Jonah 1:12-15

Sermon preached on January 30, 2005 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, US Park Ranger
Roy Sullivan has the dubious distinction of being the person who has been struck by lightning more than any other. The first incident happened in 1942. It shot through his leg and blew his big toenail off. The second one knocked him unconscious and burned off his eyebrows. A year later he was hit in the shoulder. Two years after that another bolt set his hair on fire and he had to dump a bucket of water over himself to put it out. A year later another bolt ripped through his hat and set his hair on fire again. Then there were two more after that.

Now I don't know the effect that on Roy, but if I was him I would have started asking myself a lot of questions, like,

"Is God trying to teach me anything here?"

I'm not sure what kind of a person Roy was, maybe he was an outstanding individual, maybe he had an electric personality and was a very positive person—he could have been the type of guy you'd get a charge out of. But at the very least, if that was me, I would have started looking for an indoor job. I don't know about you, but getting hit the second time would have done the trick for me.

The sailors on Jonah's ship seem to have been much more perceptive than poor Roy. In the middle of the storm, they instinctively knew that God was dealing with them. It was no ordinary storm. It was such that they thought that the hand of God was against them and that God must have been especially angry with one of them. Hence they cast lots. After the lot fell on Jonah we read that the sea was getting rougher and rougher. But they didn't throw him overboard at that point.

And the great question is:

Why didn't the sailors throw Jonah overboard then?

Why ask him what he had done? Even after Jonah told them that he was a prophet of the Most High and that the way for the sea to become calm was for them to throw him into the sea—they resisted. In verse 13 we read,

"Instead, the men did their best
to row back to land.
But they could not,
for the sea grew even wilder than before."

They did not want to throw Jonah overboard. Why were they so reluctant?

I believe there is only one answer that is adequate.

They knew that human life was sacred.

They knew that it was wrong for them to throw Jonah overboard. They knew that it was wrong for them to take his life. They knew that doing so would anger God and put their lives at risk. They were afraid that God was going to take vengeance on them for doing so. In verse 14 we read that they said,

please do not let us die
for taking this man's life.
Do not hold us accountable
for killing an innocent man,
for you, O LORD,
have done as you pleased."

They knew that throwing Jonah overboard could put them in mortal danger. They knew that it was against God. The sailors had a high view of human life.

Even though they knew that God was angry with Jonah, even though they knew that God's prophet had told them that the way for the sea to become calm was for them to throw him into the sea—they hesitated to take his life. It was only with the greatest reluctance that they threw Jonah into the sea.

The sailors are a great example us and to society today. They are a good example because they show the respect for human life that they Bible everywhere teaches. Although they were pagan, they had a good understanding of what God had taught men about the sanctity of life. It had been taught from the earliest of times.

Remember the curse upon Cain for killing Abel?

God said to Cain, (Genesis 4:10-11)

"What have you done?
The voice of your brother's blood
is crying to Me from the ground.
And now you are cursed from the ground,
which has opened its mouth
to receive your brother's blood from your hand."

John Murray writes, (POC, p. 107)

"The similarity of the curse upon Cain to the curse pronounced upon Adam for the original sin is apparent, but perhaps more striking is the difference. There is an intensification of the curse. In the case of Adam the ground was cursed for his sake (Genesis 3:17); in the case of Cain he was cursed from the ground, or more cursed than the ground that opened its mouth to receive his brother's blood."

The great principle that we see in Cain's punishment is that

taking human life was a sure way to be cursed.

Cain was cursed four-fold.

First we see that God told him that
the ground would no longer yield its fruit for him. The earth had turned against him. He would not be able to farm the earth like other people. The ground had turned against him.

Furthermore, he was told that he would be
a nomad on the earth. This follows the first part of the curse, the earth would not yield crops for him. But there is more to it than that. He was banished from settled society. God is showing everyone that he is not fit to dwell on the earth, let alone with other people in ordinary society.

It's interesting that
the Hebrew words for wanderer used of Cain in Genesis 4 have connotations of aimlessness, of mourning, of being unstable and shaken. Cain's life had become meaningless.

This leads us to the third aspect of the curse, one not verbalized by God, but stated by Cain.

Cain was
greatly alienated from God. He said to God,

"My punishment is more than I can bear.
Today you are driving me from the land,
and I will be hidden from your presence;"

He was separated from God. This does not mean that there is no hope of forgiveness and salvation for murders, but it shows that the nature of the crime is that it's natural course is separation from God and damnation. Revelation 22:15 tells us about those who are banished from the holy city in the consummation of all things, those who are forever banished from it. It says,

"Outside are the dogsÖmurderersÖ"

The fourth aspect of the curse is also verbalized by Cain. Cain was afraid. He said to God. (Genesis 4:14)

"whoever finds me will kill me."

Cain was fearful for his life. It's like he instinctively knew the truth of what Jesus would later say, (Matthew 26:52)

"all who draw the sword
will die by the sword."

Cain became fearful. Terror seized him. He was afraid that what happened to Abel would happen to him. He had lost a sense of safety and security.

Thus through the fourfold curse on Cain God showed everyone the sanctity of life. No one could miss it.

But there's even more here.

God's provision for Cain further emphasizes the sanctity of human life.

John Murray writes, (POC, p. 108)

"Perhaps more arresting in this connection in the halo of sanctity which God places around the life of Cain himself."

God said to Cain, (Genesis 4:15)

"'Therefore whoever kills Cain,
vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.'
And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain,
lest anyone finding him should slay him."

John Murray writes, (Principles of Conduct, p. 108)

"Life is so sacred that even the life of the murderer is to be respected; in is not to be wantonly or ruthlessly taken away. Crime is not to be punished by crime; the life of the murderer is not to be taken in the way of violence or thirst for blood after the pattern of the murderer's own crime."

Before the flood, God did not permit people to kill even murderers.

But as you know, the whole earth became filled with violence. (Genesis 6:13) God decided to put an end to it by means of the flood.

And after the flood God instituted the death penalty for murderers.

This again shows what a great crime it is to take human life. In Genesis 9:6 we read,

"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made man."

Capital punishment was instituted for murder. Indeed, if you look at the law of Moses you'll see that the punishment for murder was death. As we see in Numbers 35:16-21, the murderer was to be put to death at the hand of the avenger of blood. God commanded that it be so.

Murray writes on Genesis 9:6,(POC, p. 111)

"We may conclude therefore that it would be quite contrary to the analogy of Scripture, as well as to the natural force of the whole passage, to regard Genesis 9:6 as anything else than a charge given to man to execute the death penalty, and that verse 6b enunciates the reason why this extreme penalty is to be exacted."

Man is made in the image of God. That is why the murderer must be put to death. Murder is no ordinary crime—it is an assault on God's created order.

There are many other passages that show us the sanctity of life.

One of the most well know is that of David refusing to take King Saul's life.

Even though he had been anointed by Samuel to be king in place of Saul, even though Saul had turned from the Lord and had killed the priests of the Lord at Nob, David would not lift his hand against Saul or give his men permission to kill Saul. At one point Saul was in David's hands and Abishai said to him, (1 Samuel 26:8)

"Today God has delivered your enemy
into your hands.
Now let me pin him to the ground
with one thrust of my spear;
I won't strike him twice."

But David would have none of it. He said to Abishai, (verse 9)

"Don't destroy him!
Who can lay a hand on the LORD's anointed
and be guiltless?
As surely as the LORD lives,
the LORD himself will strike him;
either his time will come and he will die,
or he will go into battle and perish.
But the LORD forbid
that I should lay a hand on the LORD's anointed.
Now get the spear and water jug
that are near his head,
and let's go."

Indeed, on another occasion he was conscience-stricken for merely cutting off a corner of Saul's robe.

Human life is sacred. Thus the sailors were quite right when they were afraid to throw Jonah into the sea. They were a great example to us and to our society.

Now, what does all this mean for us?

First of all,

How we ought to be grieved by the slaughter of unborn infants in our land.

Abortion is a great evil. Millions of unborn babies are murdered every year in our country. Christians, don't accept it. It's not about pro-choice. It's about being pro-murder. Our nation needs to turn from this great evil. You Christians are to point the way. Psalm 82:4 says,

"Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

Secondly, we see that this does not bode well for our nation.

John Murray, (POC, p. 122)

"Nothing shows the moral bankruptcy of a people or of a generation more than disregard for the sanctity of human life."

How long will God let this great evil continue?

People in our land think that no ill will come from abortion. They think that Christianity and living according to Christian principles has had nothing to do with the blessing of America.

Today it's not politically correct to say that God has blessed western society because of Christianity and the Calvinistic principle of hard work. A couple of years ago there was a best selling book,
Guns, Germs and Steel. It sought to explain why the west developed and prospered when so many other civilizations didn't. Do you know what his conclusion was, the summary of the whole book? Pure luck!

What utter nonsense. As we read in
Proverbs 14:34

"Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people."

Sin brings curse. Sin brings judgment. In Genesis 15:13 God said to Abraham,

"Know for certain that your descendants
will be strangers in a country not their own,
and they will be enslaved and mistreated
four hundred years.
But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,
and afterward they will come out with great possessionsÖ
In the fourth generation your descendants
will come back here,
for the sin of the Amorites
has not yet reached its full measure."

The sins of the Amorites not yet full. For hundreds of years God was patient with the Amorites. But judgment finally came. Sin brings curse. Sin brings judgment. There is only one hope for our nation—like Nineveh they need to repent and turn from their evil deeds.

Thirdly, for those who are not Christians,

this incident points you to Jesus, showing you the only way of salvation.

One of the great objections people use to justify their rejection of Christianity is the suffering that goes on in the earth. How can there be a God when the earth is filled with such violence, such suffering? How can God permit it?

People today are just like the sailors. It's interesting that each of the sailors thought that God must be angry with someone else—not with him. People ask 'Why does God permit such violence, such murder?' and yet
they fail to look into their own hearts and realize that the same lack of love and hate that's there is the same sin as murder.

The sailors didn't think that God was angry with them, that they deserved to die in the storm. But they were guilty sinners and none of them deserved to be saved. As we read in
Romans 3:23,

"for all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God,"

Well did Jeremiah write , (Lamentations 3:22)

"Because of the LORD's great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail."

Or as we read in Psalm 103:10, God,

"does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities."

Part of the reason God had Jonah thrown into the sea was to point people to Jesus. Jonah was cast overboard so that others would be spared. He was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish pointing us to the death and resurrection of Jesus. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

"God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God."

The sailors thought it was a great crime to throw Jonah into the sin.

What a great crime it was to nail Jesus to the cross!

To hate Jesus, to want Him dead. What hatred. As we read in John 3:19,

"This is the verdict:
Light has come into the world,
but men loved darkness instead of light
because their deeds were evil."

Are you really concerned about the violence and suffering in the world? Where does it come from? It comes from men's hearts. If you're rejecting Jesus, you're saying, "Yes!" to violence, murder and suffering because the great truth is that God is doing something about the suffering and violence in the world. The gospel of Jesus Christ is being preached. The gospel of peace is going forward. It's saving men, women and children, changing their hearts, taking out the hatred and violence, and giving them His Spirit of love.

You need to embrace Jesus. What is your reaction to Jesus? There are only two choices. You're either going to embrace Him or reject Him. If you reject Him you're joining forces with those, who, when they saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, plotted to kill both of them.

Jonah went willingly into the sea. Like Jonah, Jesus went willingly to the cross. He went like a lamb to the slaughter. The ones who crucified Him did not take Jesus' life from Him. No. No one could do that. He laid it down of His own accord. As He said in John 10:17f,

"I lay down my life—only to take it up again.
No one takes it from me,
but I lay it down of my own accord.
I have authority to lay it down
and authority to take it up again.
This command I received from my Father."

He laid it down because He wants to save sinners. Go to Him, go to Him now.

Lastly, for Christians. I don't want to talk exclusively about how others are failing to hold life in high regard.

What about you?

Murder is a form of hate. It's about a lack of love. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:22,

"anyone who is angry with his brother
will be subject to judgment.
Again, anyone who says to his brother,
'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin.
But anyone who says,
'You fool!'
will be in danger of the fire of hell."

How do you feel about your obnoxious co-worker, your troublesome neighbor, the bad kid who lives down the street?

How do you regard them? Do you hold their lives in high regard? They are made in the image of God. Their lives are valuable and precious.

Are you doing everything you can to love them, to point them to Christ? Remember what Jesus did after the
rich young ruler arrogantly claimed that he had kept the law ever sin he was a boy? In Mark 10:21 we read,

"Jesus looked at him and loved him.
'One thing you lack,'
he said.
'Go, sell everything you have
and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.'"

Jesus loved him and pointed him to Himself. May God give us grace to do the same.