Are we ‘SPIRITUALLY INSENSITIVE’ to our SORROUNDINGS? But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. So the captain came to him, and said to him, "What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish." (Jonah 1:4-6)
God sent Jonah to preach to Nineveh, the capital city of Israel’s prime enemy, Assyria. In disobedience, Jonah took a ship for Tarshish as he foolishly believed that changing locations would remove him from the convicting presence of the Lord and His call. The Bible scholar H. C. Woodring comments on Jonah’s rebellion in the following words:
“God wanted him to go to Nineveh, 500 miles northeast of Palestine. Instead of going east, Jonah went 2000 miles to the west. God wished Jonah to take an overland trip via the Fertile Crescent. Instead he took a distasteful sea voyage (the Jews hated the sea). God sent him to the greatest metropolis of the day. Instead Jonah headed for a remote trading post on the fringes of civilization. The Lord wished to go with His prophet. Instead Jonah tried to flee from the presence and power of God.”
Throughout the book of Jonah, God shows Himself sovereign over every aspect of creation as he is the Creator and Lord of the sea (Gen. 1:10, 21; Ex. 14:21; Mark 4:41). God responded to Jonah’s rebellion by sending a wind that threatened to destroy the ship. On the other hand, Jonah was so sure he had averted God’s will that he went to sleep down in the ship’s hold. As Jonah slept soundly, the sailors fought desperately to keep the ship from sinking in the storm. After Jonah was discovered, these heathen sailors urged him to call on his God to ‘take notice’ so they wouldn’t perish.
Jonah thought he had a choice. However, he forgot that the will of God is not an option: it is an obligation and an opportunity. When we run from God’s will, we always go down (vv. 3, 5, 15, 17; 2:6). We may end up sacrificing safety for danger and peace for a storm. When we are out of fellowship with our God, it causes problems not only for ourselves, but also for those around us. In the case of Jonah, his actions caused immense problems to the heathen sailors. A believer out of fellowship with God can cause a great deal of trouble!
The pagan sailors reveal more character than does the prophet of God. While Jonah was sleeping, they were crying out to their gods, and they did their best to save him (1:13). Jonah was a Jewish prophet of God (1:9) who came from a rich heritage of God’s faithfulness, while the pagan sailors did not know Jehovah God but worshipped many false gods (1:5). Jonah was spiritually insensitive and was heading in the wrong direction away from God (1:3, 5), while the sailors were more spiritually sensitive as they prayed (1:5), and later sacrificed and took vows (1:16). Jonah was indifferent toward God’s will despite knowing Him, while the sailors were concerned before God in spite of little or no knowledge of Him. Jonah’s crisis of faith contrasted sharply with the sailors’ misdirected but sincere faith!
Like Jonah, are we also spiritually insensitive to our surroundings? Are we behaving like Nero who was fiddling while Rome was burning? Are we so other-worldly that we seem to have our heads stuck inside the sand, and do not care (or, are not aware) about what is happening in the world around us? If we are in the same state as Jonah, we need to turn back to God as Jonah did through the following steps: confession (1:9) and repentance (2:1, 9). God loves us too much to let us run away; therefore, He disciplines us (Heb. 12:1–11), and He keeps working on us until we submit to Him.