Debra Isenbletter, PastorSpringfield, Missouri
Ch. 1:13: “Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring it to land; but they could not: for the sea wrought and was tempestuous against them.”
In this verse I can see their Struggle. They were told by Jonah what to do and they really did not want to do it and did not understand why they should. It was both an inward and an outward struggle. In a way they picture all who have God’s Will revealed to them and who struggle against that revealed Will because they do not understand and for whatever other reasons resist, whether it is His will concerning salvation or sanctification. I think of all the people who look at the crucifixion of Christ on the Cross and struggle with why God would do that, of how God would allow that; of why God would ask that of Jesus, and why Jesus would do what God asked.
“Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring it to the land.” In their Struggle we see their Determination: “Nevertheless, the men rowed hard” and their Desire: “to bring it to land.” The word “Nevertheless” means “instead of, in spite of or regardless of.” That word should never be a part of our vocabulary or our testimony when the Will of God is revealed by the Word of God. When Jonah told them what to do: “cast me forth into the sea” they thought they had a choice but they did not because it was a command. They needed to learn that God had taken the choice away from them and the only way they could realize it was through their struggle. When “the men rowed hard” it means they tried “to force a passage with their oars.”
The word “to row” means literally “to dig (with oars).” That shows the strength of their effort behind their determination but “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” (Prov. 21:30). They were men of conscience but not men of conviction. I can see that in their effort they thought they had strength in themselves to do this but they needed to learn that they had no strength before God. That is a hard lesson to learn. They had a desire “to bring it to land.” They knew what they wanted to do, they had a purpose and a goal and yet they learned that that was not enough. They wanted to save the ship and save themselves but they wanted to do it on their terms, not God’s terms. God will strip away from them every hope in themselves.
“but they could not”—This shows they had no strength despite all their effort and they were forced to realize it. They needed to see God’s strength and the only way they did was to see that had none. In one way they had seen God’s strength in the storm and their helplessness and turned to Jonah. But in another way, they still did not understand how weak they were and God was going to teach them that lesson on another level. We can trust the Lord in some areas of our lives and yet when it comes to other areas we are not willing to utterly surrender and we have to learn the lesson the hard way by seeing how weak we are.
“for the sea wrought and was tempestuous against them.” The sea is the stumbling-block that stood against their strength, it was the mighty storm that God had raised. They were struggling against “the God of heaven that made the sea.” We see the intensity of the storm. The growth of the intensity: “the sea wrought.” The result of the intensity: “was tempestuous.” The direction of the intensity: “against them.” The harder they struggled, the more violent the storm became. The degree of the storm’s intensity matched and exceeded the degree of the effort they were exerting.
God used the sea and the storm to prove that Jonah’s words were true. He was proving Himself to them and proving Jonah to them. Jonah had declared God’s power, now they must acknowledge God’s power. It is interesting that God used Jonah, despite himself, to reveal Himself to these men. It does not say that Jonah prayed to his God but Jonah does ask them to believe on his God. God in turn, uses the storm to show His power and His prophet.
To be continued