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Jan 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 15, 2017 – Jonah 1:4-6

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep.

So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.” Jonah 1:4-6

Intro: Let’s take a quick look at the previous episode

God gave Jonah an assignment, and Jonah ran away
– he found and boarded a ship that was going across the sea
• we were told that Jonah paid the fare and went with them
• two important words: with them
– like a person who joins a group going backstage, “I’m with them
• his plan: hide in crowd, lose himself among Gentiles

Why did Jonah choose the sea?
– in Israel’s mind, their God was about land–the land
• the land promised to Abraham and his descendants
• and especially soil suitable for cultivation
◦ the wilderness, mountains and the sea were associated with chaos
◦ wild, disorganized and unpredictable spaces that threated human life
– Jonah sailed for a distant land, one for which God had no concern
• in doing so, he made a fundamental mistake
◦ he confused his small world for God’s real world
• in today’s episode, the sea becomes God’s agent for thwarting Jonah

Meanwhile, Jonah was not talking to God–he just took off
• and God was no longer talking with Jonah
• but they were communicating
◦ through his actions, Jonah was saying, “I’m not going to Nineveh”
◦ and through his actions, God was saying, “Sure you are. You’re just doing it hard way”

V. 4, God responds and the gloves are off

God did not send a breeze as a mild warning
– it was a great wind that whipped up a great storm
• and God did not just send it, but he hurled it

Phillip Cary, “. . . he hurls it as if it were a weapon, a spear or a stone to smash the little human vessel to bits.”

• the repeated usage of a key word in the story (great) reveals God’s seriousness
– the ship’s planks were stretched and strained and about to come apart–death was near

I love and deeply appreciate God’s patient pursuit of the person he’s chosen
– patient, and also relentless
• he would not let Moses off the hook – nor Paul, but chased down both of them
• God does not give up – he will have the one he wants
◦ by brute force if necessary, though he prefers our cooperation
– you and I are not interchangeable stage actors
• in a play, if one actor cannot perform a standby will fill in and the show goes on
◦ but only you can do what God has made you and prepared you to do
• you matter to him — so much that he will come after you

V. 5, The scene on deck is a riot of frenzied activity

Experienced sailors, fear driven, are crying to their gods
– God threw this storm on the sea
• now they throw (same word) the cargo into the sea
• it is like playing catch – their actions respond to God’s actions
◦ but dumping the cargo did not do them any good
– It seems captain and crew can tell, storm not natural
• it rages with a divine energy
• they are not up against a hurricane, they are up against a god

The real conflict, however, is not on deck, but below deck in the ship’s hold
– down there we find the one person on board who is not fighting
• so, although Jonah is with them, he is not one of them
◦ he has isolated himself from the others
◦ he wants nothing to do with this struggle
• Jonah already knows why this is happening
◦ it’s the reason he joined them
◦ it’s exactly why he’s running and hiding
– last week we noticed Jonah’s downward trajectory
• the gravity of his resistance pulled him down, down
• he now realizes he cannot escape God physically
◦ so he shuts off his consciousness of God and slips into the oblivion of sleep
◦ next stage of turning off, if he were to go there, would be death
Jonah was willing to accept and go to that next stage

V. 6, Jonah’s rude awakening

One of the fascinating facets of this story is Jonah sleeping through a gale force storm
– it is totally irrational and inappropriate
• the captain’s question cuts straight to the issue that fascinates:

How is it that you are sleeping?

◦ in fact, he is so upset his first words are almost incoherent

Literally, What do you mean?

◦ this would make more sense if spoken as a response
◦ as if Jonah had first said, “Leave me alone. Can’t you I’m tired?”
• the point made is that sleeping at time like this, there had to be a meaning for it
◦ the captain goes on, “Wake up you, you–you sleeper! Call on your god”
◦ this verse almost preaches itself, doesn’t it?
– Jonah must have heard an echo in captain’s words
• they were the first words God spoke to him: Arise and cry (against Nineveh)
◦ now the first words from a human mouth are the same: Arise and call
◦ the captain is calling Jonah up from his downward spiral
◦ and the upward movement is specific — it is to wake up to God
• the captain is also the first to suggest that there may be a god who could save them
◦ he is the first to vocalize the central them of the story

Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish

At this point it becomes clear why Jonah slept
– calling on God was the last thing he wanted to do
• waking up to face the storm meant he would have to face God
• to pray was to risk opening his heart to God, and
◦ to open his heart to God was to risk allowing God to change his heart
– Jonah got up, but as far as story goes, he did not call on God

A quick comparison with a New Testament story

Like Jonah, Jesus was in a ship at sea with others
– they were also caught in a storm
• the men who had the most experience on that sea also feared that they were doomed
• like Jonah, Jesus was sleeping through the storm, but for a different reason
◦ not because he had been running from God’s will
◦ but because he was exhausted from doing God’s will

Leaving the crowd, they [the disciples] took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was (Mk. 4:36)

– why does Mark add, just as He was? of course they took him just as he was
• it had to be, because there was something about his condition that was significant
◦ previously, Jesus had been so busy he had no time for food or rest

And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. (Mk. 3:20)

◦ no wonder he “crashed” onboard
• Jesus was also awakened – and scolded for sleeping
◦ and like Jonah, Jesus was the only one aboard ship able to calm the storm

One other significant comparison
– do you remember the captain’s statement?

Perhaps your God will be concerned about us

• and if God was concerned, how would he show it?

so that we will not perish

• when the disciples woke up Jesus, they said,

Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? (Mk. 4:38)

– is God concerned, does Jesus care?
• this is what both stories reveal — God’s heart, he is concerned and cares

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16)
The Lord is . . . not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance 
(2 Pe. 3:9)

Conc: The storyteller is definitely an artist

He weaves this story around a complex structure
– and this structure enables us to see patterns and feel the key moments
• finding these patterns and moments we hear what God is saying through text
– our lives are also woven around a complex structure of recurring patterns and key moments
• sometimes we can discern God’s voice in them
◦ however, we usually try to hear too much
◦ we assume God shouts, when in fact he whispers
• perhaps all we need to hear our circumstances saying is, “Get back to God, face to face”
– so maybe the portrait the storyteller paints in this story is our own
• he is showing us something about us we could not have seen for ourselves

Regardless of our circumstances or what we hear in them, there is always a “perhaps”
– perhaps our god will be concerned, hear our cry, come to our rescue
• who knows?

Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish (Jonah 3:9)

Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me . . . (2 Sam. 12:22)

Who knows whether He will not turn and relent
And leave a blessing behind Him . . .? 
(Joel 2:14)

• this is why we try
– if this is our own portrait we see in Jonah’s story, what comes next?
• as with his disciples in the garden–willing in spirit, but weak of flesh–Jesus asks us,

Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray . . . (Lk. 22:46)

• God invites us to join him in altering the elements
◦ in calming storms and saving souls
◦ he wants our participation

And because the limits of what God will do through prayer are unknowable,
we always pray in hope

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