And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
In our text today Jonah is found out. He has run from God’s call and at this point in the story we don’t know why. The other prophets in the Bible tend to follow the call of God as difficult as it may be but not Jonah. He is now called out of his hiding and exposed and we see the irony of a prophet who confesses to fear the Lord, the God who made the sea and dry land, and the way his actions do not align with his words. If he truly feared the Lord he would have been obedient to the voice of God.
Satire in Scripture
Jonah is the best example of the use of Satire in the Bible. Satire contains an object of attack, a satiric vehicle, tone, and the satiric norm. The prophets use this tool at length, to attack the evils of the prophet’s society. Outside of the prophetic literature, satire is employed the most by Jesus, throughout his discourses, his parables, and dialogues. In the story of Jonah, the attack is upon the nation of Israel using the reluctant prophet as their stand in. The vehicle is the journey and saga of Jonah’s story with an emphasis on the sovereignty of God. The tone is light through the use of irony and Jonah is held up to scorn by being rendered ridiculous. God functions as the satiric norm who exposes what is wrong with Jonah’s attitude. Jonah is a static character. Events that should produce change in his life fail to do so. The scope of God’s saving love serves as a foil to Jonah’s hatred of everything non-Jewish.
Who are you?
The focus of our text today is the questioning of Jonah by the sailors. They want to discover why he is the cause of the storm and in doing so they ask him who he is. This was a method of investigation concerning his ethnicity, beliefs, and his worship. The ancients believed in three types of gods: personal, family, and national. In Jonah’s time, people’s personal destinies became inextricably linked with their national destinies, and national gods functioned increasingly as personal gods in Palestine. The question is the same for us today. Who are you? What do you confess with your lips and what do you confess with your actions? Do the two align themselves?
Are you a Jonah? Are you complacent and apathetic in the mission that Jesus gave to us to go and make disciples? Are there some groups of people whom you have basically written off? Are you possibly a Ninevite? Are you in desperate need of a warning of destruction? Will you repent of your sins and heed the voice of God?
How do the actions of Jonah challenge your preconceptions?
How does it challenge your own life when you recognize the gap between Jonah’s character and the message that he was called to deliver?
Which of the characters in this story do you most identify with? Explain.