Have you ever shared a secret that you’ve been holding onto for a long time? For some, this may bring up memories of past harm done to them. For others, this might be a hidden sin that they haven’t confessed to trusted friends, pastors, or counselors. (For those of you in situations like these, I truly hope that you can find the courage and resources to work through those things with a counselor who can bring both faith and psychology to the table, in order to help you out.)
Let’s think about happier scenarios, though. Maybe you got a gift for a loved one that you thought would be perfect, and couldn’t wait to have them unwrap it and be as excited as you have been in anticipation. In our family, we sometimes have interesting stories about how a hard-to-find gift was finally located, or an adventure that we had while obtaining a gift. These “secrets” build up within us, but once the gift has finally been opened, we can share the story behind it with the recipient.
Once he was identified as the cause of frightening weather at sea, the prophet Jonah shares the truth with his fellow victims of the storm. In response to their questions, Jonah acknowledges that he serves the God who created the world.
He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
Jonah 1:9-10 NIV
(FYI, the Lookout – cited below – ties these two verses back with verses 1-3, as a description of Jonah and his relationship with God. After having seen things from the sailors’ point of view for a few verses, we get back to the reality of what is happening with God and Jonah.)
Note how the NIV writes “LORD” with small caps in Jonah 1:9-10 (and elsewhere), meaning God’s name specifically. (I will sometimes just use all caps to reflect the same thing, with formatting that should persist better across the web.) We might refer to that same God today in English as “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”, to differentiate Him from other historical and modern gods (like Shiva or Allah or Ra).
The others on the boat put some pieces together, and they are “terrified” (NIV) or “extremely afraid” (NASB). Now, things start to make sense to them: previously, they might not have thought much about this god who Jonah had told them he was running away from, but now that the storm that was raging, combined with the lots that were cast and Jonah’s testimony, it was clear that Jonah’s God was not a god to be spurned.
Furthermore, now the sailors realize that the storm was not just a freak accident of nature (perhaps one that they could ask a benevolent god to save them from). Instead, they now understand that the storm was specific punishment from God the creator. No wonder they were terrified. A commentator writes, “…the sailors find it incomprehensible that a man should disobey such a God.” [Shank, p.342]
Don’t forget that a storm is going on here. As a result, I don’t think that this was a nice table-side conversation. I suspect that when they asked Jonah, “What have you done?”, they were shouting, both out of fear and to be heard over the noise of the storm.
This also reinforces a point made previously, that Jonah wasn’t going to be able to get away from God by traveling on the sea or going to another land. God made all of these things, and He retains power over them.
So, we would be wise to run towards God, not away from Him. After all, you can’t hide from Him in a universe that He created, and He has the power – and will – to do amazing things in His plan. We should want to be part of that plan, not part of the contrary forces (doomed to failure) that try to block it. Often, this will require admitting – to ourselves, to God, and to others – a truth that we have been hiding: maybe just the truth that we are not God, and He (rather than one of us) needs to be in charge of our lives. Consider today what truth you need to unburden yourself from carrying alone, for your own good.
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.