guide me to not rationalize disobedience and sinful behaviors and to also not be a “sleeping Christian” who seeks only her own comfort and tries to hide from You. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.