Jonah 1:4-16

Before we start, I need to correct myself. If you recall, when we were looking that the historical references to Jonah, we took a brief look at Biblical names, noting that many of them are reused. At that time, I said that fortunately the name of Jonah refers to only one person. I was wrong about that. Who had I forgotten?… Jonah, Simon Peter’s father. Now let’s press on.
 
Last time, we looked at the historic and geographic setting of the book of Jonah, and saw that God had commanded Jonah to go and prophesy against the great city of Nineveh, but Jonah rebelled and set off in a ship as far as he could go in the opposite direction. We know, of course that God knew all along what Jonah would do. Now, starting here in verse 4, we begin to see God implement His plan for Jonah…
Jonah 1:4-16
4But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. 5Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. 6So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” 7And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9So 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.” 10Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 11Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous. 12And 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 this great tempest is because of me.” 13Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” 15So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows.
Augustine famously said, “In the Old Testament the New is concealed, in the New the Old is revealed.” While this is a catchy phrase (in the original Latin, as well as in English), with all due respect to Augustine, I would say that he has missed the boat (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk). Martin Luther put it more aptly, I think, “Christ drives all Scripture.” The lesson of the storm here in Jonah is a case in point. The parallel between this divine storm and the one described in the three synoptic Gospels is striking…
Mark 4:35-41
35On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”36Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
39Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”41And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Why has God given us these two similar stories in His Word? Clearly, in both cases, the storm was no ordinary manifestation of “Mother Nature.” Both of these storms were aroused by God Himself, for a specific teaching purpose. The storm on the Sea of Galilee was used to teach Jesus’ disciples of His divine nature, so that they would learn to place their faith in Him. Of course, as we know, none of them quite got it until after Jesus’ resurrection, and Thomas couldn’t accept the Truth until he actually touched the Lord’s crucifixion wounds. The storm here in Jonah was to teach Jonah humility and repentance, and to bring his shipmates to salvation.
 
Furthermore, we see the power of God manifested in both stories. Only God can control the weather. Jonah knew this, and he knew that it was his own rebellion that had aroused God’s anger against him to cause the storm. Jonah also knew that God could and would calm the storm in His perfect time, after the storm had served its purpose.
 
Jesus’ disciples didn’t yet have this understanding of Jesus’ godhood. As good Jewish boys, they would certainly have been familiar with the story of Jonah, and would have known that only God can command the wind and waves. Thus, when Jesus spoke to the storm and calmed it, the disciples would have recognized the parallel demonstration of God’s power, and the implication from it that Jesus is God. We see that they began to question and ponder Jesus’ nature and power, yet none of them actually realized that Jesus is God until later on.
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Jonah 1:5-6
Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. 6So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.”
We see here in verse 5 that the mariners also recognized, along with Jonah, the divine source of the storm, but unlike Jonah they were idolaters. To them, any old god would do. When we see here that every man cried out to his god, it is referring to the men’s idols or talismans that they carried with them like rabbits’ feet. No doubt they also used these objects for divination. None of the mariners recognized the work of the one true God – not yet.
 
Interestingly, the Hebrew word “god” in verse 5 in lower-case letters is the same word – אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym – we find translated as “God” with a capital G in verse 6. It is also the same word we find in…
Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God [אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym] created the heavens and the earth.
It is the plural form of the word – אֵל ‘el – by which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew God before He introduced Himself by His covenant name – יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah – to Moses in Exodus 3:13-15. God gives Moses further explanation in…
Exodus 6:2-3
2And God [אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym] spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the LORD [יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah]. 3I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God [אֵל ‘el] Almighty, [שַׁדַּי Shadday] but by My name LORD [יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah] I was not known to them.
Interestingly, although אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym is a plural noun, it is used in the Word to refer to the one true God of the Hebrews using singular verbs. This employment of incorrect grammar is an elegant means of demonstrating the three-in-one nature of the Holy Trinity. This beautiful literary device culminates in the Shama…
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
4Hear, O Israel: The LORD[יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah] our God,[אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym] the LORD[יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah] is one! 5You shall love the LORD[יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah] your God[אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym] with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Before we move on, take note that when the captain came to Jonah saying, “call on your God,” it wasn’t because he was a believer in Jonah’s God – not quite yet. To the captain and his shipmates, Jonah’s God was just like all the others. These men were in desperation for their lives. For them, having Jonah call on God was something that couldn’t do any harm, but it’s unlikely they actually expected God to act any more than they really expected anything from their dumb idols. As we’ll see in the next verse, these guys were still practicing divination. They were oblivious to what the True God was about to do.
 
There’s a lesson here for us. How many times before becoming a Christ follower, did I bring a desperate plea to God when I was short on cash to pay the bills, or it was the day before my monthly Air Force weigh-in, and I was still 5 pounds above the expected weight, or there was turmoil in my family? The number wasn’t as many as the stars in the heavens, but it was close! And how many of those times when I cried out desperately to God did I actually believe God could and would do anything?… None!
Matthew 21:18-22
18Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. 19And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.
20And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”
21So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Mark 11:22-24
22So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
Now let’s be careful here. We’re not proclaiming a “word of faith,” “name it and claim it,” or “blab it and grab it” Gospel. Heaven forbid! Remember Jesus’ own prayers…
 
…in response to the disciples’ question, “How should we pray?”…
Matthew 6:9-10
9In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
…when He was in desperation Himself on the night of His betrayal…

 

Matthew 26:39
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
If we take care to seek God’s will as we pray, we can then rest on these promises of Jesus to those who pray faithfully.
Matthew 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
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Jonah 1:7
7And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
The casting of lots in seeking discernment of God’s will is seen many times throughout God’s Word…
 
In God’s commandments for the consecrations to be performed on the Day of Atonement…
Leviticus 16:7-10
7He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 8Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORDand the other lot for the scapegoat. 9And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the LORD’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. 10But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.
In the division of the promised land among the tribes of Israel…
Joshua 18:10
Then Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD, and there Joshua divided the land to the children of Israel according to their divisions.
In the allocation of priestly duties among the divisions of the Levites…
1 Chronicles 25:8
And they cast lots for their duty, the small as well as the great, the teacher with the student.
Perhaps most famously at Jesus’ crucifixion, in gambling for possession of His clothing…
Matthew 27:35

Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet:“They divided My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.” [Psalm 22:18]

The casting of lots in the ancient world was evidently so commonplace, that the Word gives no indication of the exact nature of the practice. The Hebrew word for lots is גּוֹרָל gowral, meaning pebbles, but the exact nature of how they were used has been lost. It could have been like the modern day repeated tossing of a coin to answer a selected series of yes or no questions, the drawing of different length straws, the drawing of raffle tickets, etc. The purpose was always to make some kind of determination in a more or less random manner. In God’s Word, we see the priests of the Lord using the Urim and Thummim in a similar way…
Ezra 2:62-63
62These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled. 63And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim.
As with the casting of lots, the details about the Urim and Thummim have been lost to us. The words literally mean “The lights and the perfections.” From Exodus 28:30, some have suggested that they were two stones of differing color, but otherwise identical…
Exodus 28:30
And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD. So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.
But the exact nature of how the Urim and Thummim were used to determine judgments is unclear from the Word.
 
At first blush, all of these practices appear to be a form of divination, and therefore should be shunned, yet we see the casting of lots, and the consultation of the Urim and Thummim approved, and even directed by God as a means of determining His will when no better means was available, or when (as in the case of choosing between the sacrificial goat and the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement) the specific outcome was not important, since the options to be selected from were virtually identical.
 
Interestingly, we see God’s hand even in the casting of lots by Jonah’s idolatrous shipmates, since we are told that the lot did fall on Jonah.
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Jonah 1:8-9
8Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD,[יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah] the God[אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym] of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
We have to give Jonah credit for one thing. He was certainly a prophet of God despite himself…
Jeremiah 1:5
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.
Jonah had no choice but to truthfully proclaim the Word of the Lord. Furthermore, we see in verse 9 that God used Jonah’s words in the midst of the storm to pierce the hearts of the mariners, proclaiming that his God “made the sea and the dry land.” In the midst of the raging sea, a yearning for the safety of the dry land must have filled each heart among them – Jonah’s included.
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Jonah 1:10-12
10Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 11Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous. 12And 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 this great tempest is because of me.”
Now in verses 10-11, we see that Jonah’s shipmates are now fully “on board” (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk) with the idea of Jonah’s God being both the creator of the world, and the author of the storm. In this, we see the beginning of the fulfillment of the first part of Jonah’s assigned mission – the salvation of his shipmates. Yet this process of their salvation couldn’t be completely fulfilled without a sacrifice. Belief in God alone is not sufficient. As we see in…
James 2:19
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
Jonah recognized that in order for the men to be saved, would require a sacrifice. In this, we see Jonah as a type of Christ. Indeed, as we will see, Jesus compared His own sacrifice to Jonah’s.
 
The picture of sacrifice in atonement for sin runs throughout God’s Word, beginning with God’s sacrifice of an animal to provide the skins which covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness, continuing with the Jewish practice of animal sacrifice, and culminating with Jesus’ sacrifice of His own body and blood on the cross.
 
In our modern world outside the Body of Christ, this idea of a substitutional sacrifice to atone for sin, is considered barbaric and grossly unfair. Indeed it is. The picture throughout the Word is of innocent blood being offered for the guilty. This is the pattern ordained by God from the foundation of the world, and ultimately fulfilled by the Son Himself.
Hebrews 9:22-28
22And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
23Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
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Jonah 1:13-16
13Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” 15So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows.
In verses 13-16, we see the culmination of the first part of Jonah’s mission, and the beautiful fulfillment of Jonah’s sacrifice as a type of Christ. At first, even after having been told in no uncertain terms what had to be done, the mariners attempted to save themselves (and Jonah) by their own works, but were unable…
Ephesians 2:8-9
8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Job 14:4
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
No one!
Proverbs 20:9
Who can say, “I have made my heart clean,
I am pure from my sin”?
Isaiah 64:6
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
Notice, that once the sailors came to the realization that their own efforts were futile, and sacrificed Jonah in accordance with the will and direction of God, their own salvation was immediate and complete, and their response was heartfelt worship.
 
Before we leave verse 16, it is informative to look at it in another translation…
Jonah 1:16[NLT]
The sailors were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.
I think this wording gives a clearer description of the conversion of the mariners. With their vows, they made Jesus their Lord. In this, they moved from mere belief into salvation.
 
Now with this verse, the first phase of God’s appointed mission for Jonah – the salvation of the mariners – was completed. We now take up the story of the second and most famous phase of this mission – bringing Jonah into repentance (at least for a while).
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