Debra Isenbletter, PastorSpringfield, Missouri
Ch. 1:14: “Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said; We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.”
“Wherefore they cried unto the Lord.” In this verse we see the supplication of these men to Jonah’s God. They “cried” out in desperation because they saw their need. This is the place all men need to be brought to and sometimes it takes desperate circumstances to bring that cry forth. The word means to “cry out for help” and to “address by name.” They did both. They cried “unto the Lord,” unto Jehovah, (“self-existent, eternal One, who reveals Himself”). They cried out unto the One that Jonah had revealed. They cried out unto the One Jonah said had power over the storm. This is the name God used when revealed Himself to Moses (Ex.6:2-3). Until that time, He had been known only by the name of “God Almighty.” This is a name that has behind it the idea of revelation. God revealed Himself to Moses, who revealed God to Israel and this revelation concerned a God that delivered. Jonah revealed this same God to these pagan men and they needed deliverance. They cried out but they did this only after they could do nothing else. They finally cried out because all their efforts had failed and they knew they had no strength, they knew they could not save themselves. It does not matter why they cried, it only matters that they did cry to the Lord.
“and said: We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee.” They use the word “beseech” twice, they are begging, they are pleading, there is a great urgency in their cry. They all do this, they are all in agreement, every single man. They all humble themselves before Jonah’s God. The reason for this cry, this petition, this supplication is that they are in a dilemma.
“let us not perish [die] for [taking] this man’s life.” This is their dilemma. They have been told what to do, had resisted doing it, are now forced to face the fact they must do it. They must throw Jonah overboard and these words reveal the guilt they feel in doing it. They want Jonah’s God to know they are not doing this willingly or maliciously but only to save their lives. They do not want to be held accountable or punished for doing this. They are between a rock and a hard place. They knew they would die if Jonah did not die. They feared they would die if they killed Jonah. They were afraid. Afraid of the storm. Afraid of dying. Afraid of God. Afraid of Jonah. Matthew Henry writes: “We see that we must perish if we spare his life; so, let us not perish for taking his life.”
Jonah and his “death” at their hands despite all their efforts to resist is a picture of how necessary it was that Jesus die. Man could not stop it because it was necessary. There was no other way to redeem mankind. There was no other way to satisfy God’s justice. There was no other man that could do this. Jesus knew how necessary this was, but knew it was a spiritual necessity. Jesus told His disciples that He “must suffer,” He must “be rejected,” He must “be slain” (Luke 9:20-22). The angle told the women that Jesus “must be delivered,” that He must “be crucified” (Luke 24:5-8). Caiaphas knew how necessary this was but saw it as a political necessity. He said “it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (Jn.11:50). He saw it as necessary in the light of Roman occupation and did not see the real spiritual significance.
This is a picture of those who killed Jesus, but they had a different attitude that these men that were about to throw Jonah overboard. Caiaphas and the religious leaders did not feel the guilt that these men felt. They did not do it reluctantly, they did it willingly, they did it eagerly. They did not seem to fear God as these pagan sailors did. When Pilate asked “What shall I do” their cry was “Let him be crucified” (Mt.27:22-23). When Peter gave his sermon and spoke to the religious leaders, he accused them openly and publicly. He said, “whom ye delivered up and denied” and “killed” (Acts 3:13-15). When Peter said this they could not deny it because it was true.
“lay not upon us [hold us accountable for] innocent blood.” This is their discernment. This reveals how they saw God: “lay not upon us [do not hold us accountable]. They are asking God “to (not) put upon them (the guilt);” “to (not) charge them (with a crime);” “to (not) avenge” the death of Jonah. They understood the power of God and the justice of God. They understood right and wrong. It reveals how they saw Jonah: “innocent blood.” He was “innocent, blameless, guiltless.” They were afraid to kill an innocent. They had a conscience. They knew there were consequences. When Cain killed his brother Abel, his innocent blood cried out to God (Gen.4:10). Before Law there was a penalty for shedding innocent blood and man understood that (Gen.9:6). Under Law there was a penalty for shedding innocent blood (Deut.21:8-9).
Their attitude toward Jonah, the fact that they see him as innocent and not guilty is a picture of the innocent blood of Jesus. The great contrast is that those that condemned Jesus were not afraid to shed “innocent blood.” Pilate saw the “innocent blood” of Jesus, he believed he was innocent. He said “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” Those that cried “Crucify him” did not believe he was guilty and yet they were willing to shed “innocent blood.” They said “his blood be upon us” (Mt.27:24-25). What a difference in their attitude concerning Jesus and the attitude of these men concerning Jonah.
“for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.” We see their admission, their capitulation and their submission to God. They cannot resist God. The words “hast done” are past tense, it is already done, it is already finished because it is the Will of God and they understand this. They are saying: For thou “hast done” (this) we have not. For thou “hast done (this), we cannot stop this. The word “pleased” can mean “to delight in” or it can mean “to move or bend.” God did not “delight in” what had to be done but God did “move” and “bend” them to His Will. They understood that because He is God, He can do whatever He wants. He is sovereign. I remember after 9/11 there were many religious leaders that spoke that day at a memorial. One of the last men to speak was Billy Graham and his message was short and simple. He said that God is sovereign. There are times when we cannot explain why or understand why but we cannot question because He is Sovereign. This is what these men were saying. The Psalmist writes: “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psa.115:3). Because He is God “none can stay His hand” (Deut.4:35). These men understood that.
When we look at Calvary and the shedding of “innocent blood” we must say, “for thou … hast done as it pleased thee.” Isaiah says “it pleased the Lord to bruise him” (Isa.53:10) but it was not the suffering of Jesus the Lord was pleased with, it was the submission of Jesus the Lord was pleased with; it was the sacrifice of Jesus the Lord was pleased with. The Lord was pleased with the results, the outcome. The redemption of mankind. What these men see is a mystery, but it was His will and His purpose. What we see in Jonah is a picture of what we see at Calvary. The shedding of innocent blood that confounds and astounds men “the mystery of his will” (Eph.1:9). Praise the Lord!
To be continued