Jonah 1:4-5 (ESV, emphasis mine)
4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god.
Jonah 1:15-16 (ESV, emphasis mine)
15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
The story of Jonah and the great fish is common in Christian circles. I had a friend remark the other day that he had always considered Jonah basically a kids tale great for Sunday school lessons. Looking at the verses above we see that something pretty serious is going on in the Jonah story.
The context of these verses in Jonah chapter 1 is that Jonah, a prophet, has been commanded by God to leave Israel and go to the land of Assyria and tell the people in a town called Nineveh that they are evil. This would be like God telling us to leave the United States and go stand in Baghdad, Iraq and proclaim that city evil. Not an ideal task. Jonah decided to flee in the complete opposite way instead of heeding God’s command. He jumped a boat to Tarshish (which is modern day Spain) and that’s where the real trouble begins. God causes a storm to befall Jonah’s ship. All the sailors onboard begin to cry out to the gods they have decided to worship. Jonah is found sleeping and when they wake him up he describes the scenario of how his God had commanded him to go to Nineveh and that this storm was most likely a response to his disobedience. This part of Jonah’s story culminates with Jonah being tossed into the sea and the storm passing. As verse 16 highlights that after the storm had passed the sailors on the boat who had worshiped other gods now had revelation of the one true God.
Reflecting on this part of Jonah’s story I am left with some nagging questions about my own dependency and worship of God.
- Are there any other gods I have decided to worship in the place of God? What is my relationship to money, food, entertainment, relationships, and a long list of other things that I could worship in the place of God?(A pastor I like says to check you check book and day planner and you will realize what you worship.)
- Does it really take storms in my life for me to pursue my Creator? My Savior?
- What is God telling me to do? Where is my Nineveh?
Heavenly Father, I pray that today I hear your voice and that I heed your call. Father help me identify those things in my life I that esteem more than you, that I love more than you, and that I worship more than you. Forgive my idolatry Father. I pray Father that it is not the passing of a storm that turns me to you, but rather that in turning to you first the storms will not prevail. Thank you Lord Jesus for your atoning sacrifice and it is in your name I pray. Amen.