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Storm, Sailors, and a Sovereign God

Jonah: The Relentless Pursuit of a Merciful God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God will move heaven and earth to reach you.

Notes & Transcripts

Introduction: The Storm, Sailors, and a Sovereign God

ILLUST - “Open Water” movie.
Story about a couple who go scuba diving with a tourist dive group. Shortly after the movie begins, they come up from their dive only to find the boat gone. The captain had miscounted his passengers and had stranded the couple in the open ocean far from land. The rest of the movie is about the couple floating and bobbing in the ocean alone - except for the occasional shark.
ILLUST - “Perfect Storm” Movie.
Story about a fishing crew in Mass. who head out for one last fishing expedition. While things are going well, they begin to head back to shore and are confronted with two large weather fronts and a hurricane. Suddenly, they are caught in a huge storm and monster waves.
We can all identify with storms in our lives. Some come out of nowhere. Some leave us feeling stranded. Some of them feel like the “Perfect Storm.”
What we will see today is that even though storms come for many reasons and in many forms, the end result should be the same - worship. God can use storms to get your attention.
Because God can move heaven and earth to reach you. (For some that is very comforting; For some, like Jonah that may be scary.) But God does this - he moves heaven and earth to reach us in order to move us from fear to worship.
We are going to see God at work - actually using the same storm to move two very different types of people toward himself, and we are going to follow them both.

In contrast to the disobedient prophet, the wind, the sea, and even the ship were tuned in to the Lord’s purposes

Storm (4-6)

Jonah 1:4–6 ESV
But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”
Jonah 1:1–6 ESV
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

Sometimes storms come when we least expect and for reasons we do not understand. (Sailors)

Put yourself in the sailor’s shoes.
They are doing their job and God “hurls” a great wind on the sea - so bad the ship was about to break up
no Coast Guard
If you see flight stewardess scared of turbulence - it’s bad - it must have been a bad storm if the experienced sailors are afraid.
Sailors tried to save themselves through:
religion - “each cried out to his god.”
In ANE, there was an unerstanding that people had national gods, family gods, and personal gods.
works - “And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them.”
Here’s the point: the sailors got to the place where they had nothing left - they were out of options in the storm.
For God to reach us we need to realize that religion won’t save and our good works won’t save us. _THIS IS THE STORY OF THE GOSPEL!
The story would have turned out very different if the sailors had off-loaded some cargo and been able to row back to shore.
Sometimes storms happen when we least expect and for reasons we don’t undstand so that we come to the end of ourselves - this is the place God shows up.
Jonah was asleep?
tired from journey and / or stress of running from God
Jonah was unaware of the consequences of his running from God.
Sometimes we feel that we can try everything in our own power to steer through the storm on our own, and we come to the point of almost breaking. That is exactly what God wants - to have us release all from our hands so we can cling to him.
ILLUST - Brad taking me rock climbing - letting me drop while he was belaying me in order to teach me to trust him.

Sometimes storms are God’s way of correcting us back to faith and mission. (Jonah)

Notice what the captain says to Jonah - “Arise, call. . . “
These were the very words God gave to Jonah for his mission.
For Jonah, this storm was not meant as simply an act of punishment but as a correction for Jonah to get back to faith and mission. (This will be shown more later)
Hebrews 12:4–6 ESV
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Hebrews 12:4–12 ESV
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,
Heb 12:4-
The point of discipline is correction - it is a loving and helpful thing to discipline when the One disciplining is loving.
ILLUST - Dog underground fence - Gracie yelped once as she tried to pass through but didn’t do it again. I did it because I love her and don’t want her hit by a car.
Can we stop to think that the storms in our lives may just be God disciplining us? The answer is not to wallow under it or shake our fist at God, but to repent and get back on mission.

Revelation (7-13)

Jonah 1:7–13 ESV
And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.
Psalm 95:5 ESV
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
God reveals himself to the sailors through Jonah.
Even through the casting of lots it’s as if God is forcing Jonah to witness about him.
The revelation of God is God’s main point. it’s also the author’s main point.
The center of the passage is the fact that Yahweh is the only God - the maker of heaven and earth.
The author wants us to know that all of this happened so that the sailors would know and that Jonah would be reminded that God is sovereign - He will move heaven and earth to reach us.
The immensity of the storm drives us to see the immensity of God.
God wants you to know him.
*It does not matter why you are going through the storm you may be going through - the end result is that God wants you to know him.

The truth of God requires a response. (Sailors)

Notice the sailors did not give excuses as to why Jonah’s God wasn’t the cause. They did not ignore Jonah.
They asked what they should do with the knowledge. - “Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?””
They now understood who God was and they wanted to know how to respond to him.
An encounter with God requires a response.
Psalm 95:3–8 ESV
For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
ps 95.3
Here is the scarier truth:

We can know truth about God and still be far from him. (Jonah)

Jonah knew the right words, yet he was far from God.
The irony is that the PAGAN sailors were more easily reached than the religious prophet.
James - “even the demons believe, and tremble”
James - “even the demons believe, and tremble”
Pharisees - Jesus called out their hypocrisy
Matthew 15:7–9 ESV
You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
The main difference between Jonah and the sailors is that the sailors’ hearts were open to who God is and what he was doing - Jonah’s heart was closed.
This should have given Jonah a hint that God would and wants to reach the Ninevites.
This calls us to check our hearts. Storms are the great revealers of our hearts. How do we respond? Is your heart open? Think about the last storm in your life - how did you respond?

Prayer

Prayer (14-15)

Jonah 1:14–15 ESV
Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.

Prayer confirms our heart’s intent. (Sailors)

the Sailors are no longer praying to their gods, they are praying to Yahweh.
They recognized God’s sovereignty and called upon God’s mercy.
This is the gospel!
Their actions confirm the sincerity of their prayers.

Lack of prayer confirms our heart’s intent. (Jonah)

Jonah doesn’t pray.
He is not ready / willing to give himself to God’s mercy.

There is extreme irony here: a “heathen sea captain” pleaded with a Hebrew prophet to pray to his God. It is sobering to see one who might be termed an “unbeliever” pleading for spiritual action on the part of a “believer.” The “unbeliever” saw the gravity of the situation while the prophet slept. It is a sad commentary when those who are committed to the truth of God’s word have to be prodded by a lost world into spiritual activity.

Ouch! But how much of the church today is like this? We are born into Christianity and quickly lulled into religiosity such that our reactions and responses to the storms around us are no different than the world around us.
Jonah should have been the first to his knees - the first to pray; instead, it takes the prodding of the pagan to get him to act like the ‘called of God’ that he was.
Maybe this is why - Jonah misunderstands God and his intentions. he believes the storm is sent to destroy him. He believes it is the relentless pursuit of a vengeful God.
He chooses to throw himself in the face of the angry storm rather than into the hands of a merciful God. He’d rather perish than pray.
This is confirmed (Jonah overboard was not repentance) because they try to row to shore (take Jonah bak to mission) and are thwarted because Jonah has not yet repented
Our own solutions to our rebellion rarely works - God wants repentance.
God does not want to force his will - he invites his presence.
*What is your response to a storm - pray or paddle?

Worship (16)

Jonah 1:16 ESV
Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
The pagan sailors begin to worship Yahweh. It would seem they made a serious decision - the sacrifice likely did not happen on the boat (they had already thrown the cargo overboard) (and vows needed to be made once they were on land) so they sailors had time between the storm and their acts of worship.
The stopping of the wind is one thing, the stilling of the seas is another (greater) miracle.’

Fear of the Lord replaces our fear of the storm. (Sailors)

God’s goal in the storm (for both the sailors and Jonah) is worship.
Fear (v4) is explained by Jonah’s fear (v9) of Yahweh, and later replaced by the fear (v16) and worship of God.
This story shows us that the pathway through the storm is the same whether we are the victim of the storm or the reason for it. Recognize God, Pray, Worship.

Refusal to worship has serious consequences. (Jonah)

Jonah still needs to learn his lesson.
GOD IS SOVEREIGN. We can save ourselves much heartache and difficulty if we would simply recongize this and worship.

Conclusion: Lessons from the Storm

What we learn from Jonah.

It’s possible to know about God and not be in right relationship with him.
Storms in our lives can be used to discipline us.

What we learn from the sailors.

God can reach anyone who is willing.
God alone is sovereign.
God can use storms to teach us about himself.
I know what you’re saying, “That all sounds great, Jason, but the sailors worshipped when the storm stopped. Mine is still rocking. And as a matter of fact, there are some people I would like to throw overboard and that might make my storm stop.”
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Jesus entered the storm to get us through the storm and he is with us in the storm.
ILLUST - “The Guardian” – the rescue swimmer entered into the storm to reach the person caught in the storm. He gave his life so the person could be saved and make it through the storm.
Jesus stilling the storm
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