“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. 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 1:4-5).
“You can run but you can’t hide.” Especially from God. Jeremiah 23 says, “Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD. “Psalm 139 declares, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Jonah will find this to be true soon enough — especially when he’s camping in the depths of a giant fish belly and finally crying out to the God he has been running from.
When we rebel against God, and insist on going our own way in opposition to God’s way, we’ll eventually pay a price. Consequences do follow sin– whether in this life or the next. Jonah experiences the stern punishment of God for his disobedience as “the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea…so that the ship threatened to break up” (1:5). When we try to live life on our own terms, it’s only a matter of time before “the bottom falls out” on us, when our self-made lives begin to break apart like Jonah’s boat.
Has God ever needed to bring you into stormy waters to break down your layers of prideful self-reliance? Did God get your attention?
Another lesson in this story is that our sinful ways affect more than just ourselves. The other mariners aboard the ship now find themselves all facing their own demise because of the disobedience of Jonah. Likewise, our patterns of sin often threaten to bring others down with us — our spouse, children, close friends, church members, etc. There’s really no such thing as a private sin that only hurts us. There’s always collateral damage.
Has your sin or rebellion against God brought pain into lives of your loved ones? Or, have you been the victim of another person’s foolish choices?
Also we find it true that when our lives begin to unravel and break apart, we often start “hurling the cargo” overboard in hopes of temporarily lightening our load to keep us afloat. These represent temporary relief while ignoring the real source of our problem. The man whose marriage is sinking, seeks momentary escape by tossing back too many drinks at the bar. A middle-aged woman who feels like she’s missed her calling, seeks escape from her empty life through hours of television and movie rentals. They are both tossing cargo to lighten their load, but missing the real source of the problem that lies more deeply under the surface — like the mariners who finally discover their problem is sleeping in the inner part of the ship.
Finally, quite ironically, it is the pagan sailors on the ship who teach us the proper response when we run into stormy waters: “…each cried out to his god” (1:5). Meanwhile, Jonah is a few steps behind these wise pagans, and has gone off to bed to sleep away his sorrows, trying to use sleep to keep him from facing the God he’s running from.
Is your ship sinking? Are you tossing cargo in hopes of momentary relief while ignoring the deeper problem? Are you depressed and trying to use sleep to avoid facing your problems?
Hang in there. There’s a way out of the dark. Jonah will show us the way — though he’s as stubborn and foolish as most of us, and he seems to learn best from his mistakes. I can relate.