Friday, June 27, 2008

Jonah and the Sailors, Part 1

We last saw our hero Jonah boarding a ship, bound for Tarshish. He is running from the presence of the Lord. He doesn’t like his latest ministry assignment. Go and preach to the Taliban. Convert Osama Bin Laden. So, instead of following God’s instructions, he flees.
“But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.”
A few things for this post. 1) Jonah is running. Notice the Bible says, “But the Lord.” The first “But” is Jonah’s. The last “But” is the Lord’s. He always has the last say-so. 2) The Lord sent out a great wind. The Hebrew term here is Tuwl (pronounced tool.) It means to hurl. God hurled the storm. Here, God means business. He is sending a sign to Jonah. God shows us His will on a consistent basis; many times, we either don’t perceive them, or too often, just ignore them.
The storm is so great that the ship is about to be torn apart. The sailors are doing everything they can to save the ship. They are manning the decks, rigging the line,…row, row, rowing the boat. But to no avail! Finally, in life threatening desperation, they throw the cargo overboard. Remember that this is a cargo ship. They take stuff from here, trade it for stuff over there, and then sell the over-there stuff over here to make a few drachmas. This is their livelihood, people! This storm is so bad that they are willing to sacrifice their fortunes to save their necks, and Jonah, the Lord’s man, the preacher, the pastor, and the calm assuror…is sound asleep!
Let’s camp awhile, shall we? The first thing I see is how our sin affects other people that are around us. Jonah’s sin cost these sailors. When they would get back from Tarshish, their wives would meet them at the docks, with the little rug rats in tow, waiting to go to Joppa Kroger, Joppa Wal Mart, and Joppa Payless (a lot of shoe need to be bought.) But because of Jonah’s rebellious sin, the sailors suffered as well. The principal is crystal clear to me. When we sin and refuse to repent, we hurt those closet to us. A man has an affair, he shatters his family. His wife is crushed, his daughter becomes untrusting, his son mimics his behavior. We lie, those near us suffer. We lose our temper, we hurt those we love. We sin, those close to us pay a cost.
The other thing is that Jonah was asleep! They are about to die and he’s taking a nap! Here is a clear analogy to the church in today’s culture. The world around us is going to Hell in a hand basket, and the church is dead asleep. Outside of our four walls, there is a whole world lost, dying, and on their way to Hell. And we argue about what color to paint the woman’s restroom or how much money we spent on our last Trunk-or-Treat!
In the meantime, the culture is invading the church! Listen, I’m all for becoming culturally relevant. Blend your worship service, put in rotating lighting, and preach wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. But for the love of all that is right and holy, stop making yourselves so culturally reflective that you can no longer tell the difference between you and the world. Jesus said that we are to be a separated people. That’s what “called of God” means. To be separated from the world. Not isolated from the world, but to be a peculiar people. In other words, we are to be different from the world. In the world—but not of the world. Jerry Vines has said it best; “The church is not called to be a thermometer registering the temperature of the culture, we are called to be a thermostat setting the temperature of the culture.” We should show the world that there is something better. We can make adjustments and thereby make the culture want to be a part of our services. But there has to be a point when they recognize that they need something more. And that something is Jesus! WAKE UP, CHURCH! Show these people the Jesus in you.

1 comment:

Jim P said...

Great blog - I have already started reading earlier entries and look forward to you next.