What would be the most awe-inspiring sight or experience you have had? By asking this question I am not suggesting beauty. There are many beautiful sights such as the animals in the Kruger National Park; standing on top of Table Mountain looking down at Cape Town City and even in seeing Robben Island or being in an Boeing Aircraft, flying above the clouds. The question is directed at an awesome sight that has brought fear resulting is you standing amazed at God’s sovereignty and Lordship over nature. Have you been near a tornado passing by destroying everything in its pathway, a flood such as the recent floods and resultant damage in KwaZulu- Natal or witnessed footage from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Whatever yours was, did it drive you to God in amazement, fear and pleading for help for yourself or others?
1) Experiencing the awe-inspiring God!
Jnh 1:15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
Immediately the “cause of their problem”, Jonah, was removed, their “problem ceased”. The “raging sea grew calm” … remember they prayed and even though their prayer was not theological sound, because it was directed to the LORD … the true God … and carried the ingredients of confession and pleading for pardon, God heard and answered their prayers. This struck them deeply in the heart and soul. Look at the following passage … especially verse 25 and 28:
Ps 107:23 Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. 24 They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep. 25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. 26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. 27 They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.
It’s almost as though the Psalmist tells the story of the crew and ship Jonah was on. The Psalm depicts the picture I tried to paint a few days ago with what the rough waves do with a vessel (verses 25-26) with the effects upon the crew (verse 27) followed by what they did … they prayed! (Verse 28a) with God hearing and answering their cries (verse 28b-29). Our Lord Jesus is actually the LORD of creation and nature. (See the opening verses of John chapter 1 and Hebrews chapter 1). Now look at:
Mk 4:35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
They were awe-struck by this “man” Jesus’ command over nature. This is the God these sailors had come to meet up with through Jonah’s rebellious behavior in running from God. He who could send such horrific, raging seas out of season is he who brings calm by a “Word” … calm to the seas but also calm to the soul.
2) The sailors’ response to this awe-inspiring God.
Jnh 1:16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
(1) They feared the LORD greatly. The word “fear” could be “afraid or terrified” but also “personal knowledge.” Considering the remainder of the verse I would suggest both thoughts to be present.
(2) They offered sacrifices to the LORD. Whatever these were, they were out of thanksgiving to God for bringing such relief. Literally they were saved … twice! They were saved physically and spiritually!
(3) They made vows to the LORD. These vows were serious declarations of commitment and promise. These sailors and possibly the captain surrendered to the God of Creation who is the LORD. They were converted!
(4) This runaway prophet, who refused to evangelize the pagan Ninevites, inadvertently evangelized these pagan Phoenician sailors! We must remember:
Ro 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.
We might not sin purposefully, yet God is His wisdom is able to use our sin to His Kingdom advantage. Jonah’s sin led to the salvation of these sailors.
(i) Only Jesus can calm the raging storms within the human soul. He who calmed the raging storms upon the Mediterranean Seas and the Sea of Galilee is able to calm those tumultuous storms within your soul. The storm desiring satisfaction, identity, peace, worry, fear, loss, forgiveness of sin and salvation … is conquerable through Him who is the Creator God. He invites lost sinners to come to Him through His salvific provision in Jesus Christ.
(ii) To receive this calm there needs to be sincere prayer. The sailors prayed earnestly, honestly and passionately for help. The greatest help they received was in their souls. Prayer is the instrument God provides to seek Him for soul satisfaction.
(iii) An understanding of God as “Almighty, Sovereign and Supreme” is required.
Jnh 1:16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD.
Other gods, idols and fascinations need to be dumped because “fearing” the LORD means acknowledging Him as the only True and Living God. Again and again we need to be reminded that God is jealous and will not share the hearts of His people with idols. There is no other God apart from what man has made through his imagination to satisfy his wickedness. The LORD requires you grasp and understand that He alone is the only Sovereign.
(iv) Once the calm has been experienced the sacrifice of the heart, mind, soul and body is required.
Jnh 1:16 and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
We don’t know what they offered as they threw the cargo overboard. We know what we need to offer:
Ro 12:1 in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
The whole body includes our mind—our promises to God!
Our Father, thank You for the escape You have created for us in the Lord Jesus. Receive our hearts, minds, souls and bodies dedicated to You and Your Kingdom. Amen.