” 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. Jonah 1:10
Lesson 2 – Discipline.
When we left Jonah last week he was in Joppa, getting ready to board a boat headed for Tarshish. As you will recall, God was sending him to the mission field of Nineveh, but Jonah didn’t want to go. Out of rebellion, he “ran from the presence os the LORD”. As we rejoin Jonah, we find him under the firm hand of God’s discipline; we will see that Jonah’s boat trip was no pleasure cruise.
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. (verse 4)
Have you ever been caught in a bad storm? On a couple of occasions, I’ve been on the highway when a storm came up so suddenly and so fiercely that I couldn’t even see to get off the road. In those times I was literally unable to see the car in front of or beside me. The circumstances demanded all of my attention, it was scary! To imagine my being on a boat in the middle of the sea during such a storm, well, I don’t want to imagine such a scene.
When Jonah chose to disobey God, he put himself right in the middle of a fierce storm because even if it meant bringing on a natural disaster, one way or another, God would get Jonah’s attention.
It would probably be a pretty good assumption, that by this point God had been working on Jonah, speaking to him, urging him, convicting him. Jonah may have tried to run from the presence of the LORD, but he was quickly learning how futile his efforts were.
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. (Jonah 1:5)
In light of what we know, does it seem strange to see Jonah sleeping? Was he in denial, convinced God would just forget? Could be. Was his mind at peace, thinking he had “won”, that he had actually escaped God? Maybe. I have an alternate suggestion. I can’t prove it, but could it be that Jonah knew he was fighting a losing battle and had given up hope? If you’ve ever tried to run from God, you know that away from God is not a good place to be. No matter what we do, what distractions we create for ourselves, nothing will give us peace. Running from God is also exhausting. The effort required to avoid God will literally drain every ounce of energy from our body and our spirit. I’ve heard it said and can testify to the truth of it – there is no one who is more miserable than a disobedient Christian.
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. (Jonah 1:6-7)
When it comes to how God gets things done, here are a couple of points to remember:
- God is longsuffering.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, (2 Peter 3:15)
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28)
- God is also resourceful. If He can’t get our cooperation one way, He will get it another way. He will use whatever means necessary to bring us to where He has purposed us to be.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
God used this group of pagan sailors to bring about His holy purpose. It’s a truth I can’t understand. God, in His inerrant knowledge and eternal sovereignty, takes the worst of man and weaves it into His great and perfect plan. On this point, I have no further words of my own, I can only stand on the word of God holding on to the gift of faith that He has given to me.
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.” (Jonah 1:8-9)
The jig is up. Jonah now realizes he can’t run and he can’t hide. In this scene, Jonah comes face to face with his sin and there is nothing to do but confess.
I’ve been where Jonah is, I suspect you have as well. After all our fighting and resisting, we finally, although reluctantly, come to that place where we have to admit who and whose we really are. This is the place where we recognize God’s existence but not yet willing to yield to his authority. We declare his name, we’re willing to admit our sin, but pride, stubbornness, shame, whatever attitude – keeps us from repentance. This is what we might call “the beginning of the end” of Jonah’s (and our own) rebellion.
Even though we know that God’s discipline is a demonstration of His love for us, it is not fun. Discipline is at best unpleasant, at worst painful. Like Jonah, we often make things hard on ourselves. Job says “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2). The sooner we can come to the point where we realize the foolishness of resisting God, our walk will be a lot more joyful. Remember what I said earlier about the misery of a disobedient Christian? There is a flip side to that, and this is it: there is no sweeter place in the Christian life, no greater joy that can be found, than sitting smack dab in the center of God’s will. As we’ve walked through these passages, you have seen the pain and the price of rebellion; considering what you’ve learned from Jonah’s experience, are you willing to join with me and say “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”? (Matthew 6:10)