He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord , the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord , because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord , “Please, Lord , do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord , have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord , and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. – Jonah 1:9-17
This passage is “part 2” of yesterday’s passage about a sleepy Jonah. Here Jonah is fully awake and dealing with some pretty desperate and determined sailors. I have never been in a sailboat during a storm, but I can imagine that it would be pretty scary and it would leave you feeling really helpless.
Jonah confesses that he is the reason for the rough seas they are experiencing. He is a Hebrew and his God who “who made the sea and the dry land” is angry. Apparently Jonah had told the sailors part of his story, that he was “running away from the Lord”. I wonder what these non-Hebrews thought when he told them this before the storm. They probably wondered a bit about his sanity and gave him a wide berth on the ship. The storm was a “reality check” for them. They are quickly becoming convinced that Jonah was the sane one and perhaps they were the ones who were confused.
Jonah volunteers to become a sacrifice to “calm the storm”, telling the sailors to throw him overboard. The sailors are not ready to do this. They frantically try to row for shore to get out of the storm, but the storm defeats them. So why were the sailors hesitant to throw Jonah overboard? It seems to me that throwing a man you did not know, and who you suspect was crazy, would be easy but it was not for the sailors. I suspect they were beginning to understand the power of this God that Jonah was running from and they did not want to choose poorly. Finally they decide they have no choice but to sacrifice “an innocent man” and they plead with God not to hold them accountable for doing it.
At this point in the story I think Jonah has something to learn from the sailors. They are acknowledging God’s power and essentially asking for forgiveness for what they feel they have to do. In the end they toss Jonah overboard. The storm is calmed and the sailors take a posture of repentance and humility toward this God that they have just met. I have heard about the possible parallels and hidden meanings between Jonah and Jesus before. but I confess I have not really dug very deeply into this idea before now. After reading this passage, and my previous experience with water references in the bible I am more curious than ever about this metaphoric meaning for the events of Jonah. Here is what I am thinking about this passage and the metaphorical meanings it contains. I have not accessed a lot of other sources other than my own memory and God’s Holy Spirit (to the extent that I have ears to hear it).
In a sense the ship full of sailors is a metaphor for our physical life on earth – the Land of Oblivion. They are floating about “a sea”, a spiritual ocean if you will. God is about to disrupt the plans and purposes of these sailors with a great wind or storm. The storm’s arrival is a metaphor for Jesus’ arrival on earth which results in a “spiritual storm” on earth which affects all of us “sailors“. The solution of the sailors, and the people in Jesus’ time, was to kill an innocent man to calm the storm. Of course we know the “rest of the story” and that God had other plans for Jonah and for Jesus. They both overcome death for a larger purpose that is beyond the physical world. In Jonah’s case this will involve reaching out to the lost people of Ninevah and in Jesus’ case it involves reaching out to the lost people everywhere, including me.
I did not intend this passage here in Jonah to relate to Easter, but God had other plans. This passage is very much about Easter and the sacrifice it represents. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus tomorrow because He “calmed the storm for us”. A spiritual storm that has been raging about us, threatening to sink our souls, since the time of Adam and Eve. Our response to this amazing grace should be like the sailors, we should offer a sacrifice to the Lord, our lives, and make vows to him – a commitment to faithfully follow Him.
Prayer: God thank Your for the amazing grace provided by Jesus, the Innocent Man who took away the sins of the world.