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Jan 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 22, 2017 – Jonah 1:7-16

A Journey Jinxed by Jonah

Each man said to his [shipmate], “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah 1:7

Intro: Remember the theme of this story

From the time that Jonah runs from his divine assignment,
– God works him over, trying to get Jonah to see as he sees and so feel what he feels
• Jonah’s education involves authentic contact with Gentiles
◦ the focus of this episode is on the captain and crew caught in the storm
• the words, Come, let us express a resolve to take action together (cf. Is. 1:18)
mate translates the Hebrew for “neighbor”
◦ their investigation will be a group effort
– the key word in this episode may be learn, which in Hebrew is yada’
yada’ is “know” — the crew needs to know something to help them whether the storm
• like Jonah, they are also receiving an education,
◦ and their education comes in stages

Stage one: to learn on whose account the calamity occurred

The word for calamity is translated wickedness in verse 2
– it is one of two words in today’s story that has dual meanings:
• the moral evil of wrong doing
• the negative experience of circumstances such as trouble, tragedy, and hardship
– the sailors felt they needed to know the cause of the storm
• then they might be able to find a way to counteract it
• as we saw last time, these veteran mariners recognized it supernatural quality

In biblical times, if knowledge was unavailable by ordinary means,
• almost every ancient cultures had means for consulting the gods
◦ casting lots was like rolling dice
• marked stones were thrown and their colors or symbols interpreted
◦ or else they were placed in a pouch and withdrawn at random, one at a time
(like drawing straws to see who draws the shortest one)
◦ Israel observed this practice in a variety of sacred contexts
(for example, Joshua cast lots before the LORD; Jos. 18:8)
– the appeal of a random chance process was that the outcome could not be controlled

Hebrew scholar, Uriel Simon, observed, “No one challenged the validity of the method, because it was viewed as divinely guided . . .”
The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD (Pr. 16:33)

• it worked! the lot fell on Jonah
• God made use of all means available; the sea, the wind, the sailors’ fear, and the lots

Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” Jonah 1:8-9

Stage two: the sailors were to know specific details

When they said to Jonah, On whose account . . ., it may not have been a question
– in fact, as a question it would be redundant
• this was the fact they had just established by casting lots
• how I read it is, “Hey you, on whose account this has struck us!”
◦ and then they barraged him with questions
– in the interrogation, the questions came one on top of other
• I hear one sailor ask, “What’s your occupation?”
◦ and before he finishes his sentence, another asks, “Where are you from?”
◦ instantly another, “What’s your country?” and another, “Who are your people?”

Jonah answered the last question first and apparently skipped the others
– he also added information they had not asked for
• both of the terms Hebrew and God of heaven
were typically used by Israel when talking with Gentiles
• of course, dry land was especially meaningful
◦ it was the goal they desperately wanted to reach (v. 13)
◦ and the place where Jonah eventually landed (2:10)
– Jonah was neither evasive or defensive with them

Unlike some Christians we know, Jonah did not become indignant with them or say something like, “I am a man of God and I reject your pagan superstitions and your roll of the dice”

• he accepted the responsibility that fell on him
◦ he knew God had rigged the lottery

Yahweh God of heaven, who made the sea and dry land
– maybe Jonah was not trying to sell them on Yahweh
• perhaps his answer was more like that of an angry teenager,
“My dad made me take out my nose ring!”
◦ all the same, now the truth was out there now

Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. So they said to him, “What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?”–for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy. He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.” Jonah 1:10-12

Stage three: they had to know what could be done

They had already learned more than they were prepared to digest
feared a great fear (literally) at the idea of Yahweh, God of heaven
• that the one who made the sea and dry land also controlled them
◦ obviously, he was not a god of just this one nation of Jonah’s
• at each stage of their education, their situation became clearer

Why did they believe Jonah regarding the storm and its solution?

  • he won the lottery
  • the certainty of his immediate answers to their questions
  • the answers he provided, if true, made sense
    (and why would he lie when his life was on the line?)
  • the storm grew worse with their resistance (v. 13)
  • since Jonah was the jinx, he was also the expert regarding lifting it

How could you do this? or perhaps they were asking, Why would you do this?
– “this” applies to something he told them already, but was not reported until now
 they wanted to know why he would try to run from a God like Yahweh
• since there was no response before their next question, Jonah apparently remained silent
◦ after all, how would it sound for him to say, “I didn’t want to a city of Gentiles spared”?
– Jonah’s silence is the big mystery of his story
• even we, the readers, do not know why he ran from God’s presence — the answer comes later
• all the sailors knew was that Jonah was on the run
◦ but his God was not going to let him escape

Why was statement statement about Jonah fleeing withheld until now?
– the storyteller has tinkered with the sequence of events — why?
• we cannot say it was for suspense, because we (readers/hearers) already knew this
• perhaps to stress intensity of the sailors’ fear when they learned:
◦ first, the stretch of Yahweh’s authority
◦ and, secondly, that Jonah had try to elude such a God
– here is what holding this last piece of the puzzle until now highlights:
• Jonah hasn’t only run from a god, but from this particular God
• a God unlike any other they had ever known
◦ the God who made the sea that threatened their lives
◦ and also the dry land that they desperately wanted to reach

Having learned this much, they move on to next piece of knowledge they need
What should we do…?
• we have heard that with knowledge comes responsibility
◦ or, in the words of Jesus,

If you know these things, your are blessed if you do them (Jn. 13:17)

• what we know does us no good unless we act on
◦ meanwhile, the storm was getting worse
Pick me up and throw me into the sea
• there was no reason for Jonah to take the captain and crew down with him
• but was there no other possible solution? how about,

“Tell your captain to turn the ship around and head back to Joppa or a port nearer to Nineveh. While you are doing that, I’ll call on Yahweh”?

◦ he did not mention this option, but simply said, “Get rid of me”

Uriel Simon, “Jonah submits to his Pursuer but persists in his rebellion.”

For I know that on account of me this great storm has come
– we have come to a remarkable moment in Jonah’s story
• first, Jonah was willing to drown in the ocean to save the Gentile crew,
• but he was not willing to lift a finger to save a single soul in Nineveh
– his willingness to die so the crew could live was a form of intercession
• not intercessory prayer (in words), but in actions
• found guilty before God, Jonah was sentenced to community service

However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but the could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them. Jonah 1:13

Stage four: they came to know that they could not fight God

Their initial reluctance is like Jonah’s initial rebellion against God’s will
– for the second time since they began questioning Jonah, the storm became more intense
• so no matter how powerfully they dug their oars into the water, they were losing
◦ the futility of their fight intensifies their desperation and the story’s suspense
• Jonah had made them accomplices
◦ continued resistance would lead to punishment for aiding and abetting

Then  they called on the LORD and said, “We earnestly pray, O Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased.” So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging.
Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. Jonah 1:14-16

Stage five: the sailors now knew the name of Yahweh

Then they called on Yahweh – the very thing Jonah should have done and failed to do
– next, they threw him into the sea as they had thrown cargo
• as they would any excess baggage in order to survive
• they shifted from assisting Jonah to working with God
◦ the “throwing” began with God throwing a wind upon the sea to stop Jonah
◦ now it culminates with them throwing Jonah into the sea
– when the storm stopped, it was no longer the source of their great fear
• and like we saw with the word evil, fear also has a double meaning
◦ it can be all the sorts of fears we experience: terror, dread, panic, etc.
◦ but it can also be reverence, a complex form of fear (fascination and awe as well as dread)
• the crew presented a sacrifice to Yahweh and made vows
◦ the vow is a promise to make some kind of return for gifts or favors granted
(a way to express gratitude)

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
And pay your vows to the Most High . . . .
He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me . . . . 
(Ps. 50: 14, 23)

◦ remember the sacrifice and vows; we will soon see them again

Conc: The sailor’s uncharted path through the sea brought them to a surprise destination

The ultimate education anyone could receive is to know God
– like Job, the sailors met God in a storm
• the experience of God counts for far more than many hours in the classroom
• personally, I have an aversion to thick volumes of theology on Jesus Christ
◦ our intellect can take us only so far until we reach a point of diminishing returns

Evelyn Underhill recommended “the humble discipline of ignorance” in the purification of the intellect, memory and imagination

◦ because God is more mystery than the rational mind is able to accept or absorb
– what we think we know can get in the way of what we need to know
• knowledgeable people know how little they know

. . . we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him (1 Cor. 8:1-3)

God has becomes knowable to us in Jesus Christ
And this is where our ongoing education in the Spirit takes us
It is an experiential education in which
we learn as much in tempest and storm
as we do in the quiet stillness of nature’s gentle side

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