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“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
Of all of the prophets of the Old Testament, Jonah is definitely the bad boy in the group. Jeremiah may have complained that he wasn’t the right man for the job, but at least he didn’t try to skip town. When the call came to Jonah, Jonah hopped a boat headed in the exact opposite direction as the Lord told him to go.
But as Jonah would learn, it’s hard to hide from God. “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.” The old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes applies to sailors too. But for sailors, instead of foxholes, it’s sinking ships. The sailors call out to their gods for help. Call it religion, call it superstition, but they conclude that God is hopping mad as someone onboard. They cast lots to see who the problem passenger might be. And sure enough, the lot fell to Jonah, who was asleep in his cabin.
To his credit, Jonah admits his guilt. He tells them that their only hope is to throw him into the sea. Strangely, Jonah seems to have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of the sailors, offering up his own life that they might not die but live. It’s those Ninevites that Jonah hates.
So, overboard goes Jonah and suddenly the sea is calm. Just listen to what happens next. “Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly…” They were terrified that they were going to all drown in the stormy sea, and now they are even more terrified that the sea grew calm.
This, by the way, is the same reaction of the disciples who were in the boat on the stormy Sea of Galilee. While the storm threatened to sink them, Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat. They woke Him up and He commanded the waves and the wind to stand down, and immediately the sea was calm. And Mark writes, “they were exceedingly afraid.” Continue reading