“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. 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.” 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 1:6-10).
Unable to outrun God and his troubles, Jonah hopes to escape his responsibility to God by way of sleep. A few days earlier Jonah’s life was interrupted by the divine summons to “Arise! Go..!” (1:2). Now hoping to run from that very summons, his sleep is interrupted by the captain’s irritated, “Arise! Call out to your god!” (1:6) Jonah probably believes he’s trapped in a nightmare. But the situation is grim on deck, and the captain is determined to cover all his religious bases, seeking help from any and all possible gods.
Isn’t it just like our God to use a pagan polytheist to bring the wise pastoral counsel to Jonah, urging him to “Call out to your god…perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish” (1:6). Jonah does not cry out to God. He’s not yet willing to repent and “face the music.” How often do we also dilly-dally and postpone dealing with our problem, repenting of our sin, hoping our problems will get better magically on their own or simply go away if we ignore them long enough? Why is it so hard to swallow our pride, and repent of our sin and receive the grace of divine mercy and the peace of divine reconciliation?
Our stubborn hearts only dig us deeper into our holes of self-destruction. Next we follow Jonah’s example and dig even deeper as we try covering our sin with false piety and religious pretense — “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (1:9). The “fear of the Lord” Jonah has is not the kind God commands — the fearful reverence displayed in a faithful obedience. Jonah fears the impending punishment the God of heaven is about to bring upon him.
We should be grateful for that inner voice of our conscience when it is able to speak over the noise of our prideful self-determination and ego-feedback. Hopeless is the man or woman who, through repeated sin and rebellion, becomes deaf to the voice of their conscience. Their only hope is for someone else to prick their conscience and speak the hard truth they’ve been ignoring — and hopefully let it sink in. Here, again, the heathen sailors serve as the voice of reason, stating plainly what Jonah wants to ignore: “What is this that you have done!” (1:10) Not fun words to hear. Not easy to swallow. Sometimes the truth hurts.
Have you ever deafened your ears to the Word of God? Have you ever tried to cover and hide your sin or pride with empty religious talk? Has God ever used an unlikely prophet to hold up the mirror of truth? Are you trapped in a pattern of rebellion and slowly yet surely deafening your conscience?
Follow the prodigal back to the Father’s house, and tarry no longer in this pigpen of godless living. Turn around now before you get tossed completely overboard and sink further from the presence of God.