While the storm rages in a mighty display of God’s power, Jonah hides away down inside the ship, indifferent to the peril of the sailors above. While the sailors futilely cry out to their gods to save them from imminent death with no power to save themselves, Jonah is the only one whose God has the power to calm the stormy sea, yet Jonah is asleep and inattentive to the wellbeing of his fellow man. In Jonah’s sin, he is fleeing from God’s presence and going down, down, down toward death, and now the captain finds Jonah in a sleep so deep that the Hebrew word used here often indicates that someone has died. To turn away from God’s presence could mean death not only for Jonah, but for those around him who are so desperately grappling for life.Joanna Kimbrel, “A Stormy Intervention,” Mercy in the Storm: a study on the book of Jonah (underlining added)
Jonah slept during a storm, while everyone else was panicking and crying out and “desperately grappling for life.”
How could he sleep when the ship was tossing, waves were crashing, thunder was rolling, lightning was flashing, timbers were creaking and groaning, people were shouting and perhaps screaming? How could he sleep in all the noise and motion?
How could he sleep while he was running away from God, disobeying His clear command? Was his conscience not bothering him; did he not realize he was oh so wrong?
How could he sleep when his life was in danger? How could he sleep when others’ lives were in danger? How could he sleep when others’ lives were in danger because of him/his sin?
“How could you?” I want to sputter. “Do you not care?!”
But words–words I wrote, no less–come back to me and check my judgment.
But let’s be brutally honest with ourselves: how many times have we been in his shoes?me, In Jonah’s Shoes
… How many times have we wished for God to rain down judgment on the terrible people, to stop the violence, to remove the agony, to return and make everything wonderful?
How many times have we looked at someone and wondered, “How in the world could he/she be forgiven?” How many times have we said, “It’s not fair, God! They don’t deserve this!”…? How many times have we not been excited to hear someone got saved?
Or how many times have we not cared? How many times have we been more worried/upset/sympathetic about material/temporary things than we are about a living person, an eternal soul? …
How many times have we slept during a storm, while everyone else was panicking and crying out and “desperately grappling for life”?
How many times have we ignored all the noise and motion, indifferent to others’ peril and fear?
How many times have we run, disobeyed, dismissed conscience pricks, not realized (or not wanted to admit) that we are oh so wrong?
How many times have we not known/cared that our lives are in danger or that others’ lives are in danger or that others’ lives are in danger because of us?
The words the ship captain spoke to Jonah speak to us too:
… What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, … that we perish not.Jonah 1:6 (KJV)
“What are you doing? How can you be sleeping? Arise, get up, take action! Do something, so that perchance we’ll be saved and won’t perish!”
There was once a sermon preached at my church that talked about Eutychus, the young man that fell asleep and fell out of the window while Paul was preaching (Acts 20:9-12). The preacher shared several good thoughts, but (for now) I’ll share just one of them. He said that it took the power of God to raise Eutychus from the dead, and it takes the power of God to raise sleepers.
The captain tells Jonah to arise, the very same thing God told him in Jonah 1:2.
And I can’t help but think that God was speaking through the captain. That His power was working through this pagan in order to wake the sleeping prophet.
Arise. Pay attention. Care. Take action. Hear the voice of God speaking to you, even through unexpected sources.
Wake up, sleeper.