At this, they picked up Jonah and cast him into the sea, and the raging sea grew calm.
I. THEY SHOWED AN ENLIGHTENED REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE. They might well have been excused if, in imminent danger of death through the guilty Jonah's presence in their ship, they had jumped at his proposal to throw him overboard. They knew, for he - an inspired prophet - had told them, that he had deserved it by his crime, and that to do so would calm the sea forthwith. Yet they make no movement in that direction, but redouble their efforts at the oar in their last desperate attempt to reach the land. This course was unlike a heathen crew. Heathenism has always been reckless about shedding blood. It is the Bible that teaches, and believers in it who recognize, the sacredness of human life. Its command, "Thou shalt not kill," is illustrated and enforced by its history and entire legislation. The murderer was to suffer death, though he should be dragged to it from the veiny horns of the altar (Numbers 35:31; 1 Kings 2:29). The very ox that took a human life must die, and might not be eaten (Exodus 21:28). Even the man who slew another by misadventure made his life forfeit to the avenger of blood if he were caught outside the city of refuge (Deuteronomy 19:5). Blood, in fact, according to Scripture, must have blood (Genesis 9:5, 6). There is no other satisfaction for it. The value of it cannot be expressed in any earthly currency. Even the whole world is no compensation for a lost life (Mark 8:36). Those principles find little place in the consciousness of heathendom. It is filled with "the habitations of cruelty." You will get no heathen nation in any age exhibiting either in private life or public an adequate sense of the inviolability of human life. It is evident that in the case before us the sailors have been impressed by the Divine portents on the occasion, and under their impulse act for a time on a higher than the heathen plane. Not in their heathenism, but in the theism it is for the time in contact with, must we look for the explanation of their humane and generous conduct. The knowledge of God is early and inevitably practical. By it "grace is multiplied" and the "pollutions of the world" escaped (2 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 2:20).
II. THEY RECOGNIZED THE BELIEVING LIFE AS SPECIALLY SACRED. It will be conceded that, other things being equal, the life of a believer is more important than that of an unbeliever. Not only has it elements and functions which are all its own, but these are intrinsically more excellent than any others. God treats it as precious in a peculiar sense (Psalm 72:14; Psalm 116:15), keeping count of the very hairs of his people's heads (Matthew 10:30), and using (1 Corinthians 3:21, 22; 2 Corinthians 4:15), and even sacrificing, the lives of the wicked for their preservation (Isaiah 43:4). He also safeguards it by a double rampart of threat and promise. The death or the hurt of the saints he will avenge with punishment worse than death (Luke 18:8; Matthew 18:7); whilst even a cup of water to the least of them shall meet with eternal recognition and reward (Matthew 10:42; Matthew 25:40). Of the inviolable sacredness of the saint's life the sailors had evidently an intuitive idea "Although himself accuse himself, and lay his fault plain before them, although winds and waves did confirm it, although the lot thrown did assure it, although in words he did desire to be cast into the water, yet those who should have done it do so ill like of the matter, that if sails or oars can serve they will back again to the land - rather leave their intended journey than use any violence towards him" (Abbot). It was not on the score of his humanity merely that Jonah was so tenderly dealt with. The hurricane, the power and wrath of God speaking in it, Jonah's revealed connection with both, his acknowledgment and denunciation of his fault, and the meek manhood of his offer to die that they might live, were all circumstances to awe and soften them. "Disobedient though he may be, Jonah they perceive is God's prophet, and his servant still. Revering his God, they respect him. They feel that it is a solemn thing to have to do with anything that this God marks as his own - marks as his own even by his displeasure. Hence they pause" (Martin). This is godliness in its normal operation, and realizing its "promise of the life that now is" by surrounding it with an invisible yet inviolable guard.
III. THEY SHAPED THEIR CONDUCT IN THE EMERGENCY AS FAR AS POSSIBLE BY GOD'S. "Thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee" (ver. 14). They would have spared the prophet's life had the thing been possible. It is only when Providence fights against them, and logically shuts them up to it, that they accept the inevitable, and throw him overboard. As their words imply, they "assume that to be righteous which God will have to be done; and because they see him will it, and that he will take no nay, therefore they know it is just, and accordingly yield unto it" (Abbot). The rule of right is God's will The expression of this in a particular case supersedes the general law. "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not steal" are canons in the universal moral code. Yet Abraham would have killed Isaac, and Samuel killed Agag, whilst Israel spoiled the Egyptians at the command of God. Then, from the general law forbidding homicide, was excepted the whole class of cases in which it was necessary for self-defence; and to take spoil in war, or as much food from a neighbour's field as would save the life, was excepted from the general law forbidding theft. On the same principle the execution of Jonah was legalized by the expressed will of God to that effect, and became to the sailors an act of simple duty. And their course was exemplary. Obedience to God is the highest morality. Whatever is done so is done well. It may seem anomalous and unfit. But that is only on the surface. Some of the finest passages in literature are least obviously conformable to grammatical rule. The conformity is there, and in the highest sense; it is only the tyro who cannot see it. So with actions done in the highest moral plane. The actor is too intent on doing what God says to look after the minor congruities. But the thing he does has an essential and fundamental rightness which lifts details into a new connection where they also become appropriate. "Whatsoever the Lord saith, that will we do." The men who accentuate the "whatsoever," and do it honestly, are seldom favourites with the crowd, but they have scaled the loftiest moral heights, where the voice of human opinion is neither listened for nor heard.
IV. THEY FOUND DELIVERANCE IN FOLLOWING GOD'S LEAD. (Ver. 15.) Attempts at escape in every other direction were made persistently, but all in vain. The ship lightening, the prayers to idols, the strenuous rowing, were so many exercises in the bootless task of fighting against God. Against the wind and tide of his purpose no human power can sail. "God was pursuing this matter to his own appointed issue, and would allow no effort, however well meant, to baffle his purpose" (Martin). This obvious fact the sailors are compelled at length to recognize. Reluctantly they give up their unavailing struggle, and take the course to which all along events had been conspiring to shut them up. And on the instant the face of affairs is changed. The elemental war is hushed in peace. The hurricane in which earth and heaven reeled becomes the calm as of a tropical night. The waters which had "gaped at their widest to glut him" swallow their prey, and forthwith cease their raging. How easy the end if we only take God's way! How swift the transition from impossibility to attainment! Yet it is just the transition from man's way to God's. Have we not all experiences on which by analogy the event may throw light? Aiming at a legitimate object, we adopt what seems to us a fitting course. But we never get on in it. Disappointment awaits us at every step. Disaster springs on us from every covert. It seems as if men and things were joined together in a universal conspiracy to baulk us. Discouraged at last, and bitter at heart, we take without definite intention or expectation a step in a new direction, and which circumstances seem to thrust upon us; and lo, before we are aware, and almost without an effort, our object is attained. God works, not against means but with them, not apart from means, but by them; yet everywhere and always he works his own will in his own way. As we recognize that way and take it, are we on the moral rectilineal - the shortest line between our present and God's future.
V. THEY ARE FINALLY WON TO GOD'S SERVICE BY THE EXHIBITION OF HIS CHARACTER. In the incidents of the day the sailors read a revelation of God. "The storm they clearly saw was in his hand; a reason for it, they saw, was in his heart. And that reason they saw as clearly as they saw the storm. His hand they saw was almighty. His heart they saw was righteous. They even became executioners of his wrath. It was a solemn initiation into the knowledge of his name" (Martin). And what but the revelation of God's character wins men to his service everywhere (Psalm 36:7; Revelation 15:4; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15)? Conversion has many elements leading up to and meeting in it. There is the truth, the instrument in all saving change. There is the Holy Spirit interpreting the truth and bringing it home. But there is something else to which both refer. The power of the truth, even as applied by the Holy Ghost, must lie in the subject matter of it, and that subject matter is God (John 5:39; Romans 1:16). God is the Infinite Beauty. God made manifest means men attracted, all minds dazzled, and all hearts won (Psalm 9:10). His Character commands confidence and challenges fealty. He is one whom to know is to trust, whom to see is to love and choose. It is on this fact that inspiration founds in a familiar maxim of the kingdom (John 17:3). Knowledge of God is salvation, forevery saving grace inheres in it or goes with it.
VI. THEIR RELIGIOUS LIFE GAVE EVIDENCE OF ITS GENUINENESS BY FOLLOWING SCRIPTURAL LINES. (Vers. 14-16.) Prayer, fear, sacrifice, and vows; - what essential element in religious life or worship do not these exercises cover (Acts 2:21; Hebrews 9:22; Psalm 3:10; Isaiah 44:5)? In prayer is the coming to God for the things that are his gift if they come at all. In sacrifice is the coming symbolically by atonement., the only coming to which blessing is promised. Fear epitomizes the attitude and line of action in which practical religion may be summed up. A vow is a testimony that the ideal life is consecration - a pledge that they will freely give who have received so freely. We wonder at the propriety and fitness of the sailors' entire action. They had no Bible. They learned nothing from the prophet. Yet they took a distinctly scriptural course. They rendered God service in God's appointed way. Does it not seem as if they were somehow taught by his Holy Spirit; their minds enlightened, their hearts renewed, their activity shaped by almighty grace? As to salvation without the Bible, we must say, with a leading Reformation Symbol, that "there is no ordinary possibility" of it; but might it not be going too far to say that it is absolutely and in the nature of the case impossible? The rule is "salvation by faith, and faith by hearing;" but if the rule does not cover the case of infants, why must it be taken to cover that of all other human beings? The mere light of nature is doubtless insufficient to give saving knowledge of God; but saving enlightenment can hardly be held impossible in a mind to which God has access direct. Humility and charity will alike refuse to mark out a path for him whose "footsteps are not known." It is ill trying to make the voyage of the religious life with a spiritual Jonah on board. Yet the Church is full of such would be navigators. There is the Jonah of a demoralizing occupation - occupation having to do, e.g., with gambling, or betting, or drunkenness, or fraudulent manufacture, and it must be thrown overboard or the ship of personal religion will go down. There is the Jonah of some pet sin, which, like Herod to Herodias, we cling to and prefer to Christ; and if we would escape the lake of fire we must "pluck it out and cast it from us." There is above all the Jonah of an unbelieving heart. Men wilt have a religion without self-surrender; will do anything and everything but yield themselves to God. Yet they must do this, or all else is vain. Unbelief is in its nature fatal, cuts off the dead soul from its life in Christ. We ask you one question - Will you give yourself now and here to Christ? If you answer, "Yes," you are a saved man. If you answer, "No," we need pursue the inquiry no further, for heaven is as inaccessible to you as if Christ the Way to it had never come. - J.E.H.
I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.Austria, crowded with emigrants, was burned far out at sea, and only a few of the passengers were saved. Of these some after wards published reports of the terrible event. One thrilling narrative was from the pen of a young man who had sunk very low in debauchery, frivolity, and scorn of all higher things. And this is what he said of himself: "I do not understand the ways of the Eternal; but I do know this, that it needed a terrible catastrophe to awaken me from my deathlike sleep. Nothing less than such awful event would have driven me from the path of ruin; and in the midst of all the frightful agony of the scene, an inward voice seemed to say to me, 'This is all for your sake, that your soul may be dragged from destruction.'" So also a Prussian musketeer who on the battlefield of Sadowa had both his legs shot off, said to me, "I can never reveal my sins to any human being; but believe me, that only in that way could I be plucked as a brand from the burning. As far as I am concerned, I know why the war had to come."
I. THE REQUEST OF JONAH. "Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea." These words imply —
1. A conviction of the folly of attempting to resist God's will. It may be said that this none will dispute. In words, indeed, many may admit this, but in their practice they contradict it. Every disobedient sinner imagines that he can secure his happiness not only independently of God, but in opposition to what He hath revealed or what He can do.
2. An expression of his readiness to endure the chastisement due to his transgression. It is one thing to acknowledge our guilt and desert of punishment, and another practically to acquiesce in that punishment when it is about to be inflicted. It is a much more difficult thing, and much more indicative of true penitence, patiently to bear affliction than actively to perform duty. Jonah pronounces on himself the appalling sentence, that he should be cast into the sea.
3. An expression of his readiness to submit, not only as respected the matter of the punishment, but the manner of it. Though Jonah passed sentence on himself, he did not propose that he should himself carry it into effect. Self-destruction is in no case justifiable.
4. The expression of his satisfaction that the innocent should escape, though he might suffer.
II. THE CONDUCT OF THE MARINERS. It might have been expected that they would follow Jonah's advice. They did not at once. Notice —
1. The benevolence of their exertions.
2. The inefficacy of their exertions.Learn the obstructions which sin presents to our efforts for the good of others.
(R. Brodie, A. M.)
I. True spiritual religion is DIVINE IN ITS ORIGIN. Some of us began life very much as these sailors commenced their voyage. Every prospect seemed bright. So easily we persuaded ourselves to rest. Jonah learned in the belly of the fish that "salvation is of the Lord." This at a stroke removes —
1. Inherent goodness.
2. Inherited grace.
3. Imparted sanctity.As this spiritual religion is Divine in its origin, so it is —
II. IRRESISTIBLE IN ITS OPERATION. When God said, "Let light be!" light was, and nothing could resist His decree. And so it is in the new creation. What could these sailors do against the "mighty tempest" which threatened to dash their ship in pieces? Men may encase themselves in pride, carnal reason, prejudice, unbelief, but the Word of God is "quick and powerful."
III. ABSOLUTE ITS REQUIREMENTS. "Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea." That was God's way of giving calm and rest. See the ways the mariners tried.
1. They began to be religious.
2. They tried to lighten the vessel.
3. They rowed hard to get to land.By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of your selves: it is the gift of God. Accept God's method.
IV. BLESSED IN ITS RESULTS. This is precisely the way in which God works in grace.
1. Peace through faith.
2. Piety with peace.
3. Profession with piety.
(W. H. Burton.)
I. THE NOBLE ATTEMPT OF THE SAILORS.
1. Notice the toil it involved on behalf of a stranger.
2. The risk to which it exposed them for the sake of one who had occasioned them loss.
3. It was a noble motive which prompted these men to make this attempt to save the prophet's life. They desired to show their sense of Jonah's own demeanour in relation to themselves, and to make a suitable response to it.
4. The failure of their attempt by no means detracts from the nobility of their conduct. It does not follow that they had nothing but their labour for their pains. They were morally the better for the purpose they had cherished of saving the prophet, and for the effort they had made to accomplish their purpose.
II. CONSIGNING JONAH TO THE SEA. They handled the prophet as tenderly as the circumstances permitted. Look at the prayer these men offered before they put Jonah into the sea.
1. The prayer is replete with interest to those who regard it with attention. It was a prayer addressed to the true God by these heathen for the first time. It was a very earnest prayer. It was a prayer for their own preservation. It was a prayer for the prophet.
2. The reply to the prayer. "The sea ceased from her raging." This was a miracle. Miracles were signs. This was "a sign that Jonah was indeed a prophet of the Lord. A sign that Jehovah is the ruler of the sea. And a sign that God hears and answers prayer.
(Samuel Clift Burn.)
Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land
1. In the efforts we are making to bring souls to the shore of safety, and set their feet on the Rock of Ages.
2. In the efforts we are making to bring this world back to God, His pardon, and safety. If this world could have been saved by human effort, it would have been saved long ago.
3. In every man that is trying to row his own soul into safety.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
PeopleAmittai, Jonah, Tarshish
PlacesJoppa, Mount Esau, Nineveh, Tarshish
TopicsAngry, Calm, Cast, Ceased, Ceaseth, Forth, Grew, Jonah, Lift, Longer, Overboard, Picked, Raging, Stopped, Threw
Outline1. Jonah, sent to Nineveh, flees to Tarshish.
4. He is betrayed by a great storm;
11. thrown into the sea;
17. and swallowed by a fish.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJonah 1:3-15
LibraryGuilty Silence and Its Reward
Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2. Arise, go to Nineveh, that great, city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me. 3. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. 4. But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Whether Divination by Drawing Lots is Unlawful?
The Careless Sinner Awakened.
Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved.
Nature of Covenanting.
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