Sunday, March 26, 2017

Jonah Did the Unexpected (Part 2 of 4)


Series: Jonah: The Gospel of Grace

TitleJonah Did the Unexpected (Part 2 of 4)


Text: Jonah 1:4-6

Main Idea: Jehovah in response to the disobedience of Jonah sent a storm against the ship that was so severe it frightened the crew members.

Purpose:     To inform my people that disobedience brings the chastening hand of God upon those who willfully sin against God.


In October of 1991 an unnamed storm developed off the coast of Nova Scotia. It was so powerful that it actually absorbed a massive hurricane called Hurricane Grace. This storm began as a large and powerful cyclone which for a time beat up the coast of the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Eventually this cyclone became a tropical storm and then a full-fledged hurricane. The winds of this storm were recorded at 75 miles per hour. It killed 13 people, caused 200 million dollars of damage, and severely damaged the east coast of the United States and the Atlantic coastline of Canada.

This storm was so powerful that it destroyed over 200 houses, left some 38,000 people without electricity, and had reported waves of over 100 feet.

Off shore New York an Air national Guard helicopter crashed at sea killing a crew member, two people drowned when their boat sank just off of Staten Island, in Rhode Island people were swept by power waves to their death, one person was swept off a bridge. Most of you may have saw the movie based on the sinking of the Andrea Gail and the loss of its six crew members.

This force of power and destruction of this storm involved a set of several circumstances that occur only every 50 to 100 years. This is why it became known as the “Perfect Storm.”

For the record, the Perfect Storm was not the costliest or even the most powerful storm on record. It is a perfect example of just how power storms can be.

The storm in our passage today was a very severe storm that frightened the experienced sailors on board and was in the process of breaking up the ship.

Have you ever had a few or several set of circumstances “fall together” that seemed to create a perfect storm in your life? May even right now a few or several factors have joined forces that seem very overwhelming, frightening, and have almost capsized your life.

You cannot simply “curse” and then dismiss these events. You must, even briefly ask yourself, “Is God using this perfect storm in my life to get my attention?”

Today we will be looking at a storm that God has specifically sent against a particular ship. God sends circumstances of events as means of chastisement of His children whom He loves for their good.

Hebrews 12 speaks to this truth, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the discipline of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are reprovedIt is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons. For what son is there whom a father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:5-7, EMTV)

My purpose today is to inform my people that disobedience brings the chastening hand of God upon those who willfully sin against God.

What did Jonah do?

Our passage today reveals the second of four actions that describe what Jonah did.


The first action described in our passage is:

1A     Jonah Does the Unexpected (Vss. 1-16)

The fact that Jonah did the unexpected in this chapter is seen by four (4) specific truths.        

Last week we looked at the first specific truth that demonstrated that Jonah did the unexpected in verses 1-3 of chapter one. We looked at the fact that Jonah was…         

1B     The Defiant Servant (vss. 1-3)

Jonah tried to escape God’s call on his life to travel to Nineveh and speak God’s word to them. Jonah was defiant! He ran away from God.


Today we are going to continue to look at this first action of Jonah described in our passage as we continue to ask the question…

Interrogatory Sentence

What did Jonah do that was unexpected?

Our passage today reveals the second of four actions that describe what Jonah did. We see what Jonah did in verses 4-6 is totally unexpected. And we see why it is unexpected as we look at…
          2B     The Devastating Storm (Vss. 4-6)

                        Richard Sibbes
“When we grow careless of keeping our souls, then God recovers our taste of good things again by sharp crosses.”

Jonah 1:4-6
“But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. Then the mariners were afraid and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. So the captain came to him and said to him, ‘What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God, perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.’” (NKJV)

Jonah continues to do the unexpected in this section. In spite of the ship being subjected to a very devastating storm, Jonah lays down and goes to sleep. Not just a sleep, but a deep sleep.

Our passage this morning describes for us at least three (3) important details about this devastating storm – we have described for us the source of the storm, the strength of the storm and the significance of the storm.

[So, let’s begin by looking at…]

                   1C     The Source of this devastating storm (Vs. 4a)

                             “But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea…”

God sent a storm. This storm did not just coincidently happen to arrive at this specific moment. This storm is straight from God. God is the source of this storm.

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant. The sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, although it is usually identified as a separate body of water.

The name Mediterranean is derived from the Latin Mediterranean, meaning "inland" or "in the middle of land" (from medius, "middle" and terra, "land").

It covers an approximate area of 965,000 sq. mi), but its connection to the Atlantic (the Strait of Gibraltar) is only 8.7 miles wide. The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Gibraltar and Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa. In oceanography, it is sometimes called the Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea or the European Mediterranean Sea to distinguish it from Mediterranean seas elsewhere.

The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 4,900 feet and the deepest recorded point is17,280 feet) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea. The sea is bordered on the north by Europe, the east by Asia, and in the south by Africa.

The sea was an important route for merchants and travelers of ancient times that allowed for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region.

The countries with coastlines on the Mediterranean Sea are Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Monaco, Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.
It seems that Mediterranean cyclones or hurricanes are considered rare. The dry nature of the Mediterranean area results in the infrequent development of major storms on the Mediterranean Sea.

From 1948 to 2011 there have been only 99 recorded hurricanes or major storms on the Mediterranean. It seems that the rough mountain ranges in the area is a hindrance against these type storms from being a regular development.

These severe type of storms occur only under what some call unusual circumstances. Low wind shears and atmospheric instability that is induced by incursions of cold air provide the energy for thunderstorms, some which turn into major storms or hurricanes.

Let me say right here that God is in control of all of the weather elements in this universe. He created them and He controls them. It is also true that on many occasions God has used various weather elements to work out His purpose or design.

God could certainly have used a rare Mediterranean hurricane to get the attention of Jonah. But, this is not one of those cases.

The text says clear that God was the source of this storm. The Hebrew actually uses grammar that states God literally “hurled” or threw this storm at this little ship on the Mediterranean Sea. He threw the storm at the ship like a warrior would throw a spear.

God cast out or threw out this particular storm. God put together the right wind, the right velocity, the right elements for this storm to touch down exactly where this boat was sailing.

BTW, I came across over a dozen passages that clearly demonstrated God’s absolute control over creation by controlling the seas.

So, God is clearly the originator or the source of this wind or storm that assaulted this ship sailing towards the coast of Spain.

[We have described for us a second detail in verse four (4), and that is…]

                   2C     The Strength of this devastating Storm (Vs. 4b)

“…and there was a mighty tempest on the sea…”       

The word “tempest” comes from a Hebrew word meaning to agitate or to rage. To agitate means to move with an irregular, rapid, or violent action. The ocean was stirring up the water with a very violent action.

Think of the “agitator” in a washing machine. It moves the water around in a swirling motion. It causes the water to slosh around. It actually creates little waves in the washer. Nothing like this wind on the water in our passage.

This was violent. Another meaning that is related is a violent or powerful whirlwind.

BTW this is the same type of wind, or whirlwind that caught up Elijah and transported him into heaven.

So, you all can visualize a violent wind stirring up the waters, creating huge powerful waves that smash against the hull of this ship. It was a strong storm.

Now, look at the phrase at the end of verse four (4) –

“… so that the ship was about to be broken up.”

First of all, remember in these days and times, ships were small and they were not built to ride out extremely strong and violent storms.

Second, it seems as if in God’s purpose this ship actually conspired with God against Jonah to accomplish God’s purpose, which seems to have been to get Jonah’s attention.

The Hebrew verb means to “consider” or “to plan” when it is used in connection to human beings. The author, which I think is Jonah is actually personifying or giving personality to the ship. The ship determined to break up. Without divine intervention the ship had determined to break up. Amazing!

Another way of translating this phrase could have been, “Now the ship was determined to break apart.” The idea is that this determination of the ship is in contrast to Jonah. The wind, the ocean, the ship was tuned into God’s specific purpose but Jonah was not.

It seems as if the ship if the first to know or to realize the brutality of the storm and its own terror was quickly communicated to the sailors. (J. M. Sasson, Jonah: A New Translation[1]

It was if God and the ship were conspiring together against Jonah. God Himself sent a violent storm. The storm assaulted the boat and the boat determined to break apart.

So, the source of the storm was God and the strength of the storm was extraordinary.

[The third detail described in our passage tells us clearly…] 

                             3C     The Significance of the devastating storm (Vss. 5-6)

It is very easy to see the significance of this supernatural and devastating storm. The significance is seen in at least four (4) distinct means.

[First, it is seen in…]

1D     …in the dread of the crew

          “Then the Mariners were afraid…”

These are experienced sailors. We have no indication to their years at sea or their experience, but most of them probably had extensive experience at sea.

Storms would have been a regular part of their career. Even strong storms would not have been something they had not seen and dealt with before.

This storm was different. They were afraid, actually, the idea is they were terrified.

This storm invoked in them a religious response. They were astonished. They also were gripped by a powerful awe or reverence.

“…and every man cried out to his god…”

They believed the fact that the ship had determined to break apart in the storm. They saw the strength of this storm. It seemed to cause them to think that this might be a supernatural or divinely appointed storm.

So, they cried out, or prayed, or beseeched their own particular or specific god for help and safety.

Keep in mind this was an international and polytheistic crew. These sailors were probably from Phoenician cities. Remember they were on a heading for Tarshish which was a Phoenician city. Their not so distant ancestors were from the old Canaanite culture that was paganistic and polytheistic. They believed in many gods.

According to H. L. Ellison in his commentary sailors in particular adopted a bunch of gods – I guess they didn’t want to sink.

Smith and Page in their commentary speculate that it was possible that the crew developed a vague, uneasy, feeling that the suddenness and severity of the storm involved a divine intervention.

 So each one of the crew members began to pray to their favorite god.

But, that didn’t work. The storm continued to rage on and the ship continued to be in extreme danger.

So, they did the next thing that as experienced sailors knew to do. We see this…

2D     …in the destruction of the cargo

“…and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten the load.”

A heavily loaded ship can be easily capsized in heavy seas. A ship that was light would ride higher in the waves and was less likely to capsize.

This is the last resort of sailors. The successful shipping of the cargo is their livelihood. This is their bread and butter.

This is a desperate measure that is done solely for the purpose of saving their lives.

The word Jonah uses can mean furniture, wares, gear, etc. So they probably threw over shipboard furniture, block and tackling, and the cargo. The cargo could have been corn or grain. Corn was a huge commodity and it was shipped out of Joppa regularly.

This was a significant storm. We see just how significant it is in the dread of the crew and in the destruction of the cargo.

[There is a third thing that shows us the significance of this storm and that is seen…]

                             3D     …in the dozing of the culprit

“But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.”

It seems that Jonah was so happy and so relieved to have found a way out of town he found a place to go to sleep.

Jonah had traveled some 80 or so miles. We don’t know if he walked, rode a donkey, or hitched a ride in a wagon, but he made quite a trip. He was tuckered out apparently.

He went down to the remotest part of the ship, the lower deck and fell into a deep sleep. It was almost a hypnotic sleep. You might recognize the root of this word, it is the same root that was used for the sleep Adam slept when God performed surgery to open him open and extract a rib in order to create Eve.

You know he was asleep. With the howling blowing wind, the crashing waves, the thunder, and the frightened cries of the crew, Jonah was dead to the world.

Some of you just might ask,” How in the world could Jonah sleep through all of that?”

·        As mentioned he could have been exhausted from his trip to Joppa

·        The chance to relax lulled him into a deep sleep as the initial gentle roll of the waves rocked him

·        H. L. Ellison commented, “The storm that can terrify the sailor can reduce the landsman to physical impotence and unconsciousness.” [2]

·        It is possible God put him into a deep sleep

Whatever the reason and whatever the cause, Jonah was out like a light. Jonah was completely unaware of the danger that the crew, the ship, and he was in.

This is a very significant storm. We have seen its significance in the dread of the crew, in the destruction of the cargo, in the dozing of the culprit, and

[Fourth, we see the significance of this devastating storm when we see the…] 

4D     …duty of the captain (Vs. 6)

“So the captain came to him, and said to him, ‘What do you mean sleeper? Arise, call on your God, perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.”

The storm is raging against this ship. The ship, as if it had a personality had determined to break apart.

So the Captain is doing his duty, his job, what he should be doing – he is inspecting the ship and searching for damage or where it may be taking on water.

In his search, he comes upon Jonah who is dead to the world in a deep sleep. He wakes Jonah up and in the midst of the howling winds, splashing water, and the rocking of the boat he says,

“Why are you asleep? Pray to your God and ask your God to consider us and save us.”

First of all – the captain was so desperate that he was willing for any god to help them, he wanted to be saved from this massive storm that about to sink his ship.

Second, what we find interesting and stressed in most commentaries, is the jolt that the captain’s speech should have given Jonah.

This is the second time Jonah has heard the words, “Arise, or get up” and “preach/proclaim.” The word the captain used for call is contains the idea to preach.

The captain wants Jonah to preach to his God, to tell him that they are in real trouble and that his God should help them. It is as if he is saying, “Look everyone else on board is praying for help, you need to pray also!” Maybe the captain even thought, nothing has helped so far – let’s see what your God can do.

I wonder if the irony of what the captain demanded and what God had demanded hit Jonah.

Our word “consider” really means that the captain wanted Jonah’s God to take note of the sailors and their current danger with the idea of having taking notice to save or deliver them or spare them from certain drowning.

Smith and Page in their commentary summarize this ironic situation this way:

“There is extreme irony here: a “heathen sea captain” pleaded with a Hebrew prophet to pray to his God, It is sobering to see one who might be termed an ‘unbeliever’ pleading for spiritual action on the part of a ‘believer.’ The unbeliever saw the gravity of the situation while the prophet slept. It is a sad commentary when those who are committed to the truth of God’s word have to be prodded by a lost world into spiritual activity.” [3]
So, there you have it, the significance of this storm is seen in four (4) dimensions; first, in the dread of the crew, in the destruction of the cargo, in the dozing of the culprit, and in the duty of the captain.

This is a very significant storm. God is using it and these dimensions to get the attention of Jonah. Next week we will see just how God got Jonah’s full attention. 

So, this morning our theme has been Jonah does the unexpected. What was the unexpected? While this storm raged against the ship Jonah went to sleep and remained asleep.
My purpose today was to inform you that disobedience against God will bring the chastening hand of God upon you when you choose willfully sin against God.

You can’t find an airplane, train, ship, car, or truck that can take you to a place where God cannot reach you and bring you to a place where you are willing to be obedient. It is quite possible that God will use a violent storm to get your attention!

 [What do you say we wrap this up?]


Let me conclude this morning with a reminder of something familiar to you, but we often forget. It comes from Hebrews 12:5-12:

 “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” [Hebrews 12:5-11, NKJV]

Let’s pray! J

[1] J. M. Sasson, Jonah: A New Translation with Introduction, Commentary, and Interpretation, (New York: Doubleday, 1990), p. 85
[2] H. L. Ellison, “Jonah,” EBC 7 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), p. 369
[3] Billy K. Smith & Frank S. Page, The New American Commentary: Amos, Obadiah, Jonah V.10, (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1995), p. 231

1 comment:

nashvillecats2 said...

Well done Gregg on an excellent write, very interesting to read and plenty to think about during the coming days.

Enjoy your Sunday.