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Jonah 1:4-10

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. 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 lost 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 1:4-10

Jonah had found his way to Joppa, there to find a ship going to Tarshish, as far away from the special presence of the LORD as he thought he could get. He had refused to be the mouthpiece of the LORD by which He spoke a message of judgment to the Assyrians at Nineveh in order to lead them to repent and be spared; in other words, Jonah had relinquished his vocation as a prophet of the LORD and was seeking to flee from his duty. In God’s providence, Jonah found a ship in Joppa headed for Tarshish, and the LORD allowed him to gain passage aboard the merchant ship. It would seem that Jonah’s plan to run away had worked… but the LORD our God is not the God of the land only, but He is “the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” The stormy Mediterranean was God’s obedient servant, even if Jonah was not. And stormy it certainly was. Josephus, writing in the late first century AD, says of Joppa (and another maritime city called Dora, on the coast north of Joppa), that they are “not fit for havens, on account of impetuous south winds that beat upon them, which, rolling the sands that come from the sea against the shores, do not admit of ships lying in their station; but the merchants are generally there forced to ride at their anchors in the sea itself.”[1] The winds were one thing; it also had a semicircular reef 300 feet off-shore, making entrance from the south impossible. Despite its reef and weather, and though once belonging to the Philistines, Joppa had become the main port for Israel during the time of Solomon, as we’ve seen. However, when the Assyrian king Sennacherib came to put down a revolt in 701 BC,[2] he records that he destroyed the city and that it belonged at the time to the Philistines. It would later pass to the Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, etc. It is here in Joppa that Jonah successfully boarded a ship to Tarshish… a victory he would soon regret.

The prophet writes, 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. It’s unclear how far the ship had made it before the winds picked up, and with the winds came a tempest so terrible that it was like to break the ship apart. Usually, when we think of hurricanes, we tend to think of the Caribbean; but, Mediterranean tropical-like cyclones, sometimes known as Medicanes, have been known to occur. It’s not that the storm that was now destroying the ship to Tarshish was a medicane (though it’s possible), but the weather of that sea can be extremely treacherous. Consider the storm at sea in Acts 27. Luke writes, “Soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster (sometimes called the Euroclydon), struck down from the land. And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.”[3] Jonah and the mariners are sailing the same sea as would Paul and Luke so many centuries later, and it was just as tempestuous in Jonah’s time as it would be in the time of the Apostles. In both instances, though, we see that the storm is not outside the sovereign control of the LORD. Jonah’s storm has been hurled upon him by the LORD he is seeking to flee; Paul’s storm will be used by God to display God’s sovereignty over the sea and the lives of 276 men.[4] The storm, as are all things else, is directed by “the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” He Who created the universe, providentially controls the universe.

Psalm 107 relates: “Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.”[5] But the frightened mariners do not call upon Him, at least, not at first. 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. So deluded are these pagans, that they cry out to gods that are no gods at all; for the LORD our God is one![6] They put out their hands to save themselves; but salvation belongs to the LORD![7] There is one aboard whose prayers would be answered by the living God, but where is he? But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. On deck the men were scrambling for their lives, and for Jonah’s; but the disgraced prophet was nestled below, asleep. Though the mariners were pagans, they were more pious than Jonah, for they were at least awake and praying to their abominations. But Jonah, who knew the living God and had sought to escape His presence, was peacefully slumbering. Matthew Henry writes, “Sin is stupefying, and we are to take heed lest at any time our hearts are hardened by the deceitfulness of it. What do men mean by sleeping on in sin, when the word of God and the convictions of their own consciences, warn them to arise and call on the Lord, if they would escape everlasting misery? Should not we warn each other to awake, to arise, to call upon our God, if so be he will deliver us?”[8] Indeed, this is precisely what the terrified captain does when he finds that Jonah is below decks and sound asleep. 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.” How shameful that a prophet of God should have to be reminded of his duty by a pagan sea captain!

The prophet continues, 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. Solomon writes in the Proverbs, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”[9] The mariners would have been unlikely to know of this proverb, and were relying on their false gods, or perhaps on some fatalistic philosophy; yet it was the LORD Who manifested the culprit through their use of lots. Just as He is the God of heaven, the God of the sea, and the God of the land, so He is the God of the lot. 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?” That which is translated here “on whose account” is more literally, though idiomatically, “for what to whom”; thus, they are asking Jonah what he has done, and to whom he has done it. At this point it would also be expedient to know that the word that is translated “evil” can also be translated “disaster”.[10] Earlier, when the LORD commissioned Jonah to go to Nineveh, He had told Jonah that “their evil has come up before me.”[11] There it had born an ethical connotation; that is, the wickedness of Nineveh was going to result in the disaster that was to come upon them unless they repented at Jonah’s preaching. Here, the disaster that had befallen Jonah and the mariners was the result of the wickedness of Jonah perpetrated against the LORD and against the people of Nineveh, whom the LORD pitied.[12] The mariners ask Jonah of his occupation; one wonders if this was not a prick to the prophet’s conscience. They also ask concerning his nationality and ethnicity, lest he be of a people particularly hated of their gods. 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. That he had told them, probably means that he told them then, and that this was an abridged version of the actual relation. We’re told that the men were exceedingly afraid. Note that LORD is in all-caps in your English Bible, thus denoting the covenant name of the God of Israel. Apparently, these mariners were not ignorant, nor were they obtuse; they had likely heard of the God Who had brought His people out of Egypt with “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm”.[13] He is not some tribal deity like their pathetic chunks of wood and stone;[14] rather, He is the God of heaven, Who made the land and the sea! In the frightened voice of the mariners one can hear the devastated din of despair. “Jonah, you’ve doomed us all.”

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does the LORD sometimes allow our folly to succeed?
  2. For Paul, God’s providential control over the storm was a comfort; for Jonah and the mariners, it spelled disaster. What’s the difference?
  3. Jonah is reminded by the pagan captain to arise and do his duty. What implications does this have for a slumbering church?

[1] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 15.9.6.

[2] Isaiah 36-38; 2 Kings 18-19

[3] Acts 27:14-20

[4] Acts 27:38

[5] Psalm 107:23-30

[6] Deuteronomy 6:4

[7] Jonah 2:9

[8] Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Jonah 1:4-7

[9] Proverbs 16:33

[10] רַע

[11] Jonah 1:2

[12] Jonah 4:11

[13] Deuteronomy 4:34; Psalm 136:7

[14] Isaiah 44:9-20

Jonah 1:1-3

We’ve recently begun a study through the Old Testament book of Jonah at the kirk. For those nearby and able, feel free to join us on Wednesday nights; for everyone else, I’ll be posting the manuscripts here with a week’s delay. The LORD bless you and keep you!

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah was a contemporary of Hosea and Amos; he was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom during the reign of Jeroboam II. We read in 2 Kings, “[Jeroboam II] restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.”[1] Within only thirty years of the death of Jeroboam II, though, the Northern Kingdom would fall to a conquering world power. First, during the reign of Pekah, the tribes of the Transjordan (Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh) would be captured and sent into exile.[2] In 722 BC, the Assyrians would conquer Israel, which at that time was a vassal state to the greater empire. “Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria, and for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”[3] Though Israel was blessed with expansion during Jonah’s time, the coming judgment of God against their idolatry had been prophesied “by every prophet and every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God.”[4] Amos, for example, prophesied to the Northern Kingdom, saying, “An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defenses from you, and your strongholds shall be plundered.”[5] Thus, Jonah, the prophet of the LORD, knew that unless Israel repented, they would eventually be destroyed, and that by the great empire of the day, Assyria, the capital of which just happened to be Nineveh.

Imagine, then, if you can, the prophet’s distress when we read vv.1-2. Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” To Nineveh? The LORD commands His prophet to go outside of the Promised Land, and prophesy to a Gentile people; the Assyrians are not only Gentiles, but they are also the very means God will use to bring down the Northern Kingdom of Israel! Why in the world would God send Jonah to warn the Ninevites of their coming destruction? We see a hint already in the way the LORD refers to Nineveh – that great city. Throughout the book we’re told of the massive size of the city of Nineveh. It was three days’ journey in breadth,[6] and contained a population of over 120,000 people.[7] The destruction of Nineveh would mean the destruction of many, many lives. Thus, Jonah was to go and call out against it because of their evil… and Jonah knew exactly why. It was through his preaching that God meant to work repentance among the people. He is “a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”[8] Jonah knew the character of God, because God had revealed His character to His people. When Moses was given the revelation of the LORD’s name, “the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.’”[9] Jonah knew from God’s character that if the people of Nineveh heard the word of the LORD and repented, God would forgive and relent from the disaster He meant to do them. Indeed, this chance of repentance is what He continuously gave His own people Israel through His prophets, though they would not repent. Indeed, this same word had been preached by Joel in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The prophet writes, “‘Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”[10] What would be the result of Jonah’s preaching? Jonah believed it would be the repentance of the Ninevites, and God’s relenting to bring disaster upon Israel’s Gentile enemy and future conqueror.

Thus, we read, But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. What does it mean that Jonah sought to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD? We would first do well to consider the whereabouts of Tarshish. If the coast of Israel made up the eastern border of the Mediterranean Sea, then the strait of Gibraltar was the farthest point in the Mediterranean away from Israel. Through the strait, on the west coast of Spain – that is one possible location of Tarshish. But, even if we’re not completely sure of the precise location, from the context, Tarshish is meant to imply a place far away from Israel, and thus far away from the Temple, where God’s special presence resided. Interestingly, this isn’t the only place we find someone going out from the presence of the LORD. In Genesis 4, after Cain has murdered his brother Abel and has been sentenced by the LORD, we read, “Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”[11] What is likely meant here and in Jonah is not a denial of the omnipresence of God, but both Jonah and Cain were going out from the place of God’s special, and in a sense, immediate, presence – Jonah from the Promised Land and the Temple, Cain out from before the very gates of Eden. Hugh Martin writes, “Most probably, in the days of the first family of our race, the gate of the garden of Eden, where God placed the cherubim and the flaming sword, constituted the seat of sacred worship; occupying the place and serving the purpose which, in after generations, were occupied and served by the tabernacle in the wilderness and in Shiloh, and ultimately by the temple, on Mount Moriah.”[12] Jonah is fleeing the face of the LORD, as He was present with His people in Israel, and more particularly in the Temple. Essentially, in this act, Jonah is refusing to speak the word of the LORD, he is renouncing his office as God’s prophet. If the LORD wants to send a prophet to the Assyrians, wicked Gentiles who would eventually be the undoing of the people of Israel, then He could send someone else; Jonah would have none of it. Much like the elder brother in our Lord’s parable of the Prodigal Son, Jonah is appalled at the mercy of the Father.[13] The correlation between the two – Jonah and the elder brother – will become much clearer in the fourth chapter of the book.

The prophet continues, He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. Again we see Jonah’s motive in fleeing – to be away from the presence of the LORD. To accomplish this, he goes to Joppa. Joppa was a haven on the west coast of Israel. It was to Joppa that Hiram, the king of Tyre, had sent from Lebanon the timbers used by Solomon to build the Temple in Jerusalem.[14] Now it was from Joppa that Jonah wished to flee the special presence of the LORD in that very Temple. And providence seemed to smile upon him, for when he reached Joppa, he found a ship bound for Tarshish. He paid his fare, climbed aboard, and went down into it. Perhaps Jonah’s going down into the ship was a matter of simply being unused to the seafarer’s life above deck. The people of Israel were not exactly known as the greatest sailors in the Mediterranean world, after all. Or could it be that he was ashamed of his actions? Was he seeking to hide his face, in a sense, from the face of God? Whatever may be the case, Jonah knew that what he was doing was wrong, and in time, the (proverbial and literal) sailing that seemed to be running so smoothly so far, would become a tempest that would toss him up and out, into the very hands of the LORD he was trying to flee.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is there a particular group of people that you feel shouldn’t be granted God’s mercy? Why is this attitude wrong?
  2. How does God work repentance through the preached Word?
  3. We who are in Christ are certainly beneficiaries of God’s grace. Do we often give thanks for God’s gracious acts, and praise Him for His gracious character? Consider David’s confession in Psalm 51.
  4. We, of course, affirm God’s omnipresence. But, biblically, where is God present in a special way today? Consider Ephesians 2:19-22.

[1] 2 Kings 14:25

[2] 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26

[3] 2 Kings 17:5-6

[4] 2 Kings 17:13-14

[5] Amos 3:11

[6] Jonah 3:3

[7] Jonah 4:11

[8] Jonah 4:2

[9] Exodus 34:6-7

[10] Joel 2:12-13

[11] Genesis 4:16

[12] Hugh Martin, A Commentary on Jonah (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1995), 35.

[13] Luke 15:28

[14] 2 Chronicles 2:16

Order of Service 11/07/21

Call to Worship    Hebrews 3:7-19

After this, whoever is leading worship (regularly the father or grandfather of the family) should pray for himself and his family as they join together to worship the Lord, that their attention would be captivated by the glory of God, and that they would rejoice together in the Lord.

The Apostle’s Creed     recite together the essential tenets of our faith

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Hymn     “Abide with Me”

Confession of Sin

As is our custom, begin with a few moments of silent, personal confession, and then join together in our corporate confession:

Almighty, everlasting God and Father, we acknowledge and confess that we indeed were conceived and born in sin and, therefore, inclined to all evil and slow to all good; that we unceasingly transgress Your holy commandments, and corrupt ourselves more and more. But we are sorry for this and desire Your grace and help. Therefore, have mercy upon us, most gracious and merciful God and Father, through Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant to us and increase in us Your Holy Spirit, so that we may recognize our sin and unrighteousness from the depth of our heart, feel true contrition and grief for them, die to them completely, and please You wholly in a new, godly life. Amen.

At the end of this confession it is appropriate for the person leading to read 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The Gloria Patri     either spoken or sung

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Family or Personal Prayer

Please spend this time in prayer for one another, for the church; for our community, our county, our state, our nation, our world; pray for our leaders; pray for all those who are being impacted by this crisis, and for all those who have contracted the virus or have lost someone who has; pray through the prayer requests that are shared via our OneCall system; pray freely in the Spirit and lay your anxieties and concerns at the feet of our gracious Lord in full confidence that you are heard through Jesus Christ our Mediator.

The Lord’s Prayer     to be prayed together

Scripture    1 Samuel 28:1-25

Sermon https://soundcloud.com/user-374933433/1-samuel-281-25?si=8bced9d0ad874957bcee404365aa707d

Hymn    “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”

Closing Prayer

It is appropriate at this point for the father to bless his family, the husband to bless his wife, and all to bless each other. Afterward, as it is the Lord’s Day, I recommend that you spend the rest of the day in the Word, in prayer, worship, and rest. God bless you all!