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Jonah 1

Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. Jonah 1:16 NRSVUE

We often hear how God uses everything for his purpose. The story of Jonah is an excellent example of this. We are familiar with the story. God tells Jonah to go to the wicked city of Nineveh and witness, but instead of being obedient, he flees.

Scripture doesn’t give us the why; perhaps he was feeling particularly obstinate that day, he thought the job was too hard, or simply didn’t like Nineveh, but whatever the reason, Jonah boards the ship for Tarshish–the furthest point from Nineveh he can get.

His rebellion didn’t change anything, though; God was still planning to destroy Nineveh unless they repented, and he was still going to use Jonah to be the bearer of the message.

Once on board, things begin to happen, “the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up” (v. 4). While Jonah sleeps, the sailors begin to lighten the load calls instinctively on their gods. Still, the storm rages. Seeing the other gods have done nothing, the captain awakens Jonah to pray to his god. Upon casting lots–sort of like flipping a coin or drawing straws–Jonah confesses he is the source of their problem.

The real spiritual awakening that follows has less to do with Jonah than with the sailors. Jonah remains reluctant to confess his guilt until he is questioned, after which Jonah witnesses to his God, “the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (v. 9) As the storm rages on, it is the sailors to whom God speaks to (v. 10), and they who call upon God (v. 14). They underwent a conversion experience, as they witnessed the power of God to calm the seas He had made, and the worship Him in sacrifice and making vows. They put aside the ineffectual gods they previously followed by the true and living God.

What can we learn from this? First, that God’s will will be done, regardless of our obedience or disobedience. Jonah still ended up going to Nineveh; he still witnessed, and upon listening and repenting, the city was spared, but it would have been much easier had Johan obeyed in the first place. Secondly, putting ourselves in Jonah’s place, knowing that this is true, what causes us to rebel? What keeps us from being willing participants? Finally, is that God is constantly at work around us. Jonah, by his disobedience, was the cause of the problem; he created the raging seas situation, but God spoke to the sailors, making new converts.

God, we confess, like Jonah, we have been disobedient and rebellious. Though we consciously know what we are doing is wrong, we do it anyway. Please forgive us and remove whatever barriers that stand in our way from doing what you ask. We further confess we don’t understand how you work, how you turn adverse situations to your glory, but we are thankful you do. We are grateful for your prevenient grace at work in the world around us. Help us this day to be obedient to your will. We pray in Christ Jesus, our Savior, and the calmer of rough seas. Amen.


Pastor Tim

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