Jonah is one of my favorite Bible men. Jonah was a prophet, inspired and instructed to announce future events. But Jonah was a reluctant prophet, or at least in this instance he was. Jonah was chosen by God to the city of Ninevah, a great city filled with wickedness. Jonah was not willing to go to this heathen city and this unwillingness set into place a series of events that would show beyond all doubt that God is sovereign, and in control.
Jonah 1:2 the Lord tells Jonah to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it for their wickedness is come up before me.” Jonah does not want to go to Nineveh, and instead he V3 “rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa and he found a ship going down to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” Twice in V3 it says “from the presence of the LORD” but that is impossible, to flee from the presence of the LORD.. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Psalm 139:7)
But V4 the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, “...and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.” The mariners were very fearful, V5 “and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.” Each man cried to his god, but not to the LORD God. They threw things overboard to lighten the ship, trying to save it by their own will, but Jonah went on sleeping. Soon he was awoken by the captain of the ship who told him to V6 “What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.” I find this statement amazing. This captain, down deep in his heart, knew that the God of Israel had the power to save. And so this journey was in the plan of God not only for Jonah, but to show His power and mercy to the mariners on that ship.
V7 Wanting to know whose fault it was that the storm had come up, they cast lots and it fell upon Jonah. V8 “they said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? And whence comest thou? What is thy country? And of what people art thou?” What an opportunity for Jonah! And Jonah gives a wonderful witness. V9 “I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.” Jonah may be trying to run from the presence of the LORD, but he is very quick to tell the mariners about the LORD, the God of heaven, the Creator..
V10 The mariners were “exceedingly afraid” and said to Jonah “Why hast thou done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. Did they wonder why Jonah thought he could run away from the presence of the LORD who, in his own words, “hath made the sea and the dry land”? Perhaps by now Jonah was wondering that himself. And so they asked Jonah V11” What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.” Obviously they believed that Jonah’s God had the power to calm the sea. And so V12 Jonah told them to “take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.”” But V13 the men rowed hard and tried to bring the ship to the land, but they could not “for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them”. And so they cried to the LORD V14 “We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.” What an amazing prayer, before they were crying out to their gods, now they were beseeching the God of Israel for their very lives…
V15 So they threw Jonah into the sea, and immediately “the sea ceased from her raging” there was calm, and V16 “then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.” Jonah, in his haste to run away from the presence of the LORD, has brought the LORD’s mercy and truth to mariners who did not believe in Him, but now they are making sacrifices and vows to Him. And though scripture does not say it, perhaps when they got back home, they told others what marvelous things the LORD had done for them. The LORD will be known, whether or not man is willing.
But now we have a miracle V17 “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”
Much more of this to come in Jonah – Part 2