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Jonah 1:9-10 Number 6

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THE FIRST COMMISSION OF JONAH

JONAH 1:9 - 10 Number 6

INTRODUCTION

We have been looking at Jonah Chapter 1. We have seen how the servant of the Lord and the prophet of Israel, Jonah, was in trouble with God because he tried to flee from the presence of Yahweh and disobey His clear, sovereign command.
And the result was God decided to discipline His servant whom He loved. His discipline is graciously given that Jonah might come back to being faithful to the Lord.
And we have seen that the Lord’s discipline consisted in two things in Chapter 1 thus far:
1. God sent a great storm directed at the ship on which Jonah was a passenger. You can read about that in verse 4; AND
2. I put it to you that the discipline was not just the storm; it was also the words that were uttered to Jonah by those on board the ship: the captain and the sailors.
1. What does the captain of the ship say to Jonah?
Look at verse 6:
The Captain rebukes Jonah: “How is it that you are sleeping?” What on earth are you doing?
Here they are in the trial of their lives:
- The wind is hurled at them
- The sea is tumultuous
- The ship is about to break up.
- But God’s servant and prophet is asleep in the bottom of the ship!
The captain couldn’t believe it! And so he rebukes him for sleeping!
But the Captain not only rebukes Jonah, but he issues an exhortation to him also in verse 6:
“Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.”
Here is a man who does not know God; he believes in many gods, but he assumes that Jonah has a God and that He just may be able to save them.
And we examined how all mankind has a revelation of God through what God has made; through creation, and by being made in His image – natural religion, if you like.
That revelation is enough to leave us all without excuse before God’s judgment throne if we do not bow the knee to Him.
But general revelation is insufficient to tell us how to relate to God or know Him intimately:
- For that we need the truth of the Scripture. We need special revelation.
- In particular, we need Christ.
- He is the only way to the Father.
- His sacrifice alone appeases God’s wrath against our sin and brings peace.
- How ironic and sad: the captain was looking for salvation, but he did not know it because Jonah was too busy sleeping!
Well, if that is how the captain confronts Jonah ….
2. How do the sailors confront and deal with Jonah?
The sailor’s confrontation, you will remember, consists of two parts:
a) First, they decide to cast lots in verse 7; and then
b) They conduct an interrogation of Jonah.
We saw that there is no such thing as luck or chance in God’s economy. The way the lot falls depends entirely on God.
Proverbs 16:33 sets out for us the key principle:
“The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.”
And so, God uses the pagan sailor’s lot to point His sovereign finger at Jonah, and say: “Thou art the man!”
And that is when the inquisition started.
Do you remember Verse 8?
“Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
God is putting the thumb screws on Jonah to bring him to repentance:
- First the storm
- Then the captain’s rebuke and exhortation
- Then the lot falling to him
- And then the inquisition.
And last time we compared the inquisition found here made by pagan sailors, with the inquisition by Joshua, God’s servant, in Joshua Chapter 7.
Both inquisitions began with the drawing of lots to find the offender, but both end up taking a completely different directions:
- Joshua, as a man of God, focused on the glory of God and in helping Achan deal with his guilt.
But compare that to the sailor’s inquisition: The sailors were ONLY interested in the brute facts and had no interest whatsoever in Jonah’s guilt.
- Their manner is full of alarm and fear.
- There is great haste…
- They are irrepressible and excited.
- Full of curiosity
- Question after question pours forth from their lips before there is even time to answer.
And we saw that the content of their questions showed no concern whatsoever about the morality of Jonah or his guilt before the Lord; just what he had done.
My friends, I put it to you, that there is a huge difference between the admission of the mere fact of sin (which we should be open and honest about), and an acknowledgement of the guilt of sin which stands before holy God.
And the amazing thing about God and His grace is this:
- I can sin against God.
- I can do what is evil in His sight.
- I might be liable to die for what I’ve done as Achan and Jonah were.
- But even in our sins there is a way to give glory to God by dealing with guilt His way, by the way of the cross of His dear Son, who has paid the penalty for sin removing our guilt forever!
Well today we want to focus on Jonah’s answer to the inquisition he was subjected to.
How did Jonah answer?
He simply says in Jonah 1:9:
“I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
He too focuses on the Lord and only briefly mentions the fact that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord in verse 10.
- He didn’t try to cover up the facts.
- Nor did he distort the facts and put a spin on them.
- He admits them briefly, and fully and without reserve.
- But he focused on the God!
And I want to suggest to you, that this is the beginning of Jonah’s repentance:
- It starts with telling the whole truth about what has happened.
- AND then he focuses on the God he has offended.
- Who He is and why we have fallen short of His glory.
- Here we have, dear friends, a confession of faith in the face of sin – and that is the start of true repentance.
Every single one of us daily sin against the God we love and who has saved us. There are no exceptions! And so, this is highly relevant to us.
- We need to note what Jonah confesses in his words of repentance here.
- For surely God’s grace is evident in what he says to the sailors, is it not?
- And that grace needs to be evident in our prayers of repentance also.
And what I hope to show you this morning is that when you start to confess your sin to the Lord, often it takes you on a path that deepens your understanding of sin and elevates your heart towards the God we have sinned against.
- At the start, you only think of the facts of what you have done (e.g. the lie, the anger, the lust, the adultery, the lack of love; unforgiveness).
- And often we are even slow to admit the full extent of the facts: we minimize; we rationalize; we blame shift and excuse ourselves, do we not?
- It is easy for us to confess our sins just with our heads but have our hearts a long way from full repentance.
- But as you confess those sins, and you face the God you have offended, you come to see that there are some serious factors that actually aggravate the sin you started out confessing.
- And when you feel your guilt increase, you are thrust on the mercy and grace of God all the more!
That’s what happens to Jonah here.
His very words, aggravate just how serious his sin is in fleeing from the Lord and disobeying His clear command to go to Nineveh.
So what are the elements that deepen repentance bought out by these words in verses 9 and 10?
Three things begin to emerge in our thinking as we confess our sin. Gradually it dawns on us:
1. We sinned against the knowledge of who God is, as revealed in creation and in His Word.
2. We have sinned against our experience of who God has been to us personally.
3. We have sinned by not considering what we mean to God.
All three appear in the confession of Jonah, (have a look at verse 9 in particular):
1. He has sinned against his knowledge of who God is in Himself: Jonah has sinned against “the God of heaven, who has made the sea and the dry land”.
2. He has sinned against his experienceof who God has been to him: Jonah confesses that he has sinned because he says, “I am a Hebrew”. I have experienced His calling and have been placed in a special covenant relationship with Him.
3. But most amazingly he says he has sinned by considering what he means to God. Because he is a Hebrew, it means I’m special and treasured by Him. And therefore, I fear the God of heaven! My life and relationship are in His hand.
And the point is - these three things should have restrained Jonah from sin.
And so we are going to look at each of them briefly in the hope it will restrain us from sin and might deepen our repentance when we do fall into sin.
1. We need to look all around us and take in our knowledge of God from what we see.
Who is this God we sin against? That is where our prayers of confession should start.
Start by looking up – and see the heavens:
- The sun and the moon
- The stary host in all its splendor and glory
- The incredible pictures beamed back to earth by the Hubble Telescope and more recently the Web Telescope.
- All of it created by the Lord as a witness to who God is.
Then look down – look at the earth:
- Its vastness
- Its variety
- Its complexity
- Its beauty
- Its grandeur
- All of it again created by the Lord as a witness to who He is.
The whole creation comes from His hand and is a perpetual witness to who He is in His being. As Romans 1:20 says so clearly,
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
If that is true, and it is, are you now prepared to disobey Him and try to flee from His presence?
- How insulting that is!
- Who do we think we are!
- How provoking to our Creator God – to think we can escape Him and not bow in homage before Him!
Jonah confesses in verse 9:
“I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”
- And yet, here is Jonah doing what Psalm 139 says not to do: he “takes the wings of the morning, and dwells in the remotest part of the sea” – trying to escape God’s presence.
- Escape the One who formed it all!
- Escape the One who sustains it all!
- Will not the Creator, see?
- How utterly foolish Jonah must have felt as he made this confession!
- “I have lapsed into such great sin that I have forgotten the Creator who made everything so wonderfully!”
- You see, his confession aggravates his sin!
When you or I sin, we would do well to look around us and see what a great God has been revealed in Creation. Remind yourself of who He is that we are worshipping today! In whose presence we sit.
Psalm 19, the first 6 verses, puts it this way:
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. 4 Their [a]sound has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, 5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. 6 Its rising is from [b]one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the [c]other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Psalm 8 speaks in similar terms in the first five verses:
1 O Lord, our Lord, (O Yahweh, our Adonai), How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have [a]displayed Your splendour above the heavens! When I [c]consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have [d]ordained; 4 What is man that You [e]take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? 5 Yet You have made him a little lower than [f]God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!
The moment we open our mouths and testify to the God “who made the heavens, the sea and the dry land”, the words of Jonah, we testify against ourselves for sinning against so great a God!
His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, is clearly seen, leaving you without excuse!
Apply:
My friend, if you are not a believer, do you not see how great God is in making all that He has made? Look around you! Look up!
None of this came about by chance! How is that possible?
Do you not fear being answerable to so greater God as this? To the Creator of all?
The sailors, on board with Jonah, certainly did. They started praying to their pagan gods; but pray they knew they must!
I urge you to look around you and consider all that has been made and then get on your knees and search for Him. He promises, if you do that, that you will surely find Him.
And brothers and sisters, who do love the Lord, when you are tempted to sin:
- To distrust the Lord…
- Or to disobey the Lord…
Do you keep in mind that you are sinning against the God who has left His testimony all around you?
Do you remember the glory of God that is written in everything?
Jonah’s confession does not lessen his guilt; it only aggravates it. He starts to look around and sees God’s signature in everything!
But there is more – don’t just look all around you, but…
2. Look beyond creation and see what God means to you personally!
What experience have you had of this great God personally?
Jonah confesses: “I am a Hebrew”.
There are only really two categories for all believers:
You are either a Hebrew with Jonah or a gentile brought near after the wall of partition has been removed by Jesus Christ.
That’s our status this morning if you are a believer.
If you are not a Hebrew with Jonah nor a Gentile bought near by Christ, then you have no relationship with the God who is all around you at all! You won’t know what I’m talking about!
If you are a Hebrew, as Jonah confesses, what advantage does he have before the Lord?
Paul was considering this in Romans 9. He longed, with a great longing, that his fellow Jews would come to Christ. And as he thinks about it, he thinks about all the advantages they have as Hebrews.
He says this in Rom 9:1-5
“For I could [a]wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is [b]the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed [c]forever. Amen.
When you confess, with Jonah, you are a Hebrew, you confess what God has done for you personally and experientially:
- He has adopted you.
- He has shown you, His glory.
- He has made a covenant with you.
- He given you, His law.
- He set up the temple ordinances, with all the promises of them pointing to Christ and His sacrifice.
- He promised you a Messiah! A Saviour!
- Simply put: He could do nothing more for you!
- He has given you everything!
- That is your experience of Yahweh!
But if you are believing Gentile, what has God done for you?
Have you not been adopted into Israel’s privileges; grafted into Israel’s olive tree?
There is no replacement theology here; there is fulfilment theology here!!!
God, by His Spirit, has changed your heart so that you see that all the privileges given to Israel are also meant for you!
You come to see that all the types and promises of the OT, and Israel’s example, are actually all fulfilled in Christ and are given to you as well.
Either way, whether a believing Jew or believing Gentile, how great are your advantages that have come to you! You are spiritual Hebrews!
Think of it all:
- The revelation of God in the Scriptures is unspeakably fuller and clearer than all that Creation reveals.
- The Word brings us, albeit in a mirror dimly, something of the full glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
- There He speaks of Himself and does so as a friend of sinners!
- There He tells us the principles by which He rules the world and saves the lost.
- There He reveals His Son, righteously condemning the guilty who refuse to repent, yet lovingly redeeming the repentant sinner at the price of His own life!
- There He tells you of your adoption as sons, made possible by the giving of His Son and the Holy Spirit.
- And this is not to mention the great inheritance He has in store for us in eternity as sons and daughters in His holy family!!!
Dear brother or sister, if you truly love Christ and believe the revelation of the Bible, you are a member of a favored nation, a holy people, a people for God’s own possession! He gives you it all by His grace!
- That is your experience of Him.
- It all belongs to you.
- They are yours by birthright!
- It is your inheritance by grace!
- Has not this Lord been very gracious to you and I, dear brothers and sisters?
The point is this, when you sin in the face of all this, your sin is greatly aggravated!
Jonah might be confessing coldly and formally, “I am a Hebrew”, but oh what weight of condemnation comes to you when you sin in the face of such an experience of Yahweh.
Oh brothers and sisters, how we need to humble ourselves before the Lord and work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that is at work within us to will and to do according to His own good pleasure.
Well, not only will our repentance become deeper as we:
- Look around at all He has made; for He has made the heavens and the dry land. They reveal His very Being to us, so as to leave us without excuse.
- But OUR experience of Him and His grace is in focus when we confess “I am a Hebrew”; part of His people saved by grace alone. That leaves me without excuse too, does it not?
But there is one more consideration; one more perspective that comes out in Jonah’s confession here – and for this you need to put yourselves in the shoes of the Lord Himself:
3. Place yourself besides God and look at what you mean to Him!
I have experienced His love to me, but does that not mean I am precious to Him? That’s the other side of the coin, is it not?
Is this not why Jonah says, “I fear the God of heaven”?
- I am one of His children.
- I am a worshipper of Yahweh.
- I am precious to Him and all I have, I have by His grace to me!
- He has predestined me and called me and saved me and sanctified me and will glorify me;
- He is conforming me into the image of His own beloved Son….
- and therefore I fear Him.
Doesn’t that thought stun you? He desires you and you are precious to Him!
As a member of God’s covenant community, you are the apple of His eye! Imagine that!
And 1 Cor 12:18, speaking of His church, says this:
“God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body just as HE desired.”
And Hebrews 11:16 concludes with this amazing truth:
“Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he has prepared a city for them.”
Even our death is precious to Him as Psa 116:15 says:
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.”
The truth is, dear friends, you are His beloved, even though He needs nothing from us except that we “Fear Him”.
He is God Almighty. He is eternal, He is self-sufficient, self-existent and needs nothing to complete His Being. Yet despite all that: He wants you to love Him, trust Him and fear Him. “We love Him because He first loved us.”
- His own Son saved you and is now being formed in you;
- His Holy Spirit has been sent and now dwells in you to conform you to the image of the Son;
- And He who began a new work within you will surely bring it to completion in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Surely that ought to restrain us from knowingly disobeying our Father’s will!
When the Lord actually “works in you to will and to do His good pleasure”, you have good reason “to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.
Jonah confesses: “I fear the God of heaven…” I know I am precious to Him; I know His eyes are upon me. I know this storm is about me because He cares for me!
Surely, this should touch and soften our hearts.
Surely it should humble us before Him.
When you or I sin against Him, all this should only fill us with shame and grief, because we have sinned despised His love to us because we are precious in His sight.
Can any of us willfully sin under such a deep apprehension of what we mean TO Him?
Will we shrug that off lightly?
Brothers and sisters, let these elements drive you away from sin and let them enter your prayers for repentance for sin.
Run to God, when you do sin, and confess: “I fear the God of heaven” – for there in heaven is the slain Lamb of God, after He had given Himself for sinners, now ever living to intercede for us!
Flee to Him with the words of Psalm 32:1-5:
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!....
5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the [f]guilt of my sin. Selah.
That is what He will do for us, if we confess our sin fully to Him.
Well before we close, there are just three other short matters we should note from verse 10: 3 Rs.
1. The Response of the sailors: Verse 10 says the men became exceedingly afraid.
Earlier, in verse 5 we read this:
“5 Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god.”
In verse 5 they become afraid because of the raging storm: the wind and the waves. They knew it was personal and these professional sailors, who were not prone to being afraid, feared the power of nature.
But now something far worse has struck them.
They have suddenly become aware that this storm had not come about by mother nature or bad luck. This was not some freak of nature.
It had come about by the Creator. It was a deliberate act of discipline from an angry God dealing with His disobedient servant.
Now they were truly afraid, not at the storm, but at the power and righteousness of the One true God! A God they had never dealt with before!
And what we need to see is this: God was not only dealing with Jonah. He was dealing with these unbelieving men!
And when God does not excuse a prophet, my dear friends, how much more fearsome will He appear to those who love sin and live in it.
How much worse must be His vengeance on the unpardoned, unbelieving and ungodly people!
If judgement begins at the household of God, and the Scriptures says it does, what will be the end of those that do not embrace the gospel?
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God!
God was using Jonah’s discipline to turn the hearts of these men to Himself – that they may fear not just what He does, but who He is!
The sailor’s response is to become exceedingly fearful because they started to fear God Himself!
What’s the second R?
2. The sailors Rebuke of Jonah.
Verse 10 says:
Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “[e]How could you do this?”
This is the second time that Jonah has been rebuked by unbelievers.
Remember verse 6 – there it was the captain:
6 So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping?”
Now it happens again by the other men: “How could you do this?”
What a rebuke!
Could anything be more humiliating than that?
It is one thing to be obedient and to suffer for righteousness’ sake at the hands of unbelievers. It is altogether something else to suffer for our own deliberate sins!
Hugh Martin, in his commentary, invites us to put ourselves in the shoes of Jonah and put the question to ourselves: How could you do this?
- Did your God provoke you to flee from Himself?
- Did He deal with you so harshly and unkindly that you had no choice but to run?
- Were you tied of your God?
- Did you find Him not worthy of your trust and obedience?
- Did He demand your self-denying labour but gave you no encouragement and no support?
- Is this the character of your God?
- How could you do this!!!!
Clearly the answer, my dear friends, is that the Lord is at absolutely no fault for what is happened.
And the same is true of us when we sin. We need to stop and ask ourselves: Why are we so sinning?
- Have you forsaken your first love?
- Have you found a better Friend than Jesus?
- Have you found God to be unfaithful to His promises?
- Have you discovered that he discourages you and doesn’t help you?
My friends, there is no greater Friend of sinners than Jesus Christ and our sin cannot be traced to any unfaithfulness in God!
Surely the opposite is true.
The more you come to know your Lord, the less cause you have to be displeased with Him!
Jonah gets rebuked: How can you do this?
Well there is one more “R” to observe before we close – the response and the rebuke -and:
3. The Result: The storm did not abate.
Despite the honesty of Jonah’s confession; despite the depth of his repentance, nothing removes the Lord’s anger. The sea becomes rougher and rougher.
- Jonah’s detection by the drawing of lots, was not enough.
- His humiliation in being confronted by a pagan Captain and then the other men on board the ship, was not enough.
- His full and frank confession did not bring peace on the wind and the waves.
- For all this the Lord’s hand is still outstretched!
And the important inference to draw from this is this:
It is not YOUR act of repentance which pacifies God’s anger and satisfies His justice!
YOU, in and of yourself, can never purchase His pardon by the price of your repentance. That is NOT the ground of forgiveness.
Your good works are never good enough, even if it is a genuine confession.
Oh yes, it is true, that without repentance the Lord will NOT forgive you. You cannot cling to your sin and hope to be reconciled to Him.
As the Scriptures say:
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
Yet, repentance itself is NOT the ground that the Lord blots out your sins, is it?
The only ground, my dear friends, is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who has paid the price of sin.
- Only by His death, is God’s anger appeased and justice satisfied!
- Only by His act of redemption and mighty propitiation, is our forgiveness secured.
And you might ask:
Why does God allow Jonah’s affliction to continue then?
Why does He continue to discipline him?
Well, I think the answer from my own experience is simply this:
- Sometimes He does this to deepen repentance so that we do not take sin so lightly.
- Sometimes He allows it to continue so that we fear future sin - to prevent it happening again.
- But in every case, He does it to drive us to Christ - to have Him deal with your sin and remove your guilt and make you a godly person!

Conclusion

Well, I hope this morning, you feel the greatest of God’s love towards you:
1. Look around you at His creation. It speaks ever so loudly of His very person. The greatness of His being!
2. Look up above the heavens and see what God has meant to you – he has made you a Hebrew by spiritual birth. Ingrafted into Israel!
3. Look from God’s perspective and see what you mean to Him. He has set His love on you, and you are precious in His sight - hence you fear Him.
When Jonah confessed, as he did in verse 9 and 10, his sin was greatly aggravated. He had sinned despite all that evidence of God’s love to Him.
No wonder the storm continued unabated!
God says this in Hosea 5:15, speaking of Himself:
“I will go and return to My place, until they acknowledge their offence and seek My face: in their affliction they will seek me early.”
May it be that God does not need to prolong His affliction of us, before we seek Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. PRAY
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