The Bible is replete with examples of foreigners, aliens, and strangers to the one true God of Israel who some how manage to understand what it means to be in the presence of God. Jonah is no exception. As we read through the book of Jonah a stark contrast is drawn between the spirituality of the sailors and the Ninevites and the spirituality of Jonah.
In 1:4, God hurls a fierce storm upon the ship and everyone but Jonah begins crying out to their gods. In fact, the only one who does not pray is Jonah. It is interesting that the one who declares, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land” (1:9), is the only one who does not worship this God when all is said and done.
The sailors throw Jonah overboard, only after trying to find a way out that did not involve possibly angering another deity. With Jonah sinking down, down, down, the storm ceases and the sailors are amazed and, “they were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.” (1:17)
Is there a lesson for us in this story?
Do we, like Jonah, “know” God but fail to live in his presence in the posture of prayer and worship? Do we take for granted that the LORD, “the one who made the sea and the land,” is worthy of our worship? How slow we are to worship the one true God. Every time I hear a Muslim call to prayer (5 times a day), every time I see two Mormon missionaries out on the streets, and every time I open the door to a Jehovah’s Witness I am reminded about how little we American Christians invest the worship and service of God. These outsiders are giving much to the work of prayer, worship and mission and they are not even worshiping the true God. We who “know” the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are often guilty of the sin of Jonah – going down below and falling asleep.
Lord have mercy.