Agonizomai: Jonah 1:8-10 - The Beginning of Wisdom

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Jonah 1:8-10 - The Beginning of Wisdom
8-10 Then they said to him, "Tell us, on whose account this evil has come upon us? What is your occupation? And whence do you come? What is your country? And of what people are you?" 9 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." 10 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.

There would be a great temptation here to think that these heathen sailors were horrified at the prospect of Jonah defying God Almighty, the One True God, Maker of heaven and earth - as if they had understanding in the same way that God’s people understand. But we know that God’s ways are foolish to the unregenerate. Only God’s people truly know God. It is a personal and intimate relationship.

So the horror here is not informed horror. It is linkage between Jonah’s admitted sin and the fierceness of the present tempest. It is the wind and the huge seas that bring them to fear - it is their imminent peril, and not any true understanding of God Himself. They do not fear God, but the storm that they attribute to the gods. To the heathen, the gods are often fickle and vindictive. They are unpredictable and even mischievous. One reacts to what they do; one buys off their unfathomable caprices with sacrifice - but one doesn’t always connect their anger to one’s own wickedness.

But the One True God is not like that. Those who know Him do, in essence, sleep in the storm-tossed boat of this life that is short and full of woe. Their conscience may ofttimes be bothered, but their end is assured, and they know it more and more as they walk with Him. Do we know of anyone else who slept in a storm-tossed boat? And what was His rebuke – not to the wind and the waves, but to the fearful disciples?
And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. {Mt 8:26}
See then, that the leson is not for those who do not believe, but for those who do. Just as Christ gave to the disciples all that the Father had commanded Him to give, and had nurtured and taught them from the outset – so God is in Jonah’s life guiding and nurturing - and even chastening and correcting him when he strays. The wind is blowing where it listeth, and the heathen hear the sound thereof, but they know not whence it comes or where it goes.

But it is also by means of the Word of the testimony of Christ that faith comes to the unbeliever. And so, Jonah’s testimony about God is enough to stir them to the beginnings of faith. Thus, their circumstances, their imminent peril, the grace of God and His providence is working upon their hearts throughout.

The lesson is a lesson through faith for faith. It is for Jonah, the believer, because he believes. It is also for the sailors, but if they have no faith in God it is not useful to them. When the storm has abated and the imminent sense of danger has passed will they continue as they did before? Or has the God of grace intervened in their hearts? Will they abide in His mercy or will they go back to the world?

If God’s lessons are not useful to us, then is it because we do not truly believe? Do we fool ourselves?

My moniker - that's John Hancock to Americans


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