Jonah 1:4-11 A Merciful Storm

But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea… Jonah 1:4

The tension of the narrative is created in first three verses of the book of Jonah. God has called, and the prophet has run away; God commanded him to “get up,” Jonah “went down;” God called to go northeast to Nineveh, and he drudged 60 miles southwest to the port of Joppa; from receiving the Word of the Lord, Jonah sought to flee the presence of the Lord. At Joppa, Jonah found just what he was looking for – a ship headed for Tarshish. The rapidity of these successive events is striking – here we are, only 3 verses into the text, and so much has already transpired! What next?

Though things may have seemed to slow down for Jonah, as he settled into the lower deck of the ship and fell fast asleep, the Lord would not allow him to continue comfortably in his rebellion. So the LORD sent a great wind on the sea; but this storm was not the chaotic retributive act of an angry vengeful deity, but a very specific and deliberate act of a loving God. Rather than a random wind and tempest, this storm had a merciful and salvific intent. Like the earth itself, which in the beginning lied as a formless void heap, covered with darkness over the face of the deep, Jonah’s disobedience sent him and the crew of his ship into the darkness of the face of the deep, even as Jonah himself sank into the dark recesses of the boat. But in like manner, as the Spirit (which in Hebrew is ruach) of God moved upon the face of the waters to rescue the formless earth in creation, the Lord sent a great wind (ruach) to Jonah’s ship to ultimately rescue Jonah – it was indeed a merciful storm. Likewise in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, God used the ruach – his breath or spirit – to breathe into the dark valley of dead bones and create life (Ez 37:5). One thing is for sure, God is always in the midst of storms in the Bible, in fact He often ordained the wind and tempests in order to speak to His people (see also Job 40:6, Jer 30:23, Ezek 1:4, Zech 9:14); and the storm that hit Jonah’s ship was no exception. The storm that hit Jonah’s get-away ship was a storm of the Lord. Just as was the case when Jesus stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the winds and the waves obeyed Him, as they precisely hit Jonah’s ship. The Lord was working out His purpose to save His prophet and His people. Jonah’s storm is no coincidence, it is no act of an unaffected “mother nature,” much less is it a fable; it is God’s providential action, with the atmospheric elements doing His bidding.

How this answers the perennial objection that is raised about God’s goodness: If God exists and is good, why would He permit disasters causing misery to innocent human beings? The Lord’s answer is that there are no ‘innocent people,’ and there is no, ‘luck of the draw.’ There are responsible sinners in the hands of a sovereign God, who ordains events to bring about the repentance and salvation of His people. Whatever God ordains is right and good and accomplishes His will for His own glory. Certainly by looking at the ultimate results in the life of Jonah and the mariners of this fateful voyage, this storm was a merciful storm serving the purposes of God in grace, love, and perfect righteousness.

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