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God’s Word for You

Jonah 1:5 They jettisoned the cargo

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, July 7, 2018

5 All the sailors became afraid and each one cried out to his own god. They jettisoned the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone down into the hold. There he was lying down, and he had fallen into a deep sleep.

These sailors were not fools. Only the fool says in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1, 53:1). In ancient times, finding a true atheist was almost impossible. Today, true atheists are rare, but not unknown. An atheist says there is no God at all. An agnostic says that he can’t be sure whether there is a God. The pagan mind or the uninformed heart can deduce from nature that God exists. “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:4). What can be learned from nature is that God hates and punishes sin, that God is almighty, and that man is guilty of sinning against God. What can’t be learned from nature or from these other deductions is who God truly is, or what the solution is for man’s deficit of sin. The uninformed or pagan man hopes to appease God either with sacrifice or with good living. When a religion turns away from Christ, “good living” is all that they have left to preach.

But the Bible teaches us about who God truly is, and what he has done about our sinfulness. The Bible teaches us about the grace of God, the undeserved love God lavishes on us, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on behalf of our sins. There is no morality, no good living, and no sacrifice that can ever be acceptable to God apart from faith in Christ. There is now no sacrifice that is necessary since Jesus’ crucifixion: “No sacrifice for sins is left” (Hebrews 10:26). There is also no good deed or good life that is acceptable to God unless it comes from faith in Christ and thanks to God for Christ, just as true faith will never be without good deeds and a good life which is also acceptable to God. And morality apart from Christ is useless to the individual. It might whitewash a life like the walls of a tomb, but inside everything is still corrupt and condemned (Matthew 23:27).

The sailors were even throwing the cargo overboard. This showed that they didn’t really trust in their pagan idols. They were beginning to do anything humanly possible to save themselves. This is spiritually what everyone does who runs away from Jesus Christ. Separated from the cross, they would rather jettison everything and everyone from their life rather than return to their Savior. And yet his offer of forgiveness stands: one’s whole lifetime is their time of grace, no matter when it was that a person ran away.

Jonah, our antihero, had run away from God in more than one way. He boarded a ship going in the opposite direction from God’s command, and then he went to sleep. This was what Luther calls “a sleep of death.” Jonah could not bear to face the Lord or his own actions, and so he retreated even into sleep to avoid the conflict. He could not bear to face the truth of what he had done.

Meanwhile, the sailors were terrified. This was no ordinary rough sea. This was the kind of tempest described in the Psalms:

      For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
        that lifted high the waves.
      They mounted up to the heavens
        and went down to the depths;
        in their peril their courage melted away.
      They reeled and staggered like drunken men;
        they were at their wits’ end.

                                (Psalm 107:25-27)

What would you do to save your life? What would you do to save your soul? While Jonah slept, the sailors went through every possibility, every opportunity they had. It wasn’t enough. Only God’s hand would save them now, and soon the prophet of God would be awakened. Finally he would proclaim the truth, save their lives, and be plunged into an unlikely salvation.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

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Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.