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22 January 2021 – Jonah 1:4-16

But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.

Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. – Jonah 1:4-16 (ESV)

Commenting on verse 9, R. Reed Lessing writes:

At long last, Jonah breaks his silence and finally speaks. In any Hebrew narrative, the point at which the main character first speaks is worthy of special attention. In most instances the initial words are a key revelation of the person’s character. That Jonah answers the sailors, but incompletely, offers a key insight into who he is. Jonah confesses Yahweh, but he does not confess his sin. He declares that he is a worshiper of Yahweh, but he is on the lam from Yahweh – at the same time! Could hypocrisy be stated any more clearly? Jonah is fleeing from Yahweh, whom he confesses as omnipotent, on the very sea that he confesses Yahweh has made. The creed is true doctrine, but in Jonah’s mouth, we have to wonder whether it is confessed in true faith.

Jonah does not call what he has done “evil” – the term that the sailors use in their request in 1:8. He had already demonstrated this same character flaw in 1:3, when he shirked his responsibility to address (and rectify) Nineveh’s “evil” through his ministry, but instead fled toward Tarshish. Again Jonah shrugs off “this evil” (1:7-8) with a more neutral phrase, accepting responsibility only for “this great storm.” His avoidance of responsibility for “evil” climaxes in 4:1, where the salvation of repentant Nineveh is to him a “great evil.” Rather than confess the salvation of these Gentile sinners by grace alone, he would rather die. In fact, when Yahweh seeks “to save him from his evil,” the prophet again misses his opportunity to confess and receive forgiveness. By the end of the book, “evil” no longer belongs to the Ninevites, who have been converted; it belongs to the resentful Israelite prophet!

MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 41
Q. 41. Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A. The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.