It is after fleeing God and finally making a course correction that we find even in the punishing storm a transcendent plan emerging…
with God’s Prevailing Pursuit (13-16) Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you LORD, have done as you pleased. Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
In this culture, the sailors fear that regardless of the circumstances or situational needs, the God of the land and sea will hold the death of his prophet against them. We see in the midst of the raging weather a massive and mighty mercy transcend the storm. While Jonah rather be thrown overboard than go over to Nineveh, we find all along God didn’t use the storm as an affliction but out of his affection for the lost. The pagan sailors go from praying to their gods who were powerless to intervene and by the end offer sacrifices and vows to the one who could calm the sea.
It was the pursuit that showed the sailors the truth. And God’s pursuit didn’t end with Jonah, Jesus is ultimately the great picture of God the pursuer, not pursuing to punish but to penetrate the hardness of our hearts. Pursuing to penetrate the veneer of humanity by becoming human. Pursuing to break the bonds of sin by taking on our sin, he became the storm in order that we could find his peace at the cross.
It is in the midst of life’s natural afflictions that God’s affection can shared. The year was 251 BC and it was the height of fear, paranoia, and horror. The bishop of Carthage chronicled the events that were happening in the streets around him. The world seemingly was falling apart. 5,000 people a day were dying at the hand of the Cyprian plague. Christian was illegal and yet once the healthy family members, doctors and wealthy nobles fled for safer pastures, it was the Christians that went out into the streets and nursed the sick, dying, and abandoned. Pontius, the bishop’s biographer recorded the results: Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead
God was calling them to engaged rather than retreat. It reminds me of the world in which Jesus lived. The 4 major religious groups were the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essences. The Pharisees wanted to be holy even if it came at the expense of being hospitable. The Sadducees were political and wealthy, the Zealots wanted to crush Rome and hated tax collectors, and the Essence were against anyone not in their sect. Only Jesus was engaging the world around him. Jesus death was an offering for the executive in his corner office and the single mom in her mobile home. It isn’t someone else’s job to care for the spiritually lost, hurting, the widows and orphans. If we take God’s word seriously, realizing it is the best way of life, than we are offered chances as Christians for a prevailing pursuit—it is our opportunity to feed to the hungry, to comfort the widow, to visit the prisoner, to welcome into our homes the orphaned, and to take under our wing the searching. Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
The greatest escape of all wasn’t Jonah running to the other side of the world, or the sailors escaping death by sea, but it was God through his mercy allowing each of us to worship what works—to find a new captain of our lives, a new course for our lives—we find God’s love in his pursuit—as he pursues us to leads us to the way that will ultimately PREVAIL.