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 You, O Lord, have done as You have pleased. (Jonah 1:14 NASB)
In this post about The God Of Restoration we will get a look into the lives of the sailors who were on the boat Jonah boarded when he was attempting to flee the will of God. What we will learn from this portion of the book is that even in the midst of our sin God can still accomplish His divine will.
God is sovereign over all. He is the Lord of the universe that He created. Nothing escapes His sight, and nothing escapes His will. He will accomplish all that He has decreed, and His purposes and will can not be stalled or ended based on any effort from anything that is part of the creation.
So the very thought that Jonah could forestall the revival in Nineveh by fleeing and going in the opposite direction should be, to a degree, insanity on the part of someone who claims to have the theology that Jonah has. For as we have already covered, Jonah is and had been up to that point, already a prophet for the eternal God. He knew God is sovereign and he even speaks to this in chapter 4. Notice the following:
He prayed to the Lord and said, "Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity."
As you can see Jonah by his own admission recognizes who the true God is, and also what He is capable of. Jonah expresses the belief that God is in fact gracious and compassionate, that He is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness. Jonah is well aware that if they were to repent, which they did, that the Ninevites would receive this grace and lovingkindness from God and would be forgiven of their sins.
My friend Dr. Joel Medley has pointed out on many occasions that Jonah was a man with correct theology but hypocritical application. Dr. Medley is 100% correct in his analysis of Jonah as it is revealed to us in the book of Jonah. Jonah does know and even seems to say all the "right things," but when time comes to act upon those beliefs, he simply seems to run the other way in more ways than one.
However, what we see in chapter 1 is that even in the midst of Jonah's sin when he attempted to flee the presence of the Lord and avoid going to Nineveh, God was still able to accomplish His purpose. In fact, God was able to use Jonah's sin to bring salvation and restoration to the lives of the sailors who occupied the same boat as Jonah. So even despite ourselves and our own sin, God is not hindered in accomplishing His purposes.
(4) The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.
Here in these first two verses after the part where Jonah went down to Joppa, paid the fare, and boarded the ship, we see that the Lord brought a great storm to move against the ship. The text even indicates that it was such a great storm that the very ship they were on was on the verge of breaking apart, and everyone on board perishing in the sea.
While we are not told how many sailors were on board with Jonah, it does use the plural form of the word so it is obvious that there were quite a few more than just 1 or 2. In fact, I would suggest that this was no small fishing boat. This was a larger ship and most likely could have had anywhere between 50-100 persons on board. I'm certainly open to debate on the number of people on board, but the fact remains that there were in fact multiple people involved.
The main point is that these were not rookie sailors, they were no doubt seasoned and this storm was great enough to scare them to the point of despair. The text points out that they were crying out to their "gods" and in the midst of all of it, Jonah is sound asleep, seemingly unaware of anything going on.
God not only had a plan for the people of Nineveh, He also had a plan for Jonah, and what we will now see, God has a plan for the very sailors on board this ship that Jonah was using in his attempt to flee from the presence of the Lord he claimed to serve.
(6) So the captain approached him and said, "How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish."
As we move along with the narrative, we see that the level of despair on the ship is ever increasing on the part of the sailors. They go and find Jonah and question as to how he could be sleeping so soundly in the midst of what is going on around them.
Then they cast lots and it is determined in their view that Jonah is the one to whom the storm could be attributed, and they beg him to call out to his "god" and to answer their bevy of questions as they attempt to ascertain the reason this calamity has befallen them.
Jonah responds in the same way I would hope any regenerate person would. He proclaims the name of the eternal God of Heaven! He says that he fears only the Lord God who made the sea and the dry land! Unfortunately, as my friend Joel has pointed out in his teaching on this book, Jonah's actions never seem to really match up with his sound theology. What a sad commentary on any Christian whose lives don't match their theology.
(10) 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.
What is very interesting to me at this point in the narrative is that it actually states that the men became, "extremely frightened" at this point. This indicates to me that the Holy Spirit of God was already working in their hearts and preparing them for the salvation that was to come. They had gone from crying out to and begging to their "gods" and have gone to fearing and understanding that they were in this calamity due to Jonah's god, and the fact that Jonah was attempting to flee the presence of his Lord.
So they continue to question him as to the solution to the storm and calamity that had fallen on them. Jonah's solution? Pick him up and toss him in the sea. However, this is not the solution that the sailors choose, at least initially.
(13) However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them.
The men's first initial thought is to desperately attempt to make it back to land. This is to be admired as I am certain part of their reasoning was that they did not want to cast Jonah into the sea, for they no doubt knew that he would certainly perish if they were to cast him off the boat. But while this can be admired, this would not prove to be a solution to their problem.
(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 You, O Lord, have done as You have pleased.
Here we see a true change of heart in these men. They call on the true God. They pray and call out to the true Lord and ask Him to help them in their time of despair.
(15) So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging.
After God graciously works in the hearts of these men, they recognize that He is the true God, then they pray and call out to Him, and then they respond in obedience in casting Jonah off of the boat.
It is noted in the text that after casting Jonah into the sea, the storm ends, and they immediately offer a sacrifice by faith in the the new Lord of their lives. These sailors were now true believers in the Lord God Almighty.
What is very important to note here in reference to the God of Restoration is that even in the very midst of Jonah's sin, when he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, God's purposes were not stalled or thwarted.
God had some sailors on that boat that He was going to draw to Himself, and He used Jonah's sin of fleeing from His presence to place Him in the exact right place at the exact right time to be able to present to these sailors the One true God. God's will is accomplished, these men were saved, and Jonah still reaped what he had sown.
The Restoration of God is seen not only in how he works in the lives of His people to bring them back from sin or a broken fellowship with Him, but it is also seen in how God reconciles a particular people to Himself out of the slave market of sin. God's work of reconciliation based on the work of His Son, Jesus on the cross, is also a work of restoration. In Adam the entire human race was separated from God, and we are born under the condemnation of sin. We don't become sinners when we sin, but rather, we sin because we are sinners.
Thanks be to God that He provided the payment for sin so that we can be reconciled and restored to the One true God in the salvation that is offered freely by the grace of His Son, Jesus Christ!