The biblical story of Jonah is very well known, especially the part about his being swallowed by a whale. But one of the problems with feeling familiar with a story is that we can gloss over the details and miss the message God has for us today. So… for the next few weeks, I’ll be revisiting a study guide I wrote on this “children’s story” and diving into its lessons for us grown-ups. This week… “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.”
Jonah 1:4-6 (New Living Translation)
But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
While all this chaos is going on just a few feet above him, Jonah has hidden himself in the recesses of the ship. We’re told that he’s sleeping, but the Hebrew radam is not just napping — it’s closer to being completely unconscious. One dictionary calls it “the sleep of death; the stunning effect of awe and dread.” While the sailors’ fear turns to frantic action, Jonah’s guilt leads him to inaction. Can you imagine? Sleeping at a time like this!
This brings to mind another boat caught in dangerous weather. In Mark 4, Jesus and his disciples are in a boat during a fierce storm. The disciples (like the sailors) panic and rush to the side of the peacefully sleeping Jesus. They wake him up, yelling, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
Jesus slept because of his trust in his Father God. Jonah sleeps in denial of what is happening.
When have you desperately wanted to deny the reality of your circumstances?