Then the LORD hurled a violent wind upon the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship was in danger of breaking apart.
I. THEY RUN HARD WHOM GOD'S JUDGMENTS CANNOT OVERTAKE. Jonah scarcely hoped to get away from God. But he did expect to get away from his work. It lay northeast, and he went southwest. He was determined not to be near the place where duty lay, lest by any chance he should be compelled to do it. In this he succeeded for the time, and he succeeded still more fully in getting morally and spiritually away from the Most High. Not depths of sea or wilds of desert could have taken him so far from God as the moral elements implied in that flight. But he found that desertion, however possible, can never be satisfactory. God's authority is not to be run away from. He makes storms his artillery, and thunders after the runaway. He makes heathen sailors his officers, and captures him in his flight. He makes a fish's belly his dungeon keep, and puts him in durance there, Do not for a moment dream of evading God. If you run away from his spade, you run against his sword. You can run away from sobriety, but not from the white liver and empty purse and premature grave that drunkenness brings. You can run away from purity, but not from the debilitated frame, and the cloyed appetite, and the hell of a strengthening lust with failing power to feed it. You can run away from charity, but not from the heart hardness and bitterness and gnawing unrest of all loveless souls. Disobedience accomplished means judgment on the way, and judgment on the way means judgment ahead of the transgressor, and waiting for him as the angel for wretched Balsam (Romans 2:3).
II. THE JUDGMENTS SENT AFTER THE GUILTY OFTEN FALL ON THE INNOCENT AS WELL. "Sin," says Chrysostom, "brings the soul into much senselessness." It brought Jonah to think that he could play off nature against its God, and escape him by the help of his own winds and tides. It brought him to pit one of the great ships of Tarshish - the East Indiamen of that time - against God's east wind (Psalm 48:7). But mighty merchantman or tiny skiff, it is all one to the hurricane's blast. The prophet, so far from getting out of trouble himself, got others into it (vers. 4, 5). The sailors suffered fatigue and alarm; the ship owners suffered loss of freight; other vessels near suffered dilapidations; indeed, many interests were harassed before Jonah himself was reached. That is the rule with all sin. In almost every offence against the second table of the Law our neighbour suffers first. Then, after the offender begins to suffer, his suffering in turn involves the family and social circles in which be is. The spendthrift's poverty, the debauchee's disease, the felon's disgrace, go down infallibly to children, and it may be children's children. Sinning against God you are indirectly sinning against man, and sinning against one man, you are practically sinning against all his friends and all your own. Such a following of evils does the transgressor drag after him in an ever-lengthening train.
III. THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THE OCCASION OF GREAT PUBLIC EVIL ARE OFTEN THE LEAST CONCERNED ABOUT IT. Jonah was the coolest man on board while the big storm was raging. It was due to him, sent after him, meant to arrest his thought and step, and yet, when hardy sailors were frightened, and ignorant heathen were driven to pray, the erewhile God-fearing landsman was making himself comfortable below, and curled up fast asleep. So the men who provoked the Flood were cool and calm about it, even when Noah and his family were flying to the ark. To the Sodomites also righteous Lot, preparing to fly the coming doom, seemed but as one that mocked. The hardness produced by recent rebellion had not yet worn off. The murderer does not regret his crime nor fear the gallows while his blood is up. The excitement sustains him for a time in reckless disregard of both. But when he has had time to cool down and think, when he gets the cold iron on his wrists, and sees the outer world through iron bars, when dreams recall his victim's death struggle or forecast the scaffold and the dangling rope, then his crime begins to look like itself, and his doom to put on its proper terrors. Jonah was still in the earlier stage. Fie did not see his sin yet, and he was too hot and rebellious to fear the punishment. After sin and before repentance there is an interval of unnatural insensibility, and in this interval Jonah's sleep was taken. It is a horrid sight to see judge and jury and the court affected to tears, and the criminal as hard as iron. Yet that is the analogue of a state into which we have only to defy God in order to fall.
IV. A PRAYERLESS BACKSLIDER IS AN ASTONISHMENT EVEN TO A HEATHEN. (Ver. 6.) The skipper, a responsible man, and pious according to his lights, thinks Jonah, sleeping there in the crash of the storm, must be either sick or mad. Prayer, whether to false gods or the true, is a universal and instinctive religious act. And so when the great wind guns began to boom and the billowy mitrailleuses to roar in chorus, when the helpless vessel tossed like a log and creaked and strained as about to break, then began every man to cry unto his god. Even the heathen could see that it was the thing to do, and the time to do it; and when the only worshipper of the true God aboard lies silent and indifferent, the captain and crew are alike astonished. Yet it is just what a little knowledge of the human character in its relation to spiritual things would lead us to expect. The iron that has been heated soft, and cooled again in water, is harder than ever. The process has simply tempered it. So the man who has been softened in the fires of grace, and plunged again into the waters of sin, is a harder man than he was at first (Hebrews 6:4). There are Canas and Chorazins among us, and it will be more tolerable for the Tyres and Sidons in the judgment than for them.
V. IT IS IN THE CRISES OF LIFE THAT FALSE CONFIDENCES FAIL AND THE TRUE GOD COMES TO THE FRONT. The captain sees appeal to his own gods to be vain, and he surmises that prayer to the God of Israel might be more successful. "Call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us." He knew of the true God as distinguished from the gods many whom he served, but only in extremity does he think of approaching him in prayer. The other gods were fair weather deities, good enough so long as you wanted nothing from them. But only the God who holds the winds in his fists will serve now. And thus, in a new sense, the extremity of man is the opportunity of God. Beliefs, moralities, observances, are made so many substitutes for the Christ of God. And they do to live with after a fashion. But you never knew a man to die comfortably with them. The last hour is apocalyptic. It unveils things. The bubble of conceit in personal merit bursts. The filthy rags fall off. The soul is flung naked, loathsome, undone, before the majesty of God. Take God in Christ for your trust this hour, and you will never know the withering curse on him that "maketh flesh his arm." - J.E.H.
The Lord sent out a great wind into the sea.
1. Disobedience ensures punishment. No man can sin with impunity. There is an absolute necessity for moral wrong to be judiciously dealt with.
2. The forces of nature are often the instruments of God's corrective or punitive purposes. There is a providence in all varieties of weather.
3. The sin of one involves others in its consequences.From verse 5, we gather —
1. That in seasons of extreme peril the religious instinct invariably reverts to a real or imaginary superior power for help. The religious sense is in imploration to God.
2. That possessions are valueless when life is at stake.
3. That remedial measures to alleviate the consequences of evil are futile while the cause slumbers undisturbed. Sin is the Jonah in every man which keeps him in jeopardy and restlessness every hour.From verse 6, we are taught —
1. That adverse circumstances often require to be supplemented by direct appeal to arouse men to a sense of their perilous situation.
2. The insufficiency of nature to correct the false and teach the true object of worship.
3. The parallel and divergent points in human history. The same ship, route, port, etc., but widely different motives, ends, etc.Verse 7 teaches —
1. That the casualties of life are not unfrequently associated with wrong-doing. No calamity without a cause, no sin without a calamity, sooner or later.
2. That necessity drives to expedients.
3. That detection will inevitably overtake the guilty, or the lot fall on the right man.
4. That the extremities of men are the opportunities of God.
5. That one rebellious act sends its ring down the vestibule of ages.
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)
I. SEE HERE THE INSENSIBILITY OF THE DARING TRANSGRESSOR. Jonah had entered into a contest with his God. The furious elements proclaimed the contest to be fearfully unequal. While every one else is uniting his exertions and his prayers to avert the threatened danger, Jonah had gone down into the sides of the ship, and was fast asleep. Contrast our Lord's sleeping during the storm on Galilee. But why wonder at the insensibility of Jonah? Look around and you will see insensibility as profound, and where there is the same difference between insensibility and safety. Engrossed by pleasure or business, how many are there who feel no concern for religion.
II. SEE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INSENSIBILITY AND SAFETY. While the apprehensions of the prophet diminished, his dangers increased. In endeavouring to escape from the voice of God, given to him in prophetic direction, there was the near prospect of his hearing that voice announcing his destiny from the judgment-seat. Perilous, however, as the prophet's situation was, it was not in reality more so than that of thousands who nevertheless participate in the security. In the one case as in the other, there may be but a step between the sinner and death.
III. THE OBJECTS OF TRUST MADE THE INSTRUMENTS OF PUNISHMENT. This is a marked feature of the Divine administration. See the case of David numbering the people. God permits Jonah to gain his object. Then his troubles begin. The vessel which he expected would bring him to his ultimate point threatens to become the grave of him and his shipmates. So men set their hearts on a favourite object. This is pursued not only without reference to God's will, but in manifest opposition to it. They gain it. And out of this their vexation and punishment arise. This is often seen in the acquisition of wealth.
IV. THE DUTY OF RECOGNISING THE VOICE OF GOD IN THE EVENTS WHICH THWART OUR WISHES. "Affliction springeth not from the dust." It was God who sent forth that great wind which put in jeopardy the vessel in which Jonah sailed. It was for the purpose of arresting him in his course of disobedience — of bringing him to a sense of his misconduct — and of leading him to seek forgiveness. What is the obvious use which we should make of this narrative? The uniform doctrine of revelation is, that sin hardens the heart, and tends to the still further commission of sin. On this it grounds the exhortation to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure — to be sober and watch unto prayer.
(R. Brodie, A. M.)
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