Another form of escapism?

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2015 Issue – Pursued by Grace,  ‘I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’  (Jonah 4:2)

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Jonah1:11-12 (NIVUK): ‘The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”’

Selwyn writes: “As the fury of the storm increases, the sailors want desperately to remedy the situation. If the storm is a result of a dispute between Jonah and his God then surely, they think, he will know what should be done. So the sailors ask Jonah: ‘What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?’ … ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ is his reply. …

An act of penance may be appropriate after receiving forgiveness, but it can never be thought of as earning forgiveness. There was only one way for Jonah to be restored, and that was not by being cast into the sea but by casting himself into the arms of a loving and merciful God.”

I won’t comment on Selwyn’s analysis of Jonah’s motives, but there is an interesting aspects to these verses.

Jonah was obviously a person who had enough motivation to do the ‘right thing’ when it came to saving the lives of a number of men when their lives were put at risk by his actions. It’s the sacrifice of one man to save the lives of a number of other people, who were not responsible for the violence of a tempestuous sea.

The sailors were not Israelites and they did not follow the one, true God; and in a certain way they were a bit like the Ninevites; foreigners who had their own gods. Yet, Jonah was prepared to lay down his life for these people, but he was not prepared to just tell the Ninevites about God’s judgment nor His mercy, if they repented.

It’s also worth noting that the crew of the ship would have been very small in number compared to the one hundred and twenty thousand people (Jonah 4:11) living in Nineveh.

Another point to consider is that even though Jonah was prepared to be thrown overboard, I think he still believed that God was sovereign over all creation, and being tossed into the sea, it may not have been certain that he would die, but it was a real possibility.

In your meditation on this study, ask yourself, ‘would you be prepared to have yourself thrown overboard’, in an attempt to save a few people?