Just because someone is the captain of a team does not mean they have the authority to do as they please in any given situation on the field. They need to follow the coach or manager’s instructions all the time. Still vividly in one’s mind is our Springbok Rugby Team winning the last Word Cup. The head coach, from his lookout in the stands kept sending radioing instructions to his ground staff to instruct the captain to do something. The captain needed to obey his coach’s instructions. On a ship or fishing trawler, the captain is king. What he says goes. He is the boss. No one may speak against him or challenge him. At sea he rules supreme. No questions, no comments and no suggestions!
1) The captain’s unhappiness
Jnh 1:6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep?
His anger was not just because Jonah was sleeping. Remember he is the ruler of this sailing platform. He is responsible and accountable to the owners of the ship for the ship, for the crew, cargo and passengers who paid to be transported from one point to another. The weight was on his shoulders … not so much because of the raging seas, but because the sailors were throwing the cargo overboard. His job and reputation were at stake and the lives of his crew and himself were in jeopardy. One could imagine how he was fuming once taking a head count and could not find Jonah. In all the turmoil they were experiencing, Jonah was not there and the captain needed to leave his post to search for him … only to see him in the comfort and warmth of the bunk house, fast asleep.
(1) An amazing question … “How can you sleep?” They sailors were trying to save the ship throwing the cargo overboard. They were praying to their gods for help. They were afraid they might lose the ship and more their lives … and Jonah is sleeping!
2) The captain’s instruction
Jnh 1:6 Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”
There is irony here. Jonah fled from God. He wanted to be out of God’s reach … note the captain instructs him to do two things …
(a) Get up. Leave the bunk. Leave the comfort.
(b) Call upon your God. Get in contact with the one you are fleeing from.
The captain did not know that but that’s the irony. Why call upon his God? Maybe he or his God were responsible for the turn in the weather. If anyone could pray and be heard it was Jonah. God does not hear the prayers of pagan people, accept prayer for salvation through God’s Messiah. But could he pray? Yes. But would he pray? No! Only Jonah could have the present dangerous experience changed … yet implied in the passage he refused. Although it is not stated, Jonah must have gotten up and gone to help the sailors … because …
3) The crew cast lots …
Jnh 1:7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
The reason for casting lots was the ancients believed that “a god” was responsible for catastrophes such as they were experiencing. Lot casting in those days was taking little stones or something similar that could be shaped like the dice we use today for board games. Different colors were used on each of the six sides and used in pairs. Like dice when thrown, if both objects landed with, say, the dark color up it was a negative sign. If both had the light color showing upwards it was a positive sign. If one was dark and the other light the gods were not giving an answer. This was divination … in Israel it was forbidden, but Lot Casting, not to see into the future but to bring one’s conduct to conform to God’s will was permitted at times. In this case the lot fell to Jonah … not because divination was right but because God was overruling in the case of the runaway prophet. Whose fault was the unseasonal storm? Who was at fault here? Jonah!
4) Now that the lot fell to Jonah, the sailors fire questions at him.
Jnh 1:8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
(i) The first question is partially answered through the Lot.
(ii) The next question could also be rendered “What are you doing here?”
(iii) Then three questions that are not political but religious. They needed to determine which god they needed to pray too! Answers would inform the sailors which localized god Jonah prayed to so they too could approach this god for mercy.
5) Jonah now comes clean … and verses 9-10 although together, it seems as though verse 10b is added by Jonah much later.
Jnh 1:9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” 10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
(1) He is a Hebrew. He is a native of Israel, one who is a Jew … as a Jew …
(2) He worships the LORD. Note this is God’s real name (Yahweh translated Jehovah and then as LORD in English).
(3) The LORD is the God of Heaven. Not some planet like Zeus was Jupiter, Hermes was Mercury an Aphrodite was Venus. Heaven was over all these planets!
(4) The God of Heaven is the Creator God. Not only did He make the land, He made the sea that was tossing the ship around … but more … this God made all the planets! This God is not a localized God. He is everywhere and knows everything. As the Creator, who is God of Heaven, He is able to control nature! What a testimony.
(5) What did you do that you are running away from the God of heaven, of creation, who controls the seas? Although he does not record his answer immediately, he adds later that he is running away from his God (see the parenthesis). In brief, he admits the raging seas, loss of cargo and panic is all his fault because he was running from the God who is Supreme … who sees where he is … even below deck in the crews bunk house.
6) The sailors were extremely scared of their present environment. Who would not be in the middle of nowhere? Every mountains they saw were huge waves. The wind hammered the sails. The ship was taking water. Always remember that this is not a motor vehicle. When something goes wrong you can’t get out and walk. Even lowering the life boat would be suicide in this storm. They were, as Jonah put it … terrified! Because we will deal with Jonah’s running away, consider for today …
(1) The God of the Bible lives in heaven and is Creator of all that’s exists to the furthest galaxy. He created nature and controls nature.
(2) This God does at times, use unbelievers to arrest our attention to confess to whom we actually belong.
(3) This is why we must avoid putting others into jeopardy through our sin. Is He your God?
Father thank You for reminding me who You are. Amen.