The seas were churning and the wind was howling and it didn't look good for this ship headed to Tarshish. The crew out of desperation calls for a throwing of the dice to determine who is responsible for this terrible predicament. And the winner is...
My imagination sees a group of very scared, very angry, very desperate men surrounding Jonah, maybe even grabbing him by the lapels, giving him a good shake, yelling over the roar of the storm,
"Who are you!?"
"Where do you come from!?"
"What have you got to do with this mess!?"
"Tell us, NOW!!!!"
Jonah's response to their demands puzzles me.
"I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of Heaven who made the sea and the dry land."
This from the guy who responded to God's call to go to Ninevah by running the other direction as far and as fast as he could? Seems a contradiction to stand up and be identified with the Creator of the sea they were sailing and to say he feared this One. The words just don't jive with the actions, do they?
I came to two different conclusions as I thought on what was going on here.
Option 1--How easy it is to say one thing and do another. Jonah called himself a Hebrew, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A member of God's chosen race. An Israelite. He said he feared God. He reverenced Him. He trusted Him. So why was he on the ship bound for Tarshish, in direct disobedience to God's call? Did he not see that his relationship with the Lord God of heaven would be affected by his disobedience? Disobedience can't sever a relationship with God, but it does create a barrier.
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.
It is so easy for the words to roll off my lips, too, sometimes.
"I'm a Christian."
"I'm a child of God."
"I love God."
"I believe the Bible is God's Word."
God wants those statements to match up with my actions.
Option 2--Maybe Jonah meant what he said with his whole heart. Maybe Jonah had a change of heart once he boarded that ship to Tarshish. Maybe it dawned on him after his rash decision to run that he had made a grave error. He had already admitted to the crew earlier in the voyage that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord. He had confessed his motives for booking passage to Spain. Declaring his allegiance to God could have been his way of saying
"He is God, I am not, I blew it."
Was this Jonah's way of waving the white flag? Of admitting his disobedience? Of surrendering himself to whatever God was going to do to him now?
I see a defeated man, resigned to the worst that he could imagine. Maybe there is even a hint of humility in his statement. I don't think I have ever considered Jonah to be humble. Running from God seems more like arrogance. I'm getting a new perspective on this man reading through his "book" this time around. I admire his willingness to "own up" to his disobedience.
The winds may still be blowing the ship toward Tarshish but Jonah is taking the first steps toward turning back to God.