Debra Isenbletter, Pastor
Vs 6: “So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.”
I have divided this verse into four different parts: The Captain, The Criticism; The Command and The Concern.
The Captain: “So, the shipmaster came to him,”—The “shipmaster” or the captain is the one that seeks out Jonah. He does not send someone else, he came personally to seek out Jonah. He knew Jonah was onboard and he searched for him until he found him. In the midst of the storm, in the midst of the crisis he realizes that there is one man not present! The Lord is seeking Jonah and speaking to Jonah through this man. He “came to him.” He “approached” him, he “drew near to” him. Until the storm these sailors had ignored Jonah. Now circumstances change their attitude, desperation changes their attitude, fear changes their attitude. They realize there is a man onboard they have ignored, thought insignificant, a man they know nothing about.
The attitude of the world to the Jew throughout history is one of derision. The Lord mentions this attitude as part of the curse for disobedience. “And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb and a byword among the nations whither the Lord shall lead thee.” (Deu.28:37) and again in Jeremiah: “I will deliver them…to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them: Because they have not hearkened to my words.” (Jer.29:18-19). The world ignores the Jew until something goes wrong and there is a reaction against them. During the dark ages, during the bubonic plague (the Black Death) Jews were blamed for the plague, for poisoning wells, for just about everything. There were violent attacks against Jews and Jewish communities. In Germany some blamed Jews for losing World War I and later for Germany’s economic decline.
The Criticism: “and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper?”— There are different tones of voice in these words. First, the Voice of Authority: “and said unto him” because this means “to challenge” or “to command.” The captain had the authority to both “challenge” and to “command” him. Next the Voice of Accusation: “What meanest thou?” Why are you asleep. Why are you below? Why are you not helping? This is an Exclamation: How can you sleep through the storm? How can you not be aware of the danger? Finally, the Voice of Astonishment: “O sleeper?” Jonah was asleep in two ways. First he was physically asleep, he was fast asleep, he was in a heavy, deep sleep. Second, he was spiritually asleep. He did not hear the Lord speaking to him through the storm. He was asleep to the voice of God, asleep to the Word of God; asleep to the Conviction of God.
It was time for him to wake up and the Lord gives him a wake-up call through the captain. When Jonah finally wakes up, he wakes up! This is the provision and promise of the Lord. Isaiah write: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” (Isa.60:1). The Amplified translates: “Arise [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you—rise to new life]! Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for you light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you? When the Jews receive their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, they will rise in the power of this light and shine forth. They will be the light to the Gentiles they were meant to be. Ezekiel writes that these were dead and asks the question, “Can these bones live?” (Ezek.37:1-10). The answer is yes! The Lord will breathe new life into them, it will be the New Creation life, the life and light of Christ. And through that new life they will rise up and show forth great light.
The Command: “arise, and call upon thy God,”—The captain commands him to do two things. First, he says, “arise,” other translations read “Get up!” Remember the Lord had told Jonah to “Arise and go to Nineveh” (v2). All the same meanings apply to this word, there are the same different levels or stages that Jonah can do this. He is “to arise and accomplish.” He must be willing to obey God. If we rise up in obedience we will accomplish whatever He asks of us. He is “to arise and abide.” He is to be willing to stand for God. He is “to arise and endure.” He is to be willing to suffer for God. He is “to arise and become powerful.” He is to be willing to depend on God. All of these should be manifested in his and our lives and the outcome is glorious, it is to “become powerful” and that power is God’s power not our own. Jonah is to wake up and he is to stand up! The captain then gives him a second command— “call upon thy God.”
He is asking Jonah to acknowledge two things. To acknowledge his need: “call upon” or “cry to for help.” To acknowledge his relationship: “thy God.” This is Jonah’s God and no one can call upon Him but Jonah. Jonah has been running from these two things, his need and his relationship with God. The captain has no idea which god Jonah worships but even he knows these two principal truths and he reminds Jonah that he has a need, and he has a relationship with a higher power that can meet his need. Jonah is being reminded of the privilege he has and the power he was through this privilege. He is reminded by a pagan Gentile. God does hear all who cry out to Him in faith. The Lord heard Hagar’s cry of need (Gen.16:11). The Lord heard the cry of His people in Egypt (Ex.3:7). He understood their sorrow and their suffering. The Lord hears the cry of His saints. John writes: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he heareth us.” (1Jn.5:14). It does not say here whether Jonah called upon God at this time. It is not until Jonah is in the belly of the fish three days that it says “Then Jonah prayed” (Jonah 2:1). If that is true, it says something about how stubborn Jonah is.
The Concern: “if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.”— The captain’s concern is that they not die. Somehow this captain sees three things that Jonah has forgotten. He sees God’s Prophet: “if so be that [your] God.” He sees God’s Grace: “will think upon us.” He sees God’s Deliverance: “that we perish not.” The Lord uses this man to remind Jonah that he is a prophet and he is an intercessor. The Lord uses this man to shame Jonah. He has faith in an unknown God. He has faith in an unknown prophet of God. Jonah is reminded of the power of prayer but he must have a desire to pray and a faith in the God that he prays to. It is time for Jonah to wake up and to fulfill his calling.