Debra Isenbletter, PastorSpringfield, Missouri
Ch. 1:11 - “Then said they unto him; What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? For the sea wrought and was tempestuous.”
This verse is about a question, and it is a question for the prophet not the man. It is the prophet who will give them an answer and although Jonah may think his answer is his idea or his way of escape, it is neither. The God who created and controls the sea will use what Jonah says to these men to test their faith and to test Jonah’s faith. We see the Prophet and the Problem (which is the prophet). They Consult the Prophet: “Then said they unto him…” They said this to Jonah the prophet. The word “said” expresses an urgency, it can mean “to demand” such as Do Something! Or it can mean “to desire” as in Please do something! They are speaking “unto him,” unto Jonah. Unto the “Hebrew.” Unto the one who knew “the God of heaven.” Unto the one who knew the God that “made the sea and the dry land.” Unto the one who “fled from the presence of the Lord.” They believe that Jonah knew God and could speak to God.
They Consult the Prophet who is the Problem: “What shall we do unto thee.” The Question is: “What shall we do?” They know that they need to do something but they did not know what to do. The Quandary is: “unto thee” because they know that Jonah is the problem but he is also the solution. This is not the first time the question of “What shall we do?” has been asked and whenever it has been asked there is both desperation and faith behind the question. When it is asked in faith, despite or because of the desperation, there will always be an answer.
Manoah asked this question of the Lord concerning Samson and how they should raise him. “O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.” (Judges 13:8). They were given an answer; a detailed answer and they followed those instructions faithfully. Those that are willing to ask: “What shall I do,” must be willing to do whatever they are told to do, even if they do not fully understand. That is faith. The Philistines asked this question concerning the ark (1Sam.6:2-3) and obeyed without question.
John the Baptist was asked the question “What shall we do” by the people (Luk.3:10); by the publicans (Luk.3:12); by the soldiers (Luk.3:14). John gave an answer to each group, and they could choose to do or not do what John told them.
Jesus was asked the question: “What shall we do?” (Joh.6:28-29) by those who had a sincere desire to please and serve God. Jesus told them what to do by telling them what to believe.
The crowd at Pentecost asked Peter, “What shall we do?” (Act.2:37). Their conviction was real, their desire was real and the answer was simple. It was to believe on the Lord Jesus, to show that belief by repenting and being baptized and to take the added step of faith by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Council at Jerusalem asked the question; “What shall we do to these men?” (Act.4:16). They were talking about the apostles, their preaching, their miracles. They asked this question but they did not really want to hear the answer. It would have been the same answer that was given by Peter on Pentecost. Simply believe.
These men asked Jonah what they should do because they did not know what to do. They know what the problem is, it is the sea. They even tell Jonah what the solution to the problem is: “that the sea may be calm unto us?” They know Jonah is the source of the problem, so they believe Jonah will have the solution to the problem. It was the sea that threatened the ship and threatened their lives. If the sea could just “be calm” then everything would be fine. They believed that Jonah’s God (who made the sea) could also calm the sea and since this was Jonah’s God, Jonah would have to ask his God to do this. They saw the danger: “for the sea wrought and was tempestuous.” They could not ignore it, they could not escape it, they could not stop it.