Desperation has a way of quickening the spirit of a man. The fleeting last moments of your life bring alot of focus and clarity.
I can personally attest to that. My day of desperation came recently and unexpectedly. It was very chaotic. Everybody was panicking. That day we all thought we were going to die.
When we left Joppa the weather seemed fair. The route to Tarshish was one we had taken many times. I worked on the boat, usually doing the inspections and making sure everything was in working order.
I gave the boat a thorough inspection before we shipped off and everything checked out just fine.
The only thing that I found strange before we left was one of the passengers. His name was Jonah. He looked nervous and he had a heaviness about him.
He couldn’t get down into the bottom of the boat fast enough. It was like he was trying to find the darkest corner possible. I could tell he was running. At the time, I didn’t know why or from whom. It wouldn’t be long until I found out.
I don’t remember exactly how far from Joppa we traveled before the storm came, but we were far enough out to be at the mercy of the sea.
It came suddenly and behaved strangely, not like any storm I had ever been through. The clouds were different. They had a peculiar and glorious kind of darkness. The waves began to overpower the ship. We were going to be thrown into the sea.
We all worshipped different gods and we put them all to the test that day, crying out for salvation.
All of us, that is, except Jonah. I suppose he was testing his god too, just in a very different way. We were all running around in frantic madness, praying prayers, and trying to throw off unnecessary weight to keep the boat from sinking. Jonah was asleep in the bottom of the boat.
Looking back on everything, maybe Jonah wasn’t bothered by the storm because he was afraid of something bigger. The captain was beside himself when he found Jonah down there. He woke him up in a hurry and begged him to cry out to his god.
No one else’s god was answering.
The ship couldn’t take another hit and we were at the peak of our desperation. We are a superstitious bunch and we knew this was more than just a natural storm. If no one’s god would save us then one of them must be angry.
The other sailors and I decided to cast lots to see who was to blame for all of this. That is how we determine things around here. The lot fell on Jonah. I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, he was the one acting a little strange.
We all started bombarding him with questions. His answer drove us even deeper into our desperation and fear. He said,
I am a Hebrew and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and dry land.
That was bad news. Some of us knew more than others. But we all had heard enough to know that you don’t want to be around when the God of the Hebrews gets angry.
Jonah told us he was running from his god. He was supposed to go to Nineveh and warn the people of the Lord’s judgment against their wickedness. Instead, he is on our boat fleeing to Tarshish. He told us the only way to stop the storm was to throw him overboard.
A hard decision
What could we do? I, for one, did not want to be responsible for the loss of a man’s life, but the God of the Hebrews is relentless! He does not stop!
As deep as our desperation was, the most desperate thing we did that day was to try to save Jonah’s life.
At that point the boat could have been blown apart by the waves at any moment, and every second we wasted was an opportunity to lose our own lives, but we were not killers. We grabbed our oars and rowed as hard as we could to escape the storm, but Jonah’s God had already proven He cannot be outrun. We failed and there was no more time to waste.
We were all going to die trying to save a guilty man’s life.
We cried out to Jonah’s God the best we knew how. It was His intention to toss Jonah into the sea and there was nothing we could do about it so we begged Him not to judge us for our actions. There at the peak of our desperation, with the rage of the Hebrew God thundering down on us, we had to act.
We dropped our oars, grabbed Jonah, and tossed him to the sea. He left our hands as we gave him over to the God he rejected. Before Jonah’s body even touched the water’s surface the clouds dispersed, the sea ceased from its raging, and the winds calmed to a gentle breeze.
I can’t explain the feeling I had in the aftermath. Of course, there was fear. But there was also an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder. Since that day I have worshipped the God of the Hebrews.
He was the only god who answered.
I don’t know what happened to Jonah. Perhaps the Lord saved him. Maybe He didn’t. But today I’ve been hearing talk of some kind of revival in Nineveh. The wicked Ninevites are turning to the Lord.
I will always remember what I have learned through it all. The God of the Hebrews, now my God too, is faithful.
He is faithful in wrath and judgment, but also in grace and mercy.
As I said, desperation has a way of quickening the spirit of a man. That day’s desperation quickened my spirit to the God of the Hebrews.