Debra Isenbletter, Pastor
Vs 9: “And he said unto them, I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.”
Jonah when questioned gives an answer, he states Who he is: “I am a Hebrew” and he states Who he worships: “and I fear the Lord;” then he states Who God is: The God of Heaven: the God of Creation: “which hath made the sea and the dry land.” He describes God in two ways these pagan Gentiles can understand and identify with. Jonah doesn’t answer each of their questions specifically, he focuses on these basic truths.
Jonah does “answer” and in that answer to both “declares” and “certifies” that what he says is the truth. Jonah answers those who questioned him, the captain and the sailors. I am struck by, that Jonah is forced answer by circumstances, by lot and by examination. There should be a willing, eager boldness to testify. The Psalmist wrote: “I will speak of thy testimonies before kings, and will not be ashamed” (Psa.119:46). I don’t believe Jonah was ashamed but he did not go out of his way to testify about the Lord, but he did not jump at the chance. Remember he was reluctant to go to Nineveh, so there was a reluctance to testify to Gentiles. We have such wonderful examples of those, who when questioned, do not hesitate, who boldly give an answer. John the Baptist did this when questioned about who he was. (John 1:22-33). Jesus did this when questioned by John the Baptist’s disciples. (John 11:2-5). Paul did this throughout his ministry and missionary journeys and at his trial in Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus said the Holy Spirit will shows us what to say and Peter says that we should “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (I Pet. 3:15). Peter does point out that we need to sanctify the Lord in our hearts first before doing this, and that when doing this we do it with meekness.
Jonah his answer with Who he is: “I am a Hebrew.” Essentially, he is identifying himself with the people of the Lord’s covenant, with Abraham, and he does not seem to be ashamed. “Hebrew” is from “beer,” an Eberite (i.e. Hebrew)—(Strong’s), When you trace the lineage of Shem (Gen.11:10-26), you see that Eber is the great grandson of Shem and from Eber comes Nahor, Terah and Abram. “Hebrew” means “one that passes over” (Hitchcock) or “beyond; the other side of (as having crossed over” (JB Jackson). Others suggest it is a variation of another Hebrew word (abhor) which speaks of a “sojourner” or “passer through.” Jonah was from a line of descendants culminating in one man called by the Lord, to whom the Lord revealed Himself and to whom the Lord made a covenant with and it was a covenant of grace. Jonah was from a proud lineage. He does not tell them where he was born, or what tribe he is from. In his answer we do not see the divisions of the nation, the split between the 2 tribes and 10 tribes. Jonah is a “Hebrew,” he is a “stranger and pilgrim on the earth” (Heb.11:13) and he feels his separation, and that separation comes from his calling.
Jonah continues with Who he worships: “I fear the Lord” or “and I [reverently] fear and worship the Lord.” (Amplified). The word “fear” shows two emotions connected with his relationship with God, submission and worship. There is a “fear” that speaks of being afraid and Jonah must have felt fear at this moment because of the terrible storm. That fear brings a submission to God. There is a “fear” that means “stand in awe of” and that speaks of “worship.” The one that Jonah fears is the “Lord”—the “self-existent one who reveals himself.” The Lord had revealed Himself to Jonah in the past and now in the present and now Jonah is about to reveal the Lord to these men.
Jonah says that he fears the Lord, but where was that fear while he was running from the Lord? It seems like he learns to fear the Lord only after judgment. Fear when it is balanced with Faith makes all the difference. When he disobeyed and when he fled he did not show that “fear the Lord.” Now Jonah learns again to submit to God and to worship God. Fear brings knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov.1:7). Knowledge is the starting point, it is a beginning, it must grow and develop, it comes through experience. It is what helps us accept instruction and correction and not resist. Fear brings wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Prov.9:10). This shows that knowledge and wisdom are linked together. Wisdom is knowledge that has grown and this is what helps us understand God’s Will. Fear brings obedience. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments” (Psa.111:10). Wisdom grows as we accept God’s Will, and when we accept then we obey God’s Will. As Jonah says this I can see the reality of what he has said all his life suddenly being made real and fresh again. Sometimes trials and tests and even failures show us how precious those truths are that we have known all our lives. Now Jonah’s testimony will cause these men to both fear and worship the Lord.
Jonah tells them Who God is. He is the God of Heaven and the God of Creation. Jonah introduces them to God in two ways that they can understand.
The God of Heaven: Psalm 136 describes the God of heaven by declaring that He is ruler over heaven and earth. He is the “God of gods” and He is the “Lord of lords.” What is so striking in this Psalm is that throughout the many descriptions of God runs the phrase “His mercy endureth forever” which shows His great attribute is His Mercy. It is His mercy that the sailors will see and His mercy that Jonah will see after he is thrown overboard. It is understandable that the Jews would see God in this way and address God in this way, Nehemiah prayed to “the God of heaven” (Neh.1:4) and Daniel prayed to “the God of heaven” (Dan.2:17-18). But when the Gentiles see God in this way it is remarkable. Cyrus, the king of Persian acknowledged “the God of heaven” as directing or charging him to build God a house in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:2). Nebuchadnezzar acknowledge God as the “King of heaven” (Dan.4:17) after he had been abased as he said for his pride. Now these sailors who believed in other gods will see “the God of heaven” in a marvelous way and will surely know that He is greater than all their gods.
He is the God of Creation: “which hath made the sea and the dry land.” Every culture had creation stories and understood that there was a Creator. They are sailors on the sea, the sea is in terrible turmoil, they are about to die and they want to get back on dry land. This is a view of God they can understand and Jonah begins with the “sea” to reinforce this message. God created the sea, God created the “great wind” and directed it. As He started it, He can also stop it. Underneath these two statements is the fact that Jonah’s God is the God of all men, not just Jonah or the Jews. This is how Paul introduced God when he preached at Lystra, he preached the “living God” as opposed to dead idols, he preached the God “which made heaven and earth and the sea.” (Acts 14:15). When Paul was in Athens and preached on Mars Hill, he pointed out their altar to an “unknown God” and then told them this was the same God that “made the world and all things therein” and that He was “Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts.17:23-24). Jonah does not speak very long, does not even say very much but what he says is powerful and will have a profound effect upon those listening. They do not disbelieve him, they believe him. Jonah, the reluctant prophet is fulfilling his ministry and his calling. He must have seen their reaction, because they certainly had one as the next verse shows. I think that whether Jonah realizes it or not, this is the Lord showing him that Gentiles can respond to his message. It is a picture of what the response will be when he finally does preach to Nineveh.