The Mercy of the Lord | Part 4: Reading the Circumstances

When you think about the absurdity of what Jonah sought to accomplish and how it all initially actually started to come together, Jonah was likely tempted to believe that God was actually all for his fleeing. 

It wasn’t the time of year to begin sailing long distances on the Mediterranean Sea, but here’s a ship ready to sail.

Ships to Tarshish from this area were extremely rare given its distance, but here’s one waiting.

Ships with open cabins/space for last-minute passengers? Even more rare.

In other words, things seemed to be just right for Jonah. Sometimes when everything is going just right, we conclude that God’s hand must be in it. But that may not be the case at all, and it is certainly not the case when we’ve heard Him speak one thing and we do another.

We need something more concrete than circumstances. We need the word of God. We need to beware of reading providential circumstances in a way that contradicts the explicit commands 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. (Jonah 1:4)

I love the verb “hurl.” It emphasizes God’s control and intentionality in pinpointing this wind directly on the ship in which Jonah sailed. 

God truly is merciful. He has more ways of catching up to us than we have of running away from Him.

5 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. 6 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.” 7 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. 8 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?” 9 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.” 10 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. 11 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. 12 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.” (Jonah 1:5-12)

There’s a ton we could talk about here, but I’d like to hone in on v. 12. What a difficult thing to admit. He is to blame for their calamity. Now he must bear the judgment of God for his own sin that they may be spared in their innocence.  

13 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. 14 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.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. (Jonah 1:13-16)

Well, we’ve seen two things already: beware of reading the circumstances when running from God, and the liberating power of confession.

But there is more, and it’s related to verse 12.

Jonah was guilty and reluctantly bore Gods judgment to liberate men who were innocent. That satisfied God’s wrath temporarily and only for a few.

We need a new and better Jonah to come, and He did. Jesus came.

Jesus was innocent and willingly bore God’s judgment to liberate we who are guilty.


Rob Tims

Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.