I could hear the ship creaking as it strained against the gale force winds and powerful waves. I had never seen such a violent storm in all my years sailing. Like the rest of the crew, I cried out to my god to spare us, afraid the ship was about to break apart. I gripped the railing on the deck as the ship listed against another massive wave. I strained to hold on as the wave crashed over the side of the ship and drenched me.
As soon as the ship leveled out for a moment I moved back to the entrance to the decks below to grab more cargo to throw overboard. It was our hope that lightening the ship would help us survive this violent storm. My crew mate handed me a large clay jar. I grasped it tightly in my arms as another wave hit the ship and flung me hard against the doorway. The impact released the jar from my grip. I watched it roll across the deck and break open against the railing, spewing its contents overboard.
“We’re doomed “ I shouted at my crew mate as I stared at him gripping the ladder just inside the hold of the ship. His face was filled with terror.
“Captain’s getting that Jonah character to pray to his God,” he shouted back. “Maybe that will spare us.”
I nodded as I joined him below deck. The sound of the wind and waves was muffled below, but the creaking of the straining wood beams was louder. I joined the crew huddled together around a dim lantern swaying back and forth with each wave that hit the ship. A moment later the captain joined us with this Jonah character we picked up in Joppa. I thought he was trouble the minute I saw him, but the captain gladly took his fare money.
That’s when my fellow sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” It was no surprise to me when the lot fell on Jonah. “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us?” My fellow sailors asked. “What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” We wanted the truth from this guy.
I stared at the solemn face on Jonah in the dim light below deck as he glanced at us. For a moment there was only the sound of creaking wood. We braced ourselves against each wave, trying to hold our positions on the floor. Seawater trickled down the ladder from above as another wave crashed over the ship. We stared at him, waiting for his answer.
“I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land,” he answered.
That’s when we put the pieces of the puzzle together. We recalled he had told us he was running away from his God, but he did not tell us his God made the land and the sea! We were filled with terror as we asked, “What have you done?” No sooner had the words left our lips when a wave hit the ship so violently that we were almost thrown against the side of the ship. It seemed impossible, but the sea was getting rougher and rougher. So we asked Jonah, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
Jonah bowed his head for a moment, then looked at us with regret. “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied. “And it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
This was not a request we were quick to respond to. Sacrificing someone to the fury of the ocean was not something we took lightly. Instead, we did our best to row back to land. But our efforts were futile. The sea grew even wilder than before. That’s when we reluctantly agreed to Jonah’s request.
“Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life,” we cried out as we took hold of Jonah. “Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”
I’ll never forget that moment as we threw him overboard. I watched him plunge into the violent waves and disappear below the surface. At that moment the sea grew calm. We had witnessed the power of Jonah’s God. It filled us with fear of the Lord, so we offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a sailor on the ship Jonah boarded in Joppa to flee the Lord, based on Jonah 1:1-16 (NIV).
© 2019 CGThelen