Jonah Tries to Run Away from God
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, ‘Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. The captain came and said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.’
The sailors said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, ‘Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?’ ‘I am a Hebrew,’ he replied. ‘I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ Then the men were even more 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 so.
Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?’ For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.’ Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.’ So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.
Reflection by Duke Yaguchi
So the gist of this portion of Jonah is that God instructed Jonah to Nineveh to instruct the people there to repent and obey God. But Jonah didn't like those people and chose to get on a boat headed in the opposite direction. Feeling confident in himself, he went below deck and fell asleep.
God became angry and tossed the seas with a storm. Jonah figured he had caused the storm. Instructed the crew to toss him overboard. God calmed the sea and protected Jonah by having him swallowed by a big fish.
What I find fascinating is that the same Jonah who tried to defy God is one who sacrifices himself for the safety of the boat's crew. He doesn't try to negotiate with God. He takes responsibility and even risks his own life to save the innocent others.
There's no greater sacrifice that one can make than risking one's own life for the greater good. In times of war we see this all of the time with those who volunteer to join one of the armed forces. We see this all of the time with first responders. It was made quite evident with the events of 9-11. But through this pandemic, we've seen health care workers, retail workers, plant workers, everyone who worked in a public or semi-public place risking exposure to Covid for the greater good. Maybe some of us are struggling with defying God. But we've seen evidence of so many others who have sacrificed this past year to keep the world going.
Dear God, I thank you for the tens of thousands of Jonahs in the world who jumped into the turbulent sea of Covid so that others could remain on the boat of safety. Bring blessings to those who sacrificed their very lives so that others could live. Amen.