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Jonah 1 Part 4: Jonah Fears God!
Jonah 1:7–10 - Can we be good followers of Christ and avoid questions like “How could you do this?”
“Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “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?” He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” 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.”
Jonah 1:7-10 NASB1995
The terrified sailors on the boat with Jonah cast lots to learn how this calamity, the horrible storm, happened to them. What does it mean to cast lots? This was a method probably using long and short sticks or various stones to determine an outcome or get an answer from God. In the book of Joshua (Joshua chapters 14 - 21) the land apportioned out to the tribes of Israel was done casting lots. And we recall that the Roman soldiers cast lots for the garment of Jesus at the crucifixion, not wanting to tear the material (Matthew 27:35). The lots point at Jonah, so now the interrogation begins.
Jonah answers them by telling them he is a Hebrew and that he fears the Lord God of Heaven who made the sea and the dry land! They probably also know that he is a prophet of God. The men are more frightened than ever because they knew that Jonah was fleeing from the commands God gave him, thinking he was fleeing from God’s presence. They ask him, “How could you do this?”. The question probably filters into Jonah’s brain as if it came from God. How could he do this? How can he claim to fear God, yet flee in the opposite direction of where he is supposed to go as a prophet?
That question should resonate deeply with believers. We live in a time when Christians are mocked and criticized for not behaving like Christians are supposed to behave. Often, the most adamant atheists will have a field day pointing out things that we should do and don’t or the sins that we commit. They love to ask how we could do something that goes against the commands of God, especially when believers point out the bad behaviors of others but then fall down in their own lives. Nothing brings out the mockers more than the examples of Christian leaders who commit adultery, pad their bank accounts, or are caught in some other temptation trap. Like it or not, we are in the spotlight of the post-modernists who despise our faith.
I put a picture of Galatians above this section, as Paul, of course, delineates the famous fruits of the spirit in that Epistle. Gotquestions.org also has a splendid answer to the question of Christian behavior; part of this response is noted below; embedded links go to Biblia (Logos) in general (not to the specific verse):
The “actions” that glorify our Father in heaven are those that bear much fruit (John 15:8). This is, in fact, how we show we are His disciples. Indeed, the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)—should be the hallmark of Christian behavior, especially love. Yet our tendency is to sometimes look down on unbelievers or those whose lifestyles are not in sync with our Christian faith, and this is where the Christian life can be challenging. It is easy to show love to those who walk as we do. It’s not always so easy to be kind to those who ridicule our beliefs, show contempt for our Savior, or make a mockery of the institutions that Christians hold sacred. Yet Christ taught us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Recall how He dealt with the woman caught in adultery. Her captors wanted her dead; our Savior showed compassion even though He was the One who would have to die for her (and our) sinful behavior (John 8:11). Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), not to condemn them (John 3:17), and if Christ did not come to condemn sinners, neither should Christians.
Christian behavior includes heeding Jesus’ call for us to be His witnesses to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We are to share the gospel, which Paul defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The validity of our witness is in how we live our lives. In the second half of Ephesians (chapters 4-6), Paul discusses Christian behavior which can best be summed up in these few words: “Be imitators of God…and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Paul urged the Romans to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices” (Romans 12:2). This, ultimately, is the essence of true Christian behavior – surrendering our hearts and yielding our bodies to Christ so He might continue God’s work through us. We are to be beacons of light in a dark world, using our spiritual gifts to advance His kingdom. It is living here on earth the way Jesus lived when He was here. It also means living to please one Person – God. We do this when we abide in His Word and then live it out as we are enabled by His Spirit, just as our Savior did until He took His last breath. As He was dying on the cross, Christ looked out at His executioners and asked His Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Jesus was doing more than fulfilling prophecy and making “intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12), He was practicing what He preached (Luke 6:27-28).
Following this advice on how scripture defines a Christian, and being obedient to God, should quiet the questions from those observing us and perhaps instead give them food for thought on how our light shines. We don’t do these things to silence critics but to please God and to make those critics see that there is something more than a life of hatred, misery, conflict, impatience, meanness, depravity, disbelief, coarseness, and lack of self-control. It is a lifetime of Holy Spirit work in our sanctification to gain the fruits of the spirit, be His witness, and surrender our hearts in everything we do. Jonah was not living up to his called life as a prophet and he is beginning to realize that he has greatly sinned against God in his fear.
My next devotional examines Jonah’s response to the problem when he requests that the sailors throw him into ocean (Jonah 1:11-16).
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please help me in my sanctification to bear the fruits of the spirit, be a witness of your sacrifice and love, and surrender my heart to you in everything that I do. Jonah is realizing his sin as he talks to the terrified sailors on this storm-tossed ship. Help me to realize my sins and shortcomings as I go out into the world and talk to people who are fearful, full of anger, and miserable as they lack Your guidance. 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