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Devotionals Jonah

Sinking Ships

Although I had a skipper’s license to operate a trawler over 150 tons, I never went outside of Saldanha Bay captaining the vessel. There were times that the Bay was rough with huge swells … and that was bad enough. I have however been out in the deep sea with others captaining a vessel where we were thrown around somewhat. Some captains have told me of how waves of 10 plus meters lifted their trawlers up, passing underneath and letting the vessel fall. That’s scary! They say the worst is to travel around Cape Point where the two oceans meet. I started this Daily Note last night … today on News24 I read an article of a fishing vessel capsizing off Cape Point. Twelve fishermen were rescued whilst the trawler was still afloat. The horrific thing about this story is that whilst working in the Fishing Industry in the 1970’s until 1982, part of our fleet was a trawler named “Restless Wave.” That is the name of this trawler that capsized in a storm. Things could not be worse than the ship Jonah was on. The navigation was crude. They had no power engines or standby generators and bilge pumps. They relied on sails and at times slaves pulling awes.

1) Jonah bought a ticket to flee, on the sea. To seal his escape he boarded the ship. They weighed anchor and set sail. Tarshish, here we come.

Jnh 1:3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish . He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.

2) Jonah soon found out that his God was not some localized god.

Jnh 1:4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.

This verse tells us that God is omnipresent … He is everywhere all the time. He is omniscient … He sees and know everything all the time. We need to get the picture …

(1) No captain will set sail if the weather conditions were not favorable. The owners of the ship would hold him responsible for loss or damage should he endanger their asset. This means the sea conditions were perfect for sailing. There was a “no sail season” when storms were likely. This means the captain would never have put out to sea if there was any sign of a storm.

(2) The LORD sent … the word “sent” means to “throw” or “hurl”. This word is used later when the sailors threw their cargo over board. God hurled a mighty wind at the sea causing such a storm that the ship was itself hurled all over, threatening to break up. Unless you have been out in the open sea, unable to see land and the seas toss the vessel around, you won’t understand what Jonah writes. The ship was creaking loudly. The mast pole in the center near the front was bending and twisting. The sails were all over the place. Scary!

(3) Notice verse 3 ends with “from the LORD” and verse 4 starts with “then the LORD”. Jonah ran … and then the LORD! Jonah’s sin affected others. From perfect sailing conditions to “a violent storm”. Consider the captain and crew … most likely they were married men with children. They were men with responsibilities. Then there were the owners of the vessel. Their investment was in danger … and what about the cargo? Companies were exporting goods to other countries. Loss would not only effect their business … it would damage the economy of their country. Jonah’s rebellion against God certainly impacted upon many others. We need to stop here and confront ourselves with whether our sins are affecting others. One could raise issues like drugs and alcohol or reckless spending … but what about rejecting God’s will for your life? Maybe you want to do this when God wants you to do that. Because of this, your family suffer … and maybe others too. Look at what happened on that ship:

Jnh 1:5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

(a) These sailors were afraid. Sailors are not afraid of the sea. From personal experience in the Fishing Industry, most fishermen can’t swim. This means they trust their vessel resulting in no fear. These sailors were scared! The word “panic” comes to mind because they were fear-stricken! These sailors were hardened maritime men used to the seas. They knew the Mediterranean Sea well. They knew the coast line on both the African and European sides. The sudden change was extremely unnatural.

(b) They saw this as supernatural because they called out to whatever god each one venerated. Generally these men would have been polytheists (this is a belief in multiple deities that forms a pantheon of gods and goddesses … each having their own required rituals) … but mostly they would have had one special god, normally the god of their nation or birth place or the god who supposedly poured out some special blessing in the past. Hardened sailors calling out to their god for help shows they realized they were in grave danger.

(c) They lightened the ship for protection. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. Today such as act would be very dangerous because in rough sea the most dangerous ship is an empty ship! The weight actually stabilizes a ship in the storm. Jonah’s sin caused the loss of cargo.

(4) The crew were in fear, Jonah found his bunk below deck where the crew and passengers slept … and went to sleep … But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The progress of his sinful, rebellious, rejection of God’s will was a hardened heart. He was prepared to die and did not care at that moment that the captain and crew and possibly other passengers would die as well. Sadly this is the tragedy of sin. Once controlled by it, you don’t feel for anyone else. If you don’t care about your own life, why would you care about the lives of others? The angry person speeding does not think of the danger he could be to others. Because of sin, the depressed person does not feel for those he is unkind, rude or cruel towards. Jonah thought that if the ship sunk he would die and escape God! How terribly sad, yet how awfully wicked.

Perhaps we ought to do a little spiritual, moral and behavioral examination by probing into our sins that remain habitual, repetitive and perhaps even enjoyable to us. On the one hand, all sin is offensive and against God … but how many of our sins affect those around us? We need to be ruthless here. What sins do we do at work that impacts upon colleagues or employers? Ask that question about home life, marriage, friends, church, etc.

Father, as hard as it is to look within and acknowledge sin that affects others, please help me to do so. Amen.

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