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Four Instances of Fearing God in Jonah August 10, 2005

Posted by mjtilley in Uncategorized.

Instance #1 – Jonah 1:5; Contrasting Fear with its Absence
The storm created fear in the sailors. As a result, they labored hard to correct their predicament: they rowed hard, they shed extra weight to keep the boat afloat, they even prayed to their gods. The thing they feared inspired action.

By contrast, Jonah was sleeping, and doing so soundly. Nothing wakes him, not even the raucous waves. While the storm instills fear in the sailors, it doesn’t even impress Jonah enough to wake him. In short, Jonah doesn’t fear the storm.

As long as there is fear, corrective action is taken. If we fear God, we’ll work hard to get the “junk” or sin out of our lives, we’ll cry out to Him. We will recognize that we aren’t living up to God’s standard and do everything with every resource available to correct the problem. Otherwise – that is, without God’s fear – we’ll simply go about our business. In fact, we may even go as far as to be spiritually asleep.

Instance #2 – Jonah 1:9: Fake Fear Revealed
While Jonah’s lack of fearing God is painfully evident by his disobedience to a direct and clear command, we see him now pompously posturing for the sailors. What makes this even worse is that the sailors see right through him, for they knew exactly why he was on this ship headed to Tarshish – he had told them!

Here’s a man that claims to fear God – a good and right thing. Yet his actions show otherwise. If he truly feared God, then he wouldn’t be on this ship and these men’s lives would not be threatened. This fear that he references is nothing more than a futile fake.

What makes this particularly sad (and too close to home) is that Jonah’s theology is right. He talks about God in a way that makes those around him think that Jonah does, indeed, know God. However, as right as he is in his view of God, that view has no impact on his practice. No matter what Jonah says, his lack of fear is evident in his actions.

Instance #3 – Jonah 1:10: Feeling Fear on Jonah’s Behalf
Knowing why Jonah was here, and why the storm was howling around them, the sailors feel the fear that’s so absent from Jonah. While they likely had none of the theological underpinnings that Jonah should have been leaning on, they had their own experience of God’s hand. Their eyes were opened to God’s work. So much so, that they did more than mentally accept God and His power. They honestly, deeply and truly believed in it. And this belief drove them to tremble and act. This was none of the posturing we see from Jonah. It was the genuine article.

Instance #4 – Jonah 1:16: Fear Inspired Worship
These men have now had an experience with God. They’ve seen Him work, they’ve seen His hand. And they fear God as a result. But the evidence of this fear is that they don’t just talk about it (often a danger for those of us who know and understand God) – it inspires worship. Fearing God compelled them to worship.

And this worship wasn’t empty ritual. They offered real sacrifices to God – promises and offerings that were above and beyond anything that was required, but given out of the deepest of love.



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