And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:7-9)
I find Jonah’s response interesting: “I fear The Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.“ It seems like such a simple phrase that we could easily skim over it without appreciating its implication. But the way the sailors respond made me pay closer attention to this little gem: Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!“ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. (Jonah 1:10)
First, we need to note that both times we see the word ‘Lord‘ here it is the formal title for Yahweh. It’s not ‘lord,’ it’s Yahweh. Jonah had told them he was fleeing from Yahweh and they probably didn’t think anything of it at the time. Most ancient religions thought that gods were geographically limited; there was a god of the mountains, a god of the plains, a god in this desert, a god in that desert, etc. So when Jonah told them he was fleeing from Yahweh, they probably thought all he needed was a change of zip code. And then, something terrible happened…
“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. (Jonah 1:4)”
Suddenly a routine trip was enveloped by a life-threatening tempest! So they cast lots to figure out whose god they had offended and it turned out that Yahweh was upset (Jonah 1:7). That’s when Jonah says that his God—Yahweh—created the air, land, and sea. This one phrase reveals that Jonah’s God made it all and controls it all. This is not a god, but The God. This god is not limited to a zip code, but is The God and creator of the entire earth. This God’s sovereignty is not limited to a specific region, but encompasses all regions. Uh-oh. Even if they are able to make it back to dry land, it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to escape this God. No wonder they asked Jonah what to do (Jonah 1:11), followed his advice to throw him overboard (Jonah 1:15), and then offered sacrifices to Yahweh (Jonah 1:16). (Fun little factoid: the crew aboard this ship were actually Jonah’s first converts!)
Do we ever think, like Jonah, that we can somehow run from God’s presence? As though we could possibly escape Him?
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you. (Psalms 139:7-18)