Tag Archives: Jonah

“I fear the Lord, the god of heaven…”

Fear_The_Lord

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 GodYahwehcreated 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)

“No man is an island…”

Coming_Tempest
Today I read Jonah as part of my reading plan. I think Jonah is one of those stories that many people like, particularly because we can relate to his tale. Many of us have run from God. Perhaps we ran because we were afraid of what God would ask of us. Perhaps we didn’t want to submit to His calling on our lives. Perhaps we fail to see God’s authority over our lives so we run away from His will. Or, perhaps, if we’re as honest about ourselves as Jonah was, we don’t want to see certain people come to know Christ. Earlier this year, I did a couple posts on The Storms of Life, and I thought I’d add another one that really jumped out to me today.

Not Alone

In 1624 a man named John Donne wrote that “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” Too bad these words were written long after Jonah ran from God. Today, perhaps for the first time, I really understood that when Jonah ran from God, he wound up on a boat with a whole crew (Jonah 1:3). Jonah, in the midst of his rebellion and folly, was not alone. There were lots of other people on the boat with Jonah! Now, all the other people who are on the boat are about to have an encounter with God they’ll never forget.
I think it’s easy for us to focus on Jonah. We seldom think about all the other people what were on that ship, too. They were terrified and lost many of their possessions (Jonah 1:5, 10); they were in anguish over whether or not they should throw Jonah overboard (Jonah 1:12-14). They even fought to save Jonah (Jonah 1:13)! They tried to save the guy that almost got them all killed!
We all know what happens:  they throw Jonah overboard (Jonah 1:15) and the fish swallows Jonah (Jonah 1:17). The rest is history…
Our Folly, God’s Glory
But what about the other dudes? I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone talk about them before. Particularly, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone mention the fact that, after their night with Jonah, they starting worshipping God (Jonah 1:16).
I think it’s important for us to realize that when we rebel against God, we seldom do it without causing others to suffer in our storm. No man could have an addiction to porn that doesn’t affect his entire family as a result. No divorce doesn’t affect the children for the rest of their lives. No one could commit suicide without leaving a permanent mark on their family and loved ones. Even smaller sins, like stealing a candy bar from a 7/11, can have secondary and tertiary effects on other people. This is why it’s important for us to walk blamelessly before God and men, because when one Christian sins it affects the entire Church (1 Cor 12:26).
I also think it’s amazing that God will use our folly and rebellion to draw innocent bystanders to Him as well. God is able to use man’s rebellion to bring glory to Himself (Gen 50:20). Our God is an amazing God and I pray that I won’t be rebellious; but I pray that even if I am, He will still use me for His glory.

(For some great content about Jonah, check out the Jonah series at The Resurgence.)