Monday, February 22, 2016

Jonah 1:7-9

Jonah 1:7-9
1:7 -  Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
Casting lots was a common way to determine the will of the gods or even in Israel's case, the will of God  There are many instances of Israel casting lots in the Old Testament; see specific examples in Lev. 16:8-10, Num. 26:55, and Joshua 7:14-18. The last reference in Joshua provides an example of how the sailors were using the lot; God commands Joshua to use the lot to determine who the offender is. Jonah would not only have been familiar with this process but would also be familiar with Prov. 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.

1:8 - Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
Here is the next stage of the Lord's discipline in Jonah's life. After the general call to repentance (the storm) and the confrontation by one (the captain), God brings the confrontation by many (the sailors).

Notice, nobody, even Jonah in the next verse, disputes the outcome of the lot. It is accepted as the truth of the gods, in the sailors' view, and the truth of God, in Jonah's view. Of course, Jonah knew he was the cause anyways...

The sailor's questions were designed to ferret out which god was causing the storm so that they could try to appease it. Remember, gods were thought to be regional at this point in time, so figuring out which part of the world and of what people Jonah belonged to was key in the sailors' minds.

1:9 - He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”
Jonah reveals more of his heart in this statement. Instead of humbling himself in repentance at the sailors' questions, he arrogantly states his people and his God.

An interesting side note: Jonah states that he fears the LORD God of heaven, and yet he will not do His will. This is the exact attitude of the northern kingdom; they feared the LORD and would not do His will.

John MacArthur notes that Jonah's description of the Lord may have been selected to emphasize God's sovereignty over any of the gods that the sailors worshipped and would have struck fear into the crew. No wonder they respond how they do in the next verse.

Paragraph summary
The pressure is building on Jonah to repent. God is in the third stage of discipline and there is only one thing left after the confrontation by many. Jonah continues to be stiff necked and arrogant in his running away; he refuses to repent even at the expense of losing not only his own life but also all the sailors' lives. Jonah shows his hard heart throughout the process of God's discipline.

The original audience would still be on Jonah's side at this point. They would see no need to answer the Gentile sailors beyond what Jonah stated and would certainly see no need for repentance.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Jonah 1:4-6

Jonah 1:4-6
1:4 -  The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.
The battle of wills is engaged as the Lord starts His discipline in Jonah's life. Note that the Lord brought turmoil only to a certain point - the ship did not break up. God's control of the elements would not have surprised the original audience.

This is God's first confrontation. He brings a general call to turn back which affects everyone around Jonah.

1:5 - Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep.
The original audience may have laughed at the sailors' cries to dead gods, knowing that there was no hope for them. Note that the sailors were so afraid of this storm that they jettisoned their livelihood, the cargo; also, note that while we don't know anything about the sailors, we could assume that this was not a crew that was inexperienced. I'm sure they had encountered storms before, but of course, this one was different.

Contrast Jonah's actions with the sailors; he is sound asleep (not just asleep, but sound asleep), which is just about the polar opposite of the frantic, fearful activity of the crew. It may have crossed his mind that should he perish at sea, he wouldn't have to go to Nineveh. This attitude is reflected in Jonah's statement in v. 12.

This verse serves to record Jonah's reaction to God's general call to repentance in v.4. He refuses to turn back. Astute original audience readers would recognize the same call in their own lives; they may have ignored it, but still have recognized it.

1:6 - So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.”
Here is God's second confrontation: confrontation by one. The pagan captain rebukes the man of God and calls him to pray! There is no indication that Jonah did pray; in fact, because the storm continues, I think we can rightly assume that Jonah did not pray.

Paragraph summary
God brings judgment on the whole ship in order to turn around Jonah. Israel would recognize the same pattern in their lives as God had brought foreign armies as well as various plagues to discipline the whole nation.

By using the pagan captain to confront the prophet, God would further engender the original audiences' allegiance to Jonah. "How dare that filthy Gentile talk that way to one of God's chosen people! He is praying to a dead god, while we serve the living God!"

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Helpful labels

I have placed a label on all the Jonah entries so that they are easier to find among the other blogposts.

That label is...Jonah; yeah, I know, real original.

Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah 1:1-3
1:1 - The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,
Jonah is identified as the 'son of Amittai', which cements his identity as one and the same as the 2nd Kings Jonah. If this event happened before the prophecy, it would stand as perhaps a beginning of his prophetic ministry. If after the prophecy, it would be a continuation of an established ministry. Regardless, the original audience would not have been far removed from Jonah's unwritten ministry as a prophet, and may have been contemporaries of Jonah.

Another observation is that God initiates this whole ordeal. If Job was available for the original audience, this beginning might have sparked a remembering of Job 1:8 when God initiates another trying time for one of His own.

1:2 -  “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
Nineveh was the ancient city of the Assyrians, an old enemy of the northern kingdom of Israel. So, Jonah was basically called to warn his country's worst enemy about God's judgment that was coming if they did not repent of their wickedness.

An interesting concept is presented here: When man's wickedness rises to a certain level, God responds. Sometimes, He responds without a general call to repentance as He did with Noah; nobody but Noah and his family were invited into the ark. Another time, that God judged without extending a general call for repentance was when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; only Lot and his family were warned and spared. In Nineveh's case, God does decide to grant mercy in the opportunity to repent.

This may have been new revelation to the original audience as it displays God's mercy to nations outside of Israel. While Israel would have wholeheartedly agreed that Nineveh deserved divine judgment, they certainly would be resistant to the idea of mercy and grace to their one time oppressors.

1:3 - But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
First we notice (because MS Word pointed it out thinking it was misspelled) that Tarshish was repeated three times. Nineveh and Joppa are mentioned once in this paragraph, and Tarshish is mentioned three times. Repetition really reinforces and emphasizes that Jonah was headed to Tarshish, which is the opposite direction of Nineveh.

Second, the phrase 'from the presence of the LORD' is repeated twice. While the first sentence serves as the main point and the subsequent sentence serves as an expanding and detailing of the first, it should be noted that the emphasis remains on fleeing from the presence of the LORD to Tarshish.

Third, Jonah pays for the privilege of running from the LORD. First he travels to Joppa, which takes time and money, and then he pays the fare to go to Tarshish. Hopefully the original audience would have noticed the irony of paying to run from God.

And fourth, Jonah knows from Psalm 139:7-12 (one of David's psalms) that it is impossible to flee from the presence of the LORD. Nevertheless, Jonah bolts. The ancient readers would recognize their own futile attempts to flee from God's presence.

Paragraph summary
God initiates the impetus and direction for the entire book.  Nineveh's sin has reached the point where God is going to judge them, but He decides to have mercy and send Jonah to warn them of their impending doom in order to allow them opportunity to repent of their wickedness.

Jonah, steeped in the culture and attitude of the northern kingdom, wants nothing to do with allowing Nineveh access to God's mercy and runs. He might have been hoping that in the time it took for God to bring him back on track that God would have destroyed Nineveh. This is the first glimpse into Jonah's heart, which will be further revealed in the first paragraph of chapter 4.

Since Jonah is so like his countrymen, it would not be surprising that most if not all of the original audience would be in the same boat (sorry) philosophically as Jonah. They would have been on Jonah's side at this point, which makes the book even more real to the original audience as God takes them through the same journey that He takes Jonah.

In this one paragraph, God captures the original audiences' attention and causes them to identify themselves with Jonah; this is key to the time-locked message.