Jonah and the Storm

The believer confronted by the Unbeliever

The prophet Jonah tries to escape God's command by going from one place to another. And he will encounter a storm along the way.

Somehow he believed that he could put distance between himself and God. Maybe he believed that God was merely local and once outside of the local territory then God's power diminished?

Maybe Jonah thought that once God realized that he had run away then God would find somebody else to do the mission? He may have thought that God does not want a reluctant prophet and therefore Jonah's refusal to cooperate would release Jonah from a prophet's responsibility.

Jonah does not to take responsibility for his actions

Is this the way people think? Do they feel that they are not responsible for their actions? Do people feel that there is such a thing as someone else's fault?

For instance, we hear someone say to another, "You make me angry."

Is it possible for one person to make another person angry?

Is it rather that one person does not like another person's way, or their look or words or actions? The person who does not like these things about another then allows themself to become angry about them.

The emotional response of disagreement becomes disapproval and the disapproval becomes anger and the anger is expressed in attitude and the attitude results in actively destructive behavior.

Consider the response of Adam, when, after he had disobeyed, he was asked about what he had done. "The woman YOU placed here to be with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it" Genesis 3:12 He blames the woman and God at the same time.

Or review the story of Cain and Abel. Genesis Chapter 4

Why is Cain angry? Did Cain have control over his emotional response? Genesis 4:6&7 "...sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."

Indeed, God did accept Abel's offering and not Cain's and Cain felt rejected. Or did he feel insulted?

What, after all, is the relationship between a feeling of rejection and the subsequent feelings of hurt,anger and revenge?

If he feels rejected, who does Cain feel is to blame for it? Is he correct in blaming some other person for his own feelings of rejection? or is Cain ultimately angry at God and merely uses the murder of Abel as a way to get back at God?

The question is one of honesty. Is a person responsible and accountable for their behavior?

In response to events, we may not be able to prevent our emotional response but we can control what we do with our emotions.

Jonah responds to God's command by running away because he does not agree with what he thinks God intends to do. If God was going to rain fire from heaven on the Ninevite city, good! But if God was going to warn the city with the intention of saving it, then Jonah wanted no part of it.

There is a bold and broad moral application here. What is the unintended result If God wants us to love and we do not want to love?

By refusing to love as God wants, do we thwart God's will? If God desires to do good and we do not want that good to occur, are we capable of preventing the good that God would do? The foolishness of trying to run away from God is forcefully displayed in the Jonah story. Jonah goes out on the sea and thereby runs right into the embrace of God. Once in the ship and on the sea there was no place to which he could escape. Jonah's decision making ability is definitely impaired!

No sooner is he on the deep sea when God stirs and increases the wind and piles up the waves and assaults Jonah's little ship. It is a mere cork on the waves tossed around and around and is about to be destroyed by the force of the sea.

Discovered in the hold of the ship, Jonah is awakened.

" Arise, O sleeper, what meanest thou sleeping while the tempest roars and the wild waves threaten to engulf us!"

Did Jonah at once realize the situation? Was he aware that God was chasing him? Or was his rebellion so great that he casually dismissed the storm as coincidence?

Even here, confronted by the God of wind and wave, Jonah attempts to hide. He does not acknowledge that he is to blame. We see in Jonah the continuation of his callous disregard toward the welfare of other people.

He does not want to go to Nineveh because he does not want to warn them, lest they be saved. He will not get involved.

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 the sailors, Jonah is still obstinant. He does not care if THEY ALL go down to death.

But the sailors are innocent of Jonah's actions and God will be merciful to 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 to his God. 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 so 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. They have a discussion and they decide that they will cast lots to see who is to blame for their situation. The lot falls to Jonah.

Strangely 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? For their part the sailors believe there is a correlation between nature and people's behavior. Their's are the gods of nature, of sea and wind and wave.

Sailors are out in the open, under the sky, subject to the kind gentleness of a calm day and to the fierce violence of a stormy sea. There is little between them and the water except a few planks of wood and some pitch. Their only means of motion is the cloth sheet which all too often hangs limp upon the beam. They think that a person's behavior in relation to the gods is one of dependence and good will. If they have the gods' good will then they survive!

Today, we will be quick to deny any relation between the weather and a person's moral behavior. But if we look into the bigger message of Jonah we can ask the question, "What does the story intend to communicate about the relationship between one man's behavior and the welfare of others?

Is it true that what I think and believe has nothing to do with anyone other tham myself? Is my philosophy of life and my theology purely a private affair?

Rather, is it true that the creed is the father to the deed. Is what I believe the author of the events of my life?

The word "creed" comes from the Latin verb CREDO. Credo is translated "I Believe." The opinion that "what I believe to be true or false- IS the truth! Or that what I think to be right or wrong IS the "right or wrong" is reflected in the Jonah story.

The prophet is not merely a private citizen doing something in the seclusion of his bedroom closet. He is a member of society and is involved with it.

Granted, Jesus himself in relating to blind people told the disciples that there was no direct correlation between the blindness of the man and the sinfulness of the parents. And we do well to remember that it is not our call to blame individuals or groups of people as the cause of a particular calamity.

But at the same time, people do not understand the Bible who insist that God has nothing to do with nature. Repeatedly, the Scriptures declare that the "heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows forth his creation.

As the Psalms declare, "The fool has said in his heart that there is no God."

(Returning to the Bible story) Finding that the lot of chance fell upon Jonah, the salors are curious. They ask him questions.

"What is your occupation?"

"From where did you come?"

Jonah finally confesses who he is, where he is from and the God in whom he beleives.

And the so called "pagan" sailors thrust the essential question into Jonah's soul. "Why have you done this?"

And that is not the first time or the last time that a professor of the true religion has been told the bitter truth by pagans, by unbelievers. It often occurs today that unbelieving, worldly people chide Christians and say: "You profess to believe in the Church, but you do not attend your church. You profess to be a follower of Christ, but you do not follow his precepts. You profess to believe in missions, but you do not support them. You profess that God owns everything but you do not act like it. You profess that God controls everything but you do not pray to him. You profess to believe in the Bible as God's word but you do not read it. Many and similar challenges are flung in the face of professed Christians today. And who is to say that they are not true? ...We may well heed the admonition of the Apostle: "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise," so that none may charge us and say: What have you done? **

**A quote from The Prophet Jonah, G.E. Hageman,m pg. 23; the Stratford Company, Boston, 1927.

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