Debra Isenbletter, PastorSpringfield, Missouri
Ch. 1:10 - “Then were the men exceedingly afraid and said unto him; Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.”
“Then were the men exceedingly afraid”—Jonah has given his answer to their questions and now we see the strong emotional response to what Jonah has said. They were “exceedingly afraid”, they were “intensely” afraid; they were “terribly” afraid. They were “terrified”. The reason given for their fear is not just because of what Jonah said about his God, He was “the God of heaven” and the God that “made the sea”. The reason for their terror is because of what Jonah did. He ran from God. They seemed to be more afraid of Jonah’s God than Jonah was. These ungodly, pagan men have a degree of fear and a degree of faith. Both give them a revelation concerning Jonah’s God. They were afraid of God’s power; afraid of judgment, afraid of dying, even a little afraid of Jonah. Where was Jonah’s fear? We do not a hint of it in this narrative. Jonah did not seem to be afraid and he should have been. Their fear is the foundation for the Lord’s salvation and His mercy. “Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him” (Psa. 85:9) and “great is his mercy toward them that fear him.” (Psa. 103:11).
“Why hast thou done this?”—These men ask Jonah a question. Their question is an accusation that demands an explanation. It can be translated: “What is this you have done?” or “How could you do this?”. They are shocked. They are astonished. You get the idea that they would never do this if they knew this. What has Jonah done? Jonah has run! Their accusation is very personal because their lives are at risk. Everything God did was to Get Jonah’s attention and it affected them. They were caught in the middle, they stood between God and Jonah, innocent bystanders. Jonah’s disobedience put their lives in danger. Jonah cannot answer this question and he does not seem to answer it because he cannot justify himself and he would have to face himself, would have to take responsibility for his actions. The lesson is that everything we do or do not do has consequences. We are not the only ones affected, others are affected.
Abram’s fear of the famine led him to Egypt (Gen. 12:10). Abram’s fear of the Egyptians led him to tell a half-truth concerning his wife (Gen 12:13). Where was Abram’s faith? All we see is his fear. Because of a lack of faith and because of his fear, he caused Pharaoh and his household to suffer. Pharaoh took Abram’s wife into his household and God was angry. “And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues…” (Gen. 12:17-18). Pharaoh questioned Abram, accused him, “Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife” (Gen. 12:180. He suffered because of Abram’s actions, because of his fear, here his fear was a lack of faith in God.
Samson’s anger over his wife being given to another led him to take action that brought the anger of the Philistines upon all of Judah. (Judges 15:1-11). He acted apart from God’s will. He married a Philistine, his companion, his friend was a Philistine. (Judges 14:20). What was he doing in fellowship with those that were the enemies of his people? When he compromised it brought consequences? Her father thought he had just cause to give her to another but Samson took action that brought down the wrath of the Philistines and they asked him, “What is this that thou hast done unto us?” (Judg. 15:11). His actions affected them.
Jonah’s actions affected those around him. Our actions affect those around us. We are not the only ones affected if we are disobedient to God’s Will or God’s Word. Like Jonah, there are others caught up in the judgment that was directed against Jonah.
“For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord.” At the end of this verse we find out that at some point, Jonah had told them that he had “fled” and that he had flesh “from the presence of the Lord.” That must have told them that Jonah was a prophet of God, who else would stand in the “presence of the Lord?” This fleeing is the real issue. It is what Jonah can no longer deny, it is what he can no longer hide, it is what he must face and see the consequences of. Somehow these men knew that the “presence of the Lord” showed that Jonah had a relationship with God, he had fellowship with God, he had a responsibility to God. The Amplified Bible translates this as “he fled from the presence [face] of the Lord [as his prophet and servant].” This is what was so shocking to these men. After hearing Jonah describe Who his God was and His Power they were stunned. They, in their knowledge of their gods and their limited knowledge of Jonah’s God understood the importance of responsibility to the god you served. This must have been humbling for Jonah. They knew because “he had told them.” Jonah’s conscience had forced him to tell the truth, he did not lie. The telling of this truth is the beginning of Jonah’s recovery and restoration as God’s prophet. Their next question in vs. 11, is a question for the prophet and not the man.