Jonah and the Sailors
Jonah's Punishment is to be saved!
The story of Jonah shows us that God's will and humankind's salvation are on the same level.
God created humankind and God wants us to succeed. God is caring and care-ful toward the things and the
people that God has created. Human good is God's will.
If God's primary desire is for humans to succeed then why do so many people have antagonism toward God?
Is it possible that humans see the will of God as something other than their good?
It seems people see God as dangerous and someone to be avoided. They think that the best way to avoid God is to run away
- to act as though God does not exist.
Recently, polls in the United States evidence the growth of segments of society that think that the idea of God is foolishness and that people who believe in a personal god are "play acting."
But antagonism toward God is not new.
Adam and Eve in the garden of creation believed that God was keeping something beautiful, pleasing and powerful
away from them. Like many people of every age, the first parents thought that what they had, (which WAS everything!)
was not enough.
It can be argued that in the Adam and Eve account they did not really comprehend or understand what they had.
Yet, as soon as the idea is planted in their mind that they do not have everything, then they want whatever it is that they do not have.
Actually, the story says that they will gain the knowledge of good and evil. Wow! What in the heavens does THAT mean. What is the knowledge of good and evil?
Yet, the first parents want it. They don't even know what it is that they want. All they know is that they don't have it,
and God does. So they want it too. Sound familiar?
Cain believed that God was unfair because God did not accept his offering, so Cain decided to hurt God.
Knowing that God had accepted Abel's offering, Cain killed Abel thereby removing his rival but more importantly, destroying he whom God loved.
The Cain episode is a heightened form of the selfishness of which the human is capable. Cain cannot be Abel.
He thinks that God loves Abel more than God loves him. This perception has to do with Cain's belief concerning his rights. He thinks that God must accept his offering. In essence he says, "I offered it, so you MUST accept it."
From the perspecive of Genesis God need not accept Cain's offering. Cain is a creation. He does not own his life, it is a gift. He does not own the earth because he did not create the earth. He also does not own the crops of the earth because
if they rot in the ground or if the seed is blighted by drought or the crop destroyed by storm, there is no way that
Cain can undo it or reverse it. The crop is a gift of the creator of plants.
In this respect, everything within the creation is a gift. The offering is only a return (symbolic) to God of what
is already God's. God has no use for the offering. God does not eat. The offering is only the meaningful gesture of the human toward the creator. It is acknowledgement of the superior status of God and the dependent status of humankind.
Cain's idea that God is required to accept the offering makes Cain the God. "I do it and you must accept what I do."
We can be quick to see that implied in this attitude is a vieled "Or Else!" which is borne out in the rest of the story.
Aha, says Cain. "You think that I cannot create. Well, I create children don't I? I plant seed and it grows, doesn't it?"
He thinks to himself, "God thinks that God is all powerful, well watch this." Then Cain proves his power by destroying what
God made, namely, his brother Abel.
But can Cain reverse his action? He cannot call Abel back from the dead. Jesus could and did.
Can Cain kill himself and return from the dead. He is unwilling to try that display of power. But Jesus allows himself
to die on the cross, be buried and then return from the dead ALIVE.
Cain is humankind in active dis obedience to God. Jesus is humankind in active obedience to God.
People strut about as though invincible. That is what the people of the Tower of Babel did. They decided to seize control of their destiny and build an assault tower against heaven.
The people in the story of the tower of Babel realized that the world in which people live was not created by them.
They merely found themselves in it.
If they were not in control then who was? Whoever it was needed to be defeated in order that the people could themselves be in control.
But of what were they to be in control? They did not create anything. Yes, they may have been able to take ingredients that
pre-existed and mix them up in a batch out of which came something else.
After all, humankind had discovered bronze and Iron. People had learned how to mix things together and "create" a new thing.
In the sense that this discovery resulted in the product, then we can say that humankind "created it." But did they really or did they merely discover the secret that pre-existed?
The FACT of bronze existed as an un discovered fact. All that we did was find out the secret formula and use it.
Humankind's discoveries should not be discounted. But neither should they be over valued.
After all, the Bible loudly declares that the human is made in the image and likeness of God. This image and likeness includes observation, perception, conception and rational extrapolation resulting in progress and the success of the race.
However, God, in contra distinction, has all of these qualities
plus the ability to create by FIAT...that is, to created out of nothing...Lat: Ex Nihilo...
This ability to create out of nothing is indicated by the use of the concept of WORD. God speaks the WORD and something happens
as a result. God is the WORD at the beginning. The WORD speaks and things (stuff) happens.
In the speaking of the WORD, God does not lose anything. To use the illustration of human words;
I have a feeling of love toward you. Or I have a feeling of hate toward you. So I speak a loving word and you feel good. Or I speak a hateful word and you feel bad.
In the speaking of the word I lose nothing. I still own the love or the hate. I have communicated it to you. I guess we could say I shared it with you. However, this sharing does not diminish the love or the hate I have. It is still mine. Unlike if I give you half of a loaf of bread.
My speaking words is only effective with another sentient being- human or animal. It has no effect on non sentient life such as plants.
Therefore, Cain must DO something. He must act and not only speak.
He can proclaim his hatred for Abel and it will have a spiritual
or emotional effect, but it will not physically kill Abel. To do that Cain must transfer the thought into the deed using kinetic actions.
It is interesting to note that God warns Cain of this human inability. God knows that the man is made in the image and likeness of God. But the man is not God.
Some things have been left out of the man and reserved for God.
God acknowledges that Cain is angry. And God tells Cain that Cain is capable of controling his anger. To use a Bob Newhart expression, God says to Cain, "Get over it?"
But Cain cannot, or he will not, "Get over it."
Anyway...back to the Bible
The people of the tower of Babel decided to take what they considered control of their lives. So also the people at the time of Noah decided to build their own world. The scripture describes them as people who thought evil, planned evil, did evil, encouraged others toward evil and even created new evil. And they did this evil continuously.
Humans are capable of thinking good and evil. They are also capable of the expression of good thoughts and evil thoughts by use of words.
And they are also capable of sacrifice indicating worship of God. Or they can destroy indicating rebellion against God.
Humankind with God as their father, was made in the image and likeness of God. But people rebelled against that image
denying the creator and effacing his image within them. It was like smearing dirt on a mirror covering up the image
but the image and the image of maker remained.
But God's will is humankinds good. God wants people to succeed. Therefore, God would send the people a prophet to warn them of the consequence of their action. The people may have thought they could do as they pleased without consequence.
But it is a law of creation which is affirmed by science that every action has a consequence reaction.
God wanted the people to repent and thereby to change their thinking and actions. They were created in God's image with
free will. Therefore, they could decide to do good as well as evil. If they did not then God would warn them of the danger.
The whole idea of the Prophet is of "the one who speaks forth."
The Prophet is a preacher, a teacher, a ethicist.
Even more, the Prophet is one sent by God to speak a word from God to inform, warn, advise and assist people in doing
Jonah was a prophet.
But Jonah, a fellow human, did not have the same regard for other humans and their welfare. He may have been a prophet
but his thinking and philosophy were informed by his human prejustice.
His was a cruel opinion that "People get what they deserve to get."
So when he realized that God was going to intervene in history in order to save Nineveh, Jonah decided to run away.
The foolishness of trying to run away from God is forcefully displayed in the Jonah story.
God does not want the death of the sinner but that the sinner should turn from his evil ways and live.
In Jonah we see the God who pursues us as we run away. He is a God who intends to capture us not for the intention of
hurting us but in order to save us from ourselves. To warn us of the consequence of our actions.
RETURNING TO THE BIBLE STORY:
In the story of Jonah the sailors cast lots in order to determine whose behavior caused the storm. The nature of this
storm was unnatural and they perceived from their nautical experience that the force of nature was being manipulated by God for a
So they interrogated Jonah and he confessed that he was running away from God.
They are amazed. How could Jonah imagine that he could run away from God the creator from whom there is no escape?
But their discovery of the guilty party and Jonah's confession caused no abatement of the storm. Instead the storm was increasing in
In the simplicity of their equation the sailors realized that they had discovered the cause of the storm but the mere discovery was not enough to
calm the sea. Instead, there were those who argued that the steady increase in the power of the storm indicated that now that
they knew the cause, something must be done.
Let the prophet speak. He was the cause. Let him offer a solution. So they ask, "What shall we do unto thee that the sea may
be calm unto us"
(The Prophet Jonah, pg.26)
We see in Jonah's attutde the continuation of his callous feelings toward the welfare of other people.
He does not want to go to Nineveh because he refuses to warn them, lest they be saved.
However, he involves other people in his flight from God, regardless of the consequence and now that his action
may result in the death of their sailors, Jonah is still without remorse. He does not care if THEY ALL go down to death.
Because the sailors are innocent of Jonah's actions. God will be merciful them in their innocence.
It is noteworthy that the "so called" pagan sailors pray to their gods while Jonah is depicted as cold and aloof and
will not bend the knee in supplication. His cold hearted indifference to their plight is contrasted to their ardent
desire to live. He may not care about whether they live, but they certainly do!
Jonah, as do some many of us, does not want to admit his situation. He hides behind a casual attitude. He acts innocent.
But the crew of the ship surrounds him. Stranglely brazen of the prophet that he should keep his outward false demeanor
when he knows full well what is happening and why. Does he still persist in thinking that he may yet escape God?