Sunday, April 2, 2017

Jonah Did the Unexpected (Part 3 of 4)


Series: Jonah: The Gospel of Grace

Title: Jonah Did the Unexpected (Part 3 of 4)


Text: Jonah 1:7-10

Main Idea: Jehovah uses the pagan idol worshippers to bring Jonah’s sin to light

Please take your bibles and turn to Jonah, chapter one (1). We return this morning to our study in our series, Jonah: A Gospel of Grace. We are looking at the theme, Jonah did the unexpected. And this is our third message in chapter one (1).

Remember, Jonah has done something that no other prophet has done. Jonah has disobeyed Jehovah by traveling in the opposite direction from where he had been instructed by Jehovah. Jonah intended to remove himself from the responsibility to go to Nineveh.

Let’s take just a moment and…


In the book of Jonah we can see at least four major actions performed by Jonah. Jonah did the unexpected, Jonah did the unequaled, Jonah did the unenjoyed, and Jonah did the unexcused.

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 clearly seen by four (4) specific truths.      These truths are seen in: the defiant servant, the devastating storm, the determined search, and the desperate solution.
Two weeks ago 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 the Ninevites. Jonah was defiant! He ran away from God. He got up and deliberately bought a ticket on a ship headed the opposite direction that God has directed him to.

          So, Jonah does the unexpected by being the defiant servant!

Last week we looked at the second specific truth that demonstrated that Jonah did the unexpected in verses 4-6 of chapter one. We looked at…

2B     The Devastating Storm (vss. 4-6)

Last week we saw four (4) very important details about this devastating storm. We saw…

·        The source of the storm – Jehovah himself hurled this extremely powerful storm down upon the sea, the ship, and the sleeper – Jonah the Prophet.

·        The strength of the storm – this was no ordinary storm. It was powerful and it was breaking up the ship. This storm raged against the ship, it agitated the waters. The storm was violent!

·        The significance of the storm – it was designed by Jehovah to uncover the sin and guilt of Jonah. The sailors were terribly afraid for their lives, they were throwing the cargo and anything that wasn’t nailed down overboard. This was all the while Jonah, the guilty party was sound asleep.

·        As the Captain was inspecting his ship and the damage that she had sustained, he discovered sleeping beauty sound asleep in the bottom of the ship.

And so, 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.

So, we have seen the defiant servant and the devastating storm. Let’s move then to our…


We move to the third specific truth contained in our text and that is…

          3B     The Determined Search (vss. 7-10)

                   Supporting Idea: Your sin will always find you out

George Whitefield

“Various are the pleas and arguments which men of corrupt minds frequently urge against yielding obedience to the just and holy commands of God.”

Samuel Rutherford
Verily, we know not what an evil it is to indulge ourselves, and to make an idol of our will.

Numbers 32:23
But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.

Let me say, we really don’t know how far ahead Jonah was thinking. Jonah got up when Jehovah had finished giving him instructions and:

·        He immediately decided to disobey them.

·        He Immediately traveled to Joppa and bought a ticket for Tarshis

·        He Immediately boarded the ship

·        He Immediately went down into the deepest hold & went to sleep

[At this point, I think we have to ask ourselves a few questions – like:]

·        What was he going to do next?

·        Was he going to take up residence in Tarshish?

·        Was he going to be in permanent exile from his own home land?

·        Did he think Jehovah was going to simply forget him, and say, sera, sera, Jonah’s the one got that got away?

·        Did Jonah think he could hide his sin from God?

Today’s paragraph reveals five (5) details about this determined search. They are the inspiration, the identification, the interrogation, the indemnification and the information. 

[So, let’s begin with the first detail of this determined search which is…]

                   1C     The Inspiration (vs. 7a)

And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us’…”

Keep in mind the storm is raging against this ship. It was having some devastating effects on the ship. Remember, the ship had determined or decided to break up or break part.

The sailors knew they had to do something. They reasoned if we can find the guilty party, the one who has angered the gods and punish him, maybe the gods will relent and we won’t sink.

Now remember, the sailors have already prayed to their gods and that didn’t work. It would be no surprise if they began to think that just maybe their gods want them to hand over the one who had offended them to their gods.

The sailors did not receive any answer or direction during their emergency prayer meeting so they had a quick “business meeting.”

They believed that some type or kind of “supernatural” force was behind this unusual storm. They wanted to find out what the reason was or who was responsible for this storm being inflicted on them.

It seems that Jonah must have gotten up when the captain discovered him and had come up on deck and was huddled together with the sailors. We don’t know if he joined in their pagan prayer meeting or not.

But what we see next is that someone had a flash of inspiration

They decide to cast lots.

What is casting lots?

Casting lots was a popular and frequently used method in the ancient near east. The most common word that was used for “lots” is the word pebble or stones.

These pebbles or stones were painted or colored in some way. It seems that the stones were either hand thrown or poured out of a cup-like container.

Now Smith and Page in their commentary comment about the process of casting lots. They noted that if two dark colored sides of the pebbles or stones land up – the interpretation was “no.”

If two light colored or painted sides of the pebble or stone was turned up – the interpretation was “yes.”

They also said that if a dark and a white colored pebble or stone came up, the stones or lots had to be thrown again.

[I think we need to stop here for a moment and we need to note some things:]

          [First of all…]

·        The casting of lots was not forbidden in the Scriptures (Prov. 16:33; John 7:4, 15:1; 1 Sam 14:36-45; Acts 1:26).


·        There are a number of examples and illustrations in the OT where at various times the will of God was determined by the casting of lots.

[Then, thirdly…]

·        Pagans, or non-believers practiced casting lots

[Does the bible have anything to say about casting lots?]

The practice of casting lots is mentioned seventy (70) times in the Old Testament and seven (7) times in the New Testament.

In spite of the many references to casting lots in the Old Testament, there is not a lot known about the actual lots themselves.

They could have been sticks of various lengths, flat stones like coins, or some kind of dice; but their exact nature is unknown. The closest modern practice to casting lots is likely flipping a coin.

The practice of casting lots occurs most often in connection with the division of the land under Joshua (Joshua chapters 14-21), a procedure that God instructed the Israelites on several times in the book of Numbers (Numbers 26:5533:5434:1336:2).

The practice of casting lots was used in discovering Achan and his sin in Joshua 7:14-18

The practice was used for selecting Saul to be King of Israel 1 Sam 10:2-22)

God allowed the Israelites to cast lots in order to determine His will for a given situation (Joshua 18:6-101 Chronicles 24:5, 31).

Various offices and functions in the temple were also determined by lot (1 Chronicles 24:53125:8-926:13-14).

The eleven apostles cast lots to determine who would replace Judas (Acts 1:26).
Casting lots eventually became a game people played and made wagers on. We see this when the Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments (Matthew 27:35).

[The fourth thing to take note of and this is very important…]

·        The lots were governed or controlled by God:

Proverbs 16:33
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

[It is very important to keep in mind that…]

The New Testament nowhere instructs Christians to use a method similar to casting lots to help with decision-making. Now that we have the completed Word of God, as well as the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us, there is no reason to be using games of chance to make decisions.

The Word, the Spirit, and prayer are sufficient for discerning God’s will today—not casting lots, rolling dice, or flipping a coin. Romans 12:-2

So, one by one, someone, probably the ship’s captain took the lots and threw them or poured them out at each member of the crew. The drama must have been intense! Not to mention the suspense for Jonah. What was he thinking as the captain finally moved in front of him to throw or cast the lots?

Think about this situation for a minute. We don’t know how many crew members were on board. What could Jonah possible be thinking? Did Jonah think that the lots would not point to him as the guilty culprit? Did he have a plan?

Finally, it was his turn. All eyes of the crew were on him. So we move from the inspiration to the second detail of this determined search, which is…

 2C     The Identification (vs. 7b)

                             “So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.”

Now everyone on board knew that Jonah was the guilty party responsible for this severe storm. He tried to go down into the deepest part of the ship and hide away.

Nothing is hid from the presence of God. Proverb 15:3 proclaims, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.

Let me tell you, it is not true what Las Vegas advertises. They “promise” you that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Well, not true. The sin you commit in Vegas, or Vancouver is known to God. God will use the most unusual ways of bringing sin to light.

[Listen to what Jerome, an early church Father had to say…]

“The fugitive is taken by lot, not from any virtue in lots themselves, but by the will of Him who governs uncertain lots.”

(Cited in Vol. 10 of Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT.)

[Jonah has now been found out. We see then in verse eight (8) the third detail of this determined search and that is…] 

                   3C     The Interrogation (vs. 8)

                             “Then they said to him, ‘Please tell us...”

Tell us what? The sailors had a truckload of questions for him. These questions may have been based on their paganistic and polytheistic background.

Remember, the pagan gods were amoral. So for all the sailors knew the gods could be angry with Jonah as a person, with Jonah’s behavior, or possible a specific insult or slight against one of the sailors gods.

So, they wanted to know if Jonah was guilty and if he deserved punishment, what they might need to do to appease their gods, or would it be worth it to take a risk and attempt to save Jonah.

Jonah has been singled out and know the sailors call on him to:

§  Confess his guilt
§  Identify the country he is from
§  What his occupation was
§  Who was his parents

The wanted to him hear him confess his guilt from his own mouth

They asked about his occupation to determine if it was a dishonest or illegal occupation, one held in disrepute.

They wanted to know if he came from a line of evil or criminal type family.

The sailors wanted to know if his family had offended the gods or deserved to be punished, if his country had offended the gods or needed to be punished, or if his job offended the gods and called for Jonah to be punished.

Thus far we have seen the flash of brilliance or inspiration as the sailors cast lots to discover the source of their trouble and we have seen the identification of Jonah as the guilty culprit by the casting of lots.

We have seen the intense interrogation by the sailors. This leads us then to the fourth detail of this determined search which is…

                   4C     The Indemnification (vs. 9)

“So he said to them, ‘I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Jehovah, the God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.’”

Jonah need to preserve himself, or indemnify himself against a penalty or any harm that might come to him.

So he identifies himself as a Hebrew. This is the name that the Gentiles knew and referred to for the Jews.

The Jew was an Israelite in Israel but was known as a Hebrew among strangers, particularly Gentiles.

Jonah also stated that he was a God-fearer, he fear Jehovah.

He also put forth the sovereignty of God when he spoke of the fact that he feared the God who created heaven and earth, more specifically the sea and the dry land.

This answer, which we will see in a minute caused great fear in the sailors. They now knew that Jonah was running away from and had disobeyed the “God” who created the world.

These sailors were probably Phoenician and they would be worshippers of Baal Shamen who was the “lord of heaven, or the sky.” But when Jonah mentioned he feared, or worshipped and served Jehovah, the God who created heaven and earth they knew, no pun intended, that Jonah’s God trumped their god.

We cannot be certain here, but Jonah answered honestly and maybe with the hopes of being indemnified or preserved from harsh treatment by the sailors.

[Finally we see a fifth detail of this determined search, and that is…]

                   5C     The Information (vs. 10)

“Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, ‘Why have you done this?’ For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.”

They were terrified. Why, why did you disobey God? This actually is not a question, even though your translation might have punctuated this exclamation with a question mark. This is actually a declarative statement of horror.

They were now aware that Jonah had disobeyed and therefore angered the God who created the very storm that was tearing apart their ship putting them in grave danger. Jonah the text says had confessed his sin.

They knew he deserved whatever punishment and fate that this creator God determined to dish out to Jonah. They were afraid that his punishment, which seemed to be drowning at sea would also include them and that they would drown right alongside of Jonah.

They were now convinced, albeit a bit hysterically convinced that this devastating storm was divine punishment on a sinner.

L. C. Allen
“The seamen not only were horrified that their ‘numinous’ dread had been confirmed (that this was a divinely initiated judgment), but they were now filled with ‘holy fear’ by Jonah’s admission that he served a god who controls everything.” [1]

Smith & Page
“To know that Jonah was a Hebrew was one thing: to know that he worshipped the supreme God was another. To run away from a god was foolish; but to run from ‘the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land’ was suicidal…they were frightened to the depths of their beings.” [2]

The information that these sailors received frightened them to the very depth of their souls. They probably thought that they were doomed just like Jonah was doomed.

[What do you say we wrap this up?]


Allow me to conclude with a brief summary of our text:

We have spent some time looking at five (5) details describing this determined search by the sailors. They had a brilliant inspiration – let’s cast lots; the lots were cast and they made an identification – Jonah was the guilty culprit; when they discovered who was responsible they conducted an intense interrogation to discover why Jonah was guilty, which caused Jonah to seek some preservation through the hopes of indemnification by admitting his guilt and that he was a worshipper and servant of the God who created heaven and earth, which culminated in the information that terrified these seasoned veteran sailors to the core.


I have explained the text to you by digging into the original meaning and intent of the author. So, how do we bridge the intent of Jonah which was intended for his Jewish readers in the mid-700 BC?

What is the application for us today?

What do you need to know?

First, you need to know that you cannot hide your sin. You can never for a moment think that God does not see your sin or that He does not take note of it. God will expose your sin and He will extract a confession.

Psalms 69:5 – “…and my sins are not hidden from you…”

Isaiah 59:2 – “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear”

Why do you need to know this?

Second, the reason that is so important is that God chastens or disciplines His children through various and everyday experiences. You might not ever be caught in a violent or devastating storm. God uses any number of things to get your attention and to secure your confession of sin.

Hebrews 12:4-12 - “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.”

Proverbs 3:12 – “For whom the LORD loves, he corrects…”

What do you need to do?

Third, you must be sensitive to the HS in order to sense His work of conviction in your life so that you respond to His prompting to confess your sin.

Acts 2:37 says in part, “…that when they heard this, they were “cut to the heart”.

Psalms 32:3 – “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.”

Why do you need to do this?

Finally, confessing your sin will stay the chastening hand of God and restore your intimate fellowship with Him.

When you have confessed your sins, He forgives you at that moment and you stand in His presence as though you had never sinned. It is not necessary to keep confessing those same sins over and over again, for this builds weakness, doubt, and sin consciousness into the spirit. If you confessed it once, He forgave you and He forgot it. He has no memory of it.

 “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

 And in Jeremiah 31:34 we read, “… For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Let’s pray! J

[1] L. C. Allen, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976) p. 210
[2] Billy K. Smith, Frank S. Page, An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture: Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Vol. 19, The New American Commentary, (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1995). P.235



nashvillecats2 said...

Thanks for an excellent read Gregg.


Paul G said...

Hi Gregg, do you think hat the God of the New Testament is a different God than the God of the Old Testament ?

Gregg Metcalf said...

@ Paul - not in the slightest form or manner.

Paul G said...

So then, do you believe that the God of all creation is the Lord Jesus Christ?
I mean, that Jesus Christ alone is the God of all creation ?

Gregg Metcalf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gregg Metcalf said...

First, I have stated that I have seen your website. Second, I will not enter a debate with someone who denies the Trinity. Thirdly, God created all that was created through the Lord Jesus Christ, Colossians 1:16. All three members of the Godhead participated in creation.

Interesting enough, in devotion this morning I read Ephesians 3:9, which in part reads, "...which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ..."

Paul G said...

Hm, all three members.
I thought that God is one.