Debra Isenbletter, pastor
Jonah 1:4: “But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.”
“But the Lord” shows that Jehovah, the One who reveals Himself, is revealing Himself through the storm. He is reaching out to Jonah to get his attention and He does it in a way that cannot be ignored or avoided. The Lord is actually speaking to Jonah but since he is asleep, it is others who hear Him. In this “But” we see that God will not let Jonah go, He will not let Jonah run, He will not let Jonah hide.
To get Jonah’s attention God “sent out a great wind.” This is the God of Creation using and controlling what He has created. The phrase “sent out” shows the great force behind what God does. It means “to hurl, to throw,” one rendering is “caused a wind to burst forth.” This phrase in the Hebrew is repeated four times in the first chapter of Jonah. The Lord “sent out” a great wind (1:4). The sailors “cast forth” the wares into the sea (1:5). Jonah said to the sailors “cast me forth” (1:12). The Lord controls all things and shows us how little control we have. The Lord has amazing control because when He “sent out” the wind it had a target, it had a specific purpose.
The strength of the wind is seen in that it was “a great wind.” The word “great” emphasizes the importance, the size or the significance of something. It is repeated seven times in Jonah. There is a “great city” (1:2; 3:1,3; 4:11). There is a “great wind” (1:4). There is a “great fish” (1:17). There is a “great kindness” (4:1). The greatness of man cannot compare with the greatness of God. The word “wind” comes from “to rush upon;” “breath, blast.” In a way it is the breath of God. It is powerful yet that power is measured and restrained. It is the voice of God speaking. It is translated as “windstorm or whirlwind.” The Lord took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. “… and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (2 Kings 2:11). The Lord spoke to Job in a whirlwind. “…and the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind…” (Job 38:1; 40:6). That same whirlwind can express the fury of the Lord in judgment. “Behold the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind…” (Jer. 30:23).
The control of the wind is seen because it was sent “unto the sea.” It was not a random wind, it was a wind that had a purpose and a focus. The Lord controlled and directed the wind. Whenever the Lord acts, there is always a purpose behind what He does. The Lord used a “east wind” to bring the locusts to Egypt (Ex. 10:13). The Lord used a “west wind” to drive the locusts from Egypt (Ex. 10:19). The Lord used “a strong east wind” to part the Red Sea (Ex.14:21).
We find in Jonah that the results of that “great wind” was a “mighty tempest.” The word “mighty” is the same word as “great,” it grew, it became a great storm. The word “tempest” can refer to a hurricane or a cyclone. This describes the type of wind and the strength of the wind, it was a wind the sailors were familiar with and feared and now they had to face. This is the absolute power of God over all things, power in heaven, in earth, in the seas and in the deep places (Psa. 136:5). It is the type of storm that declares God power to men. “These are the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind which lifteth up the waves thereof.” (Psa.107:23-26). It is this type of storm that Jesus showed He had power over. “And behold there arose a great tempest in the sea, inasmuch that the ship was covered with the waves …” (Mat. 8:24-26). It is this type of storm that the ship carrying Paul to Rome faced. “But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind [a violent wind of the character of a typhoon] called Euroclydon [a northeaster] …” (Act. 27:14-15).
The “ship was like to be broken” before the power of this “great wind.” It was about to be shattered, smashed, crushed, broken in pieces. The danger was imminent and it seemed almost certain. It was about to be broken up but it was not. Why? It was because the Lord wanted them to acknowledge Him. This ship was not shattered but their will and their hearts would be. We see both the amazing strength and the amazing restraint of the Lord. We see the grace of God because He waited for a response from the sailors. They needed to see how helpless they were and how hopeless the situation was. This is the place the Lord brings people to before they finally cry out to Him. The first response is from the sailors not Jonah. The sailors are aware of what God is doing first because they are not asleep. How said that God’s prophet is not aware and the pagan sailors are. Warren Wiersbe writes that “God is no longer speaking to Jonah through His Word, He is speaking through His Works.” This is the patience of God because if Jonah refuses to hear the voice of the Lord through His Word, the Lord will make sure that he hears His voice through His Works. John Phillips writes, “When Jonah ran away from God, he upset the whole balance of nature.” We see that today with Israel, who like Jonah, is out of the will of God, and everything in the earth is affected by their attitude.
To be continued