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God’s Word for You

Jonah 1:9-10 The God of heaven, sea, and land

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, August 4, 2018

9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”  10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)

Jonah’s words here are the first thing he has said aloud in the book. In Hebrew, the first clause, “I am a Hebrew,” is set in contrast to the next clause, “It is the LORD whom I worship.” He begins with the attention on himself, but he quickly shifts that attention to the LORD.

Jonah confesses his faith in God using the creed of faith which precedes the giving of the Ten Commandments. God said: “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11). Jonah uses a portion of these words in such a way as to show the pagan sailors that everything that seems to be wrong at the moment is really under God’s control: the heavens (including the sky from which this hurricane was blowing), the sea (heaving and tossing their boat around like a toy in a bathtub), and the land (which was nowhere to be seen).

The God of heaven. These sailors were pagans, heathens, and were almost certainly polytheists who believed that there were as many gods in the invisible world as there are villages in the visible. But the God of heaven would mean to them the supreme God, God over all. Understanding that truth would open up their hearts to the fact that the word of the Supreme God is always the truth, and therefore that if the Supreme God told them that there are no other gods besides him, that this was true, too. Our Supreme God, God over all (Romans 9:5), is the living God who is God over all the nations (Joshua 3:10) and over all the kingdoms of the earth (2 Kings 19:15; Isaiah 37:16). Once they learned this, these sailors would be able to pray with David: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).

When God created our world, he began by separating the water below from the water above, and he called the water above “the sky” (Genesis 1:8). When he made it, it was good and without any imperfection or flaw, and it still serves him today.

The God… who made the sea. The chief element for the sailor is, of course, the sea. Many of the Phoenicians worshiped the god Yam as the sea god, but now they were shown the truth. Their Yam was nothing—a mere fantasy. The God of Jonah was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and it was he who was truly in control of everything around them.

When God created our world, he separated the water below from the dry ground, and he called the gathered waters “the seas” (Genesis 1:10). When he made the sea, it was good and without any imperfection or flaw, and it still serves him today.

The God who made… the land. Many Phoenicians worshiped various gods as gods of the land, especially of the harvest, such as Baal. But none of their gods could do anything at all to bring them closer to land and safety. When the Apostle Paul was in danger of shipwreck, the Lord protected him and saved every man aboard his vessel, even though the ship itself was lost (Acts 27:33-44). Now the sailors with Jonah would learn that the God of Jonah was the supreme God of all things.

When God created our world and separated the seas from the dry ground, he called the dry ground “land” (Genesis 1:10). When he made the land, it was good and without any imperfection or flaw, and it still serves him today.

At this point, Jonah has turned himself away from his running, and knows he’s been caught. Where was there to go except to God for forgiveness? But there didn’t seem much hope for life after this terrifying storm. But, however frightening the circumstances of our lives, there is always the promise of the resurrection on the other side of the illness, the accident, the disease, the battle, or the storm. Jonah reaches into his understanding of the Second Commandment and confesses his faith to these pagan sailors in words they will be able to understand so that, in what may be the final moments of their lives, they will know their God and might perhaps turn to him for rescue and forgiveness. After all, as Paul said, “God did this (he made mankind) so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). Share your faith with the people around you so that they will learn to rely on Jesus just as you have.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

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.

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