The Lord let Jonah run away to Joppa. He let Jonah buy a ticket and get on the ship. But….
Jonah 1:4 “Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.”
Storms and trials are great attention getters, aren’t they? The Lord knows what will bring us to our knees and get us to start thinking seriously about Him, doesn’t He?
Jonah 1:5a “All the sailors were afraid and they each cried out to their own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship”
“They each cried out to their own god.” I’m pretty sure their gods can’t hear or talk. This was supposed to be a safe, peaceful, routine voyage for the captain, the crew and the passengers of that ship; “a three hour cruise.” And that’s exactly what it would have been if Jonah hadn’t gotten on board. He didn’t belong on that ship.
We create a lot of panic and confusion for ourselves and for others every time we go where the Lord doesn’t want us to be. Saying “No” to the Lord causes turbulence in our lives and a lot of innocent people get caught up in it. Running away from the Lord and His will puts us on a collision course with destructive forces that can’t be avoided or ignored.
What’s Jonah’s way of dealing with those destructive forces that have collided with his life?
Jonah 1:5b “But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.”
Jonah’s way of handling it was to escape it. Denial in the midst of turmoil. He put himself in a “I-don’t-want-to-deal-with-it” kind of deep sleep. I’m not the one with the problem, you are. “They” are. Somebody else is. You’re the one who needs help. I’m fine. Things are great between God and me. Jonah’s asleep in his own private dream world. But he’s about to get a wake-up call.
Jonah 1:6 “The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe He will take notice of us and we will not perish.’”
You can’t keep acting like this, Jonah. We’ve got a problem and as long as you’re on this ship; as long as you’re a member of this family and living in this house, as long you’re working here, as long as you’re a part of this church, it’s your problem too. So wake up and help us find a way to solve it.
Jonah 1:7 “Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.”
It’s a rather unorthodox way of handling it but when you deal with something long enough and think about it hard enough, wondering what else you could possibly do about it, you eventually come up with the answer. No matter how you got there or how you look at it, everything points to Jonah.
Jonah 1: 8-10 “So they asked him, ‘Tell us who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country?’ He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.’ This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running from the Lord because he had already told them so.)”
Jonah refused to see any connection between the storm they were battling and his running away from the Lord. Even non-believers could see what was causing the problem. When are you going to face it Jonah?
Jonah 1:11 “The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, ‘What should we do for you to make the sea calm down for us?’”
Jonah is being held accountable for his foolish and rebellious behavior. It took a combination of a disastrous situation like that storm and a hefty dose of tough love. It took someone who was willing to say what had to be said, to get Jonah to wake up.
Jonah 1:12 ‘”Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied. ‘and it will become calm. I know it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’”
Jonah is finally accepting responsibility for his choices and his behavior. He’s finally willing to admit he’s got a problem that he can’t solve by himself. “Throw me into the sea.” I’m too afraid to jump so I’m crying out for help.
Yes, it is your fault and you deserve to be thrown into the sea, but this is not about you, Jonah. This about the Lord wanting the Ninevites to hear His word and repent. And, for some unimaginable reason, you’re the one He’s chosen to do that.
Jonah 1:13 “Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not for the sea grew even wilder than before.
Instead, they tried to row back to land. They were strong enough to say what had to be said, but not strong enough to actually do what had to be done. So they continued to be enablers and the situation continued to get worse.
Jonah 1:14 “Then they cried to the Lord, (to the God who could actually hear them) ‘O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you ,O Lord, have done as you pleased.’”
It’s important to acknowledge a problem; to be aware of the problem; to admit a problem exists. It’s important to analyze a problem; to understand what’s causing the problem and what we have to do to solve it. It’s important to be held accountable and to accept personal responsibility for the problem and to understand why our behavior is causing such a problem.
But the problem won’t go away. The storm won’t end. The problem will continually get worse until we DO something about the problem; until we do what has to be done to correct it. We may feel very guilty about it, but we cry out to God and just do it.
Jonah 1:15 “Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.”
“They… threw him overboard. We have a very hard time doing something like that, especially to someone we love and care about deeply. But they couldn’t keep bailing him out and paying his bills. They couldn’t keep sheltering him or making excuses for him, trying to protect him. They couldn’t let it go on any longer or they all would have drowned in that storm. They had to let him go.
For their sake; for Jonah’s sake; for God’s sake they had to throw him overboard. “Throw me into the sea.” That’s the first step toward recovery. That’s the first step to a second chance, a new life. Give up and surrender your life to Jesus. Let the Lord have His way in your life.
Lord willing, we’ll all be here next week before Jonah hits the water. Come on back and invite some friends to get into God’s Word with Pastor Buj.