JONAH 4: Shoot the Skunk (1:11-17)

“Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:11-17).

“The wages of sin is death.”  Sin must be dealt with before it’s destructive potential is realized. This applies to all dysfunctional behaviors and patterns, secret sins and snowballing problems present in our life’s boat.   Sometimes drastic action is required, such as in the case of these unfortunate sailors who find themselves carrying on board something, or rather someone, offensive to a Holy and Just God.  As one pastor said of sin, “Sometimes you just have to shoot the skunk.” 

After searching the boat, the sailors have found the skunk hiding below deck, and now ask the skunk directly: “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” (1:11)  Jonah admits his guilt, realizes his sin is putting others in danger, and realizes that he must be dealt with.  Yet, notice he still is not ready to cry out to God for mercy, for forgiveness.  Is he still stiffening his neck, preferring to suffer the consequences of his sin rather than swallowing his pride and begging for mercy and forgiveness?  He still has yet to take the captain’s pastoral counsel and “Cry out to your god.”  He’s still turned inward onto himself, perhaps finding even more pride in the fact that he can fix the sailors’ problem if they’ll just “Pick ME up and hurl ME into the sea: then the sea will quiet down for you” (1:12).

The heathen sailors again show themselves to be more faithful to Jonah’s god, as they cry out to the Lord for mercy: “O Lord, let us not perish…” (1:14).

The offense is dealt with.  They shoot the skunk.  Jonah is tossed into the sea.  “He will again have compassion on us…You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).  The sailors’ problem is resolved, while Jonah’s problem is only growing worse as “the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (1:17).

What’s the skunk in your life that needs to be shot?  What offensive behavior is threatening to sink you?  Shoot it. Toss it overboard. Most importantly, don’t cling to your sin as it’s thrown overboard and go down with it.  Rather, humble yourself, repent and let God’s mercy and forgiveness (and discipline!) have its way with you.

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