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Man Overboard!
Jonah 1:10-16 

 

Last week, we left our young hero, Jonah on the deck of a ship headed toward Tarshish The ship was in danger of sinking because of a great wind God hurled against the sea. Jonah, a prophet of the Lord, rebelled against God's instructions to go to Nineveh and preach against their sin. Instead, he boarded a ship, headed toward Tarshish, the opposite direction, to "flee from the presence of the Lord."

On his journey, Jonah learned that there is no place where God isn't. God was in Jerusalem, where Jonah probably lived, God was in Nineveh, where God told Jonah to go, and God is on a ship on the way to Tarshish, where Jonah wasn't supposed to be. I wonder if Jonah remembered what the Psalmist wrote, as he shivered in the storm: Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? [8] If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. [9] If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; [10] Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:7-10 KJV)

Today, it is very comforting to me to know that God is everywhere, but it wasn't to Jonah. He was running from God and he hoped he could find a place where God wasn't. Let's rejoin the story this morning by reading Jonah 1:10-16

"Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, 'How could you do this?' For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. [11] So they said to him, 'What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?'-- for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy. [12] And he said to them, 'Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.' [13] However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them. [14] Then they called on the Lord and said, 'We earnestly pray, O Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man's life and do not put innocent blood on us; for Thou, O Lord, hast done as Thou hast pleased.' 

[15] So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. [16] Then the men feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows."

Obviously, Jonah had his share of character flaws, but I do admire his honesty. He is honest with God, honest with the sailors, honest with the Ninevehites, and honest with his readers. Have you stopped to consider that this book is an autobiography? Jonah is honest enough with us that he tells his story, "warts and all." Do you know where that expression, "warts and all" came from?

In the mid seventeenth century, a painter "touched up" a portrait he was doing of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England. The artist painted Lord Cromwell in a flattering way, omitting his unsightly warts. Cromwell insisted that the artist repaint the portrait "warts and all."

Honest but not Helpful One of Jonah's warts is obvious in the opening verses of this passage. Though Jonah is honest with the sailors, he was not particularly helpful. The sailors asked, 'What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?' Jonah responded in verse 12 by saying, [12] And he said to them, 'Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.' If Jonah knew that he was the cause of the problem and that the solution was for him to get off the boat, why didn't he just jump into the water himself? Was he trying to take the ship down with him? Or was he trying to get the sailors on the ship to join him in his struggle against God?

That's what happened! Instead of throwing Jonah overboard, the sailors attempted to out row God. Like a B-grade movie, the men on the ship rowed "desperately" trying to get the ship to shore so Jonah wouldn't be lost. Why?

I mean, what did Jonah mean to these men? He was a stranger that had brought trouble to their ship and caused them to lose their payload. Why would they fight to help a man that brought them bad luck?

While we're asking questions here, Why didn't Jonah, the prophet of God, have the decency not to drag other people down in his rebellion? These pagans are showing more compassion than God's prophet.

The truth is, even people who make poor choices have their moments of kindness and clarity. Grunge Rocker, Courtney Love recently said, "Some parents of my daughter's friends are OK with PG-13 movies. I'm not, but somehow my daughter got taken to see 'There's Something About Mary,' and I was furious." (From Fresh Illustrations)

Fighting for Jonah, showed compassion, but fighting against God demonstrated a lack of wisdom. Why would they risk God's anger against them to help His errant prophet?

Perhaps you might say, they were atheist and didn't believe in God at all, but if you do, I'd remind you that the captain of the ship woke Jonah so he would pray to his God!

Pagans don't think twice about fighting with God, in fact it comes quite natural to them. But what about the prophet of God? Shouldn't it be unnatural for a believer to pull against God? Actually, no! 

Even believers have times when they are in rebellion with God. Paul said it best in Romans 7:15-18, I'm reading from the New Living Translation: "I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. [16] I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. [17] But I can't help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things. [18] I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't."

I don't think Paul was trying to make excuses for his behavior in this text. He isn't Flip Wilson declaring, "the Devil made me do it." In a moment of unusual candor, Paul says what we all know to be true, the desire to sin and rebel against God doesn't end when we come to faith in Christ. Temptation continues, and all of us sin. As righteous as Paul was, he called himself the "chief of sinners" in 1 Timothy 1:15.

The High Cost of Sin As Jonah learned, the inevitability of our sin does not excuse it. I wonder what Jonah was thinking as he watched his new "friends" try to out row God's wind? How did he feel when he saw other people suffering for his sin?

That's the way it always is, you know. Others suffer when God's people sin. They suffer when we fail to do good. We don't serve as God calls us, and people suffer when ministry isn't done. We don't witness at every opportunity, and someone's eternity is jeopardized. We don't tithe, and ministries are cancelled or missionaries have to do without what they need.

And of course, people also suffer when we do evil. Jonah rebels against God and innocent people lose their cargo and fear the safety of their ship because of Jonah's sin.

God's Grace to Exhausted Sailors Finally, exhausted by the struggle, they laid their oars down and picked the prophet up and threw him overboard. As the sea received the runaway prophet, the storm calmed and the men who were battling against God came to fear Him and offer sacrifices to Him. Psalm 111:10 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom . . ." These sailors have bright days waiting for them. They may of lost their cargo, but they found the Lord!

Things don't look so bright for Jonah, our young hero. As his shipmates are praising the Lord, he is sinking deeper and deeper into his destiny. What will happen to Jonah? Has God turned His back on his wayward prophet? You'll have to come back next week to find out.

Last week, Jonah learned that he couldn't outrun God, this week he discovered that even with the help of others, he can't out row Him either. Jonah was caught up in a battle of the wills, and discovered this his was weak, but God's is Sovereign.

What about you? Do you find yourself struggling against God's will for your life? Are other people suffering because of your sin? Are you ready to turn back to God, or will you wait for the sailors to come and throw you overboard? 

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