Have you ever seen a child hiding, but not really doing a good job at it? Whether playing hide-and-seek, or trying to avoid being found out by a parent seeking answers (or the child’s bedtime), choosing a tree to hide behind that isn’t wide enough or giggling too much from under the bed gives away their location. Having said that, I suppose that if we play peek-a-boo with infants (who are probably still smart enough to know that we didn’t go anywhere when we covered our eyes), maybe we’re guilty of the same thing!
In Jonah 1:3, the prophet Jonah tries to run away from God. As it turns out, though, David was right in Psalm 139 (see Psalm 139:7-12), that this just isn’t possible. I guess that’s no surprise to those who have learned to appreciate God’s Word: you can’t go somewhere in this world that is away from God. God saw everything that Jonah was doing, and God had power over the sea, as well as in the land of Israel.
And, with power over anywhere that Jonah could run to, God gets the attention of the crew of the boat on which Jonah is boarded.
Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.
Jonah 1:4 NIV
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a storm on the open water, but it can be pretty frightening, especially for a landlubber like me. I remember one time that some family members and I were fishing off of Jacksonville, FL, and a storm came up. The charter boat captain was heading towards land at what was probably full throttle, but there weren’t a lot of places to sit safely on the boat, so I was standing at the side of the cabin, holding onto a metal post as we flew through the rain. While we were heading in, I wondered what would happen if I lost my grip. (See Riding Out the Storm for a little more about that day.)
This storm that Jonah was experiencing wasn’t just a passing shower, though. I’m thinking more like “Deadliest Catch”, and not the “Love Boat” (although I don’t think I’ve ever watched either of those shows). Here’s more about the sailors’ reaction:
All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
Jonah 1:5-6 NIV
This must have been a pretty frightening storm if the sailors were afraid. I suspect that they had seen their share of storms on the sea, and so for one to make them this fearful, it must have been a pretty fierce storm. Furthermore, by throwing the cargo overboard, it would appear that they’re compromising their income (and possibly their reputation) in desperation to save their lives.
We see here this idea of individuals having their own gods. Whether this crew hailed from different countries or different towns, or had even acquired personal gods, they were calling out to whatever they thought could save them.
In this case, the sailors’ gods don’t seem to be helping, but they are still trying to cover all of their bases. So, when they find Jonah sleeping, they wake him up and tell him to ask his god for help, too. As we find later, they seem to have already known that Jonah came from a different country (so therefore, Jonah might worship someone else), and – per verse 6 – they apparently wanted to maximize their chances of survival.
And, isn’t that what we see people doing today, when things get rough? They look to money, power, fame, government, corporations, benefactors, alcohol, drugs, or all manner of other things to save them (or at least help them escape their problems). In a difficult time, when we are desperate, we all reach the same realization that we can’t help ourselves (like the first step in a 12-step recovery program). Well…at least we should realize that.
Does the idea of someone sleeping through a storm sound like any other accounts in the Bible? In Mark 4:35-40, a storm comes up on the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus’ disciples – which included fishermen, who knew the water – are getting worried. Jesus is asleep, though. In that case, though, while the disciples lacked faith, they at least asked the right Person for help!
There’s nothing wrong with realizing that we can’t solve all of our problems ourselves. In fact, it’s probably good for some people – including a “fix-it engineer” like myself – to accept help more often than we do today. However, who or what we look to for help makes all the difference when we get to this point. If we seek an inferior god to save us, we should expect to be disappointed. If we seek the God of the universe, through Jesus Christ (God the Son), we can expect His power to be brought to bear on our situation.
However, God doesn’t just wield His power arbitrarily or capriciously. With God’s power are also God’s love, God’s wisdom, and God’s holiness. As a result, not only can God overcome what we are struggling with, but He can also do so in a way that is best for us and best for His plan for all of history.
Don’t embarrass yourself by trying to run away or hide from God. Instead, call upon Him to save you, and trust Him to do the right thing.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for June 5, 2022
- The Lookout, June 5, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Minor Prophets Volume 1: Hosea-MIcah, by Harold Shank. College Press Publishing Company, © 2001.