Man Overboard!
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Man Overboard!

Jonah 1:4–17  (ID: 2171)

As Jonah foolishly attempted to outrun his call to preach, he ran smack into God’s providence. God sent a ferocious storm, revealed Jonah as its cause to everyone around, and then commanded a great fish to swallow him up after he was hurled into the sea. Alistair Begg shows us that although Jonah’s disobedience threatened the lives of everyone he encountered, God’s providence was greater, and His will would not be thwarted—not for Jonah, and not for us.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Jonah

Man Overboard! Jonah 1:1–4:11 Series ID: 13201

Sermon Transcript: Print

Now, before we read the Bible again, let’s just pause and ask God to help us.

God, we do earnestly desire that we will get beyond simply the voice of a man rattling round in the room. Such a futile exercise. So come, then, and do what you’ve promised to do. Allow us to hear your voice when we take seriously your Word, so that Christ may be honored and our lives may be touched and changed, and so that you will accomplish the purposes that you’ve had from all of eternity for the congregation gathered before you now. May none of us be bystanders, but all participants, as we worship you in the preaching of the Bible. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, I invite you to turn again to Jonah chapter 1 and to where we left things this morning. We really didn’t get very far. I’m sure many of you left saying that. You said, “I don’t hold out much hope at all for this ‘brief’ series,” you were saying to one another in the car. “If it took that long to get through the first three verses, who knows how long it’s going to take us from this point out.”

Now, I know you were saying those things, just because I know you. And I know me, too. And I want to encourage you by telling you we’re going right to the end of the chapter here. So we’re going… having spent the morning on the first three, we’re spending the evening on the remaining fourteen, and we’re going to hasten to the end.

What I want to do with you is simply this: I want, as it were, to take the camera through this scene. Or, if you like, let’s take it the other way around. We want to go inside the producer’s area, where he has camera shots from all different angles. And we want to look at it, first of all, through the material that he produces by focusing on the sailors, and then to look at it again from the material that he produces by focusing directly on Jonah, and then to look at it, finally, from the perspective that is gained by focusing, as it were—and we use the metaphor here—but focusing, as it were, on God himself.

The Sailors’ Perspective

Okay, so first of all, we’re going to run through the material, and fairly quickly in each case, by looking at it from these different perspectives. First of all, looking at it from the sailors’ view.

Those of us who have sailed even a little bit know that there is a tremendous amount of activity that takes place just immediately prior to the departure of a ship. All kinds of details have to be cared for, and eventually the one in charge makes sure that everything is in place, and certain questions are asked and commands are issued. And eventually it comes down to ensuring that everyone is on board, that everyone is accounted for; in the parlance of the old days, at least, somebody would say, “Aye aye, Captain,” and the voyage is then able to commence. It wouldn’t have been any different as this ship made its way out from the port of Joppa: all of the routine things taking place, each member of the crew knowing what they were supposed to do with ropes and pulleys, everyone working together and making it as smooth a departure as it possibly might be.

On this occasion, the crew would be largely from Phoenicia—Phoenicians. These Phoenician people were of Canaanite descent, and they lived at this time in an area that was really roughly the northern part of modern Lebanon. These individuals, the Phoenicians, were renowned for many things, not least of all for their maritime activities. And the Phoenicians went and plied their trade throughout the Mediterranean. They established various communities, the most famous of which was Carthage, which, of course, became the great challenge to the imperial power of Rome. And on this particular routine day for these individuals, all of these events would be unfolding, and the crew members would be joining, presumably, with those who had been recruited from other ports of call along their various journeys in the Mediterranean.

Now, just at what point it was on the journey that that sense of uneasiness began to permeate the crew, we’re not told. If you have sailed and you haven’t particularly enjoyed sailing, as when you fly if you do not particularly enjoy flying, as a passenger, at the first indication of turbulence or discomfort, one of the things that you tend to do is to look at the eyes of the crew members—to look at the gaze of those who are assisting within the cabin and, if possible, listening on the headphones to get a flavor for what’s going on in the cockpit itself. And the one thing that you want to know as a passenger is that as far as the professionals are concerned, everything is A-OK; everything is completely under control. The one thing that one doesn’t want to sense is that the crew members themselves are beginning to feel just a little queasy, are beginning to feel just a little uncertain; and without actually talking to one another, just in the way in which they gaze at one another and the way they look out of the corner of their eyes at one another and up at the sky and down at the sea, they begin to create the impression that there’s a real storm brewing here.

And, of course, that’s exactly what had happened in this situation. These sailors, who were used to sailing, were struck by a storm so ferocious—and, more than possibly, at an unusual time of year. And for example, at the end of Acts, when Paul is giving instructions to the people in the prospect of shipwreck, remember, he says, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave this port,” because it was after the time of the fast, and every seafaring person knew that the seas became particularly disturbed in that period of time that was marked by the fast.[1] So that there was, if you like, a closed period in which storms were expected, and in the other periods of time, then a storm such as this would never have been expected. And it is more than likely that the ferocity of the storm combines with the unusual time of the event to cause these sailors to fear.

Now verse 5 is clear. It is not that one or two of the sailors was unsettled by what was going on, but we’re told that “all the sailors were afraid.” All of them, to the last man of them, were afraid. Now, that clearly was an event of epidemic proportions. Because you would anticipate that at least one or two were going around saying, “Oh, this is nothing, you know. We’ve been in worse than this.” But if you check throughout the group, every last one of them was completely fearful.

Now, the evidence of their fear, there in verse 5, is made obvious. First of all, we’re told that they were crying. They were crying out each “to his own god.” In the polytheism of the day, these sailors would have had particular gods for particular duties, and they would also have had particular gods for particular locations. And so one of the games that they played, or one of the necessities that they had, was in trying to make sure that they dialed in the right god for the right situation. And if we had gone on board at this particular moment in time, we would have found all of this cacophony of sound as the various sailors were all crying out to the particular deities they could think of: “Oh god, whoever you are and wherever you are, please help us here! This is a dreadful circumstance.”

At the same time, as they were crying each to his own god, they were casting stuff into the sea: “They threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.” A ship like this, moving towards a smelting port, would probably be carrying all kinds of stuff; much of it could not be taken and thrown overboard. Therefore, anything that could reduce the weight of the ship and raise it in the waves would be something that they would like to do.

And so they cried to their god and they cast the cargo overboard, and then we’re told, at the same time, they “cast lots to find out who [was] responsible for [the] calamity.”

So it’s total chaos. It’s not so long since someone said, “Aye aye, Captain, we’re off to the sea,” you know? The boat goes out, the flag is waving, the seagulls are coming behind, and everything is beautiful, and all of a sudden they find themself in this most unbelievable circumstance. And so they say, “Let’s get the lots out and find out who’s responsible for this.”

Now, these lots were originally little stones. They may actually have been created in the shape of dice, but they were used, usually, in pairs. The little stones were dark on one side and light on the other side. What they would do is, they would take the stones and they would throw them the way in which you’d throw dice, and if they both came up on the dark side, then that was to convey a negative situation and a negative response to their question. If they both came up on the light side, then clearly it was a positive response. And if one came up light and one came up dark, then basically the word from the deities was, “Hold everything, don’t do anything at the moment.”

Now, the interesting thing is that when you read your Bible, you discover a variety of references to this in the Bible. I can tell you where they are—for example, in Joshua 18 and 1 Chronicles 24, in Leviticus 16; you also have it at the beginning of the Acts in the replacement of Judas. After Pentecost, we read nothing of it in the Bible at all. And the most helpful summary statement that I was able to discover concerning it is in Proverbs 16:33, where Solomon says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” So in other words, “We can throw the dice, and we can use that as a basis for deduction,” he says, “but God, who is sovereign over all things, even controls the roll of the dice.” It’s an amazing thought!

So they cast the lots. The lots direct them to this particular individual—whom we’ll come to in a moment—and so they conduct an investigation. Verse 8: “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” Now once again, you see, as they thought in terms—geographical terms—in relationship to the influence of the deity, if they could find out where this individual was from, then maybe that would give them an indication as to which god they should be calling on—so that they’re really essentially looking for Jonah’s zip code, hoping that they can tie his zip code to a deity that will be able to get them out of this most ferocious and incredible mess. And so they asked him, in verse 8, “What do you do?” And then they asked him, in verse 11, “What should we do?”

“Hey, what do you do, Jonah? And can you tell us what we should do?” That’s their investigation. When he gives his response—which we’ll consider in a moment—instead of taking his advice immediately and throwing him overboard, they not only, having conducted an investigation, leave it there, but they row with an even greater determination: “Instead, the men did their best to row back to land.”

Isn’t it interesting how kind and considerate pagans can be? I don’t mean that facetiously in any way at all. The fact of the matter is that some of our non-Christian friends seem to be an awful lot kinder and an awful lot more considerate than those of us who profess to be Christian in our testimony. These dreadful people, who had no understanding of the one true living God, whom Jonah presumably would have wanted to disdain in the same way that he had little time for the conversion of Nineveh, were the very ones who, when he said to ’em, “I’m the problem, get me out of here,” they said, “Oh, we don’t want to do that to him. Let’s row like fury now and see if we can’t get this thing back to dry land.”

So they conducted an investigation, verse 8; they rowed with greater determination, verse 13; and then they prayed for their own preservation, verse 14. Realizing what they were going to have to do, they cried out to the Lord, “O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life.” Because they were very clear: “If we throw him overboard, it’s done.” And so that’s exactly what they did. They conducted an investigation, they rowed with greater determination, they prayed for their own preservation, and then they carried out his execution. Goodbye, Jonah! Nice knowing you, albeit briefly. Death by drowning.

And then, the sea was completely calm, causing them to fear the Lord, to offer a sacrifice to the Lord, and to make great vows to the Lord. If fishermen are known for their tall tales and sailors for their seafaring yarns, then this crew, when they got back from this voyage, had a story to top all stories. They couldn’t wait to get off the boat to go back to their families and say, “You are not going to believe this one. We had a fellow get on board. We’re not sure just where he was from, but you will not believe it when I tell you.”

Jonah’s Perspective

Well, that’s taking the camera that’s turned on the sailors. Let’s take the camera that’s turned on Jonah, and let’s look at it from Jonah’s dis-advantage point rather than from his vantage point.

While all this feverish activity is taking place up on the deck, and when one of the other cameras is carrying that material back to our basecamp—all the shouting and praying and chucking of stuff into the sea—we now have another camera that gives us a picture from below deck. And look at where he is: in “a deep sleep.”

Disobedience is only exhilarating for the moment. It only gives you a momentary buzz. It is enervating, not energizing.

This is a remarkable picture of this individual. What’s led to it? We can only assume that he was exhausted after his hurried departure to Joppa. He decided not to stay on deck to watch the process of the departure. He probably didn’t really want to engage in conversation with anyone at all, and so he determined that he would go down and find the sleeping quarters, and we followed him down into the sleeping quarters, and there he is, and he is in a sleep that we’re told is “deep.” He “fell into a deep sleep.”

Now, presumably all of the movement and the cacophony was unable to awaken him. It makes me think of two other occasions in the Old Testament when we read of those in a deep sleep: one is in Genesis 15, one is in 1 Samuel 26. And it may well be that this same element of God’s intervention is represented in this uncharacteristically deep sleep in this circumstance. Presumably, he’s physically and spiritually worn out by his experience. Disobedience is draining, in the end. Haven’t you found that? Disobedience is only exhilarating for the moment. It only gives you a momentary buzz. But it is enervating, not energizing. And probably we will never fall into a morose and disconsolate sleep than the sleep which follows facing steadfastly the clarity of a word from God, turning our backs on it, and then wanting to run and hide from everyone and anyone, so that even when up on deck it is total pandemonium, down in our quarters, in our own private realm, we’re sleeping not the sleep of the just, but we’re sleeping the sleep of the sinful.

Now the captain comes down—and it’s interesting that it is the captain. He maybe said to some of the people, “Is there anyone else here that we haven’t accounted for?” And someone said, “Well, there was a fellow got on right at the very beginning. I haven’t seen him since he got on. I think he went down into the sleeping quarters.” It’s unusual for people to go and do that. Most people are up on deck; they like to see the thing go away. So he would have been quite unusual. So the captain goes down. We don’t know whether he shook him gently by his shoulder, whether he kicked his boots, or whether he just flung him off his bed, or whatever he did to him. But he wakes him up and he says to him, “How can you sleep? How can you sleep through this?” It’s the obvious question.

Now, of course, Jonah’s response would be, “Sleep through what?” Because when you’re asleep, you don’t know you’re asleep. And when you’re asleep, you don’t know what’s going on while you’re asleep. So he says, “How can you sleep through this?” And as he begins to come out of his foggy condition, what does he hear? He hears, essentially, the same word that had led to his running: “Get up!” Hadn’t that been the word that the whole thing starts out with? That I pointed out to you in the Hebrew is there and has been left out in the NIV? “Arise, go to the great city of Nineveh. Get up! Go to Nineveh.” And he had decided he wouldn’t go to Nineveh, and he’d run away—down into the depths of the ship, sound asleep, kicked to awakening by this individual, and now hearing the very same word. “I want you to get up,” he says, “and call on your God.” Oh, of all of the things he might have said! “Don’t say that. I’m not talking to God at the moment. I’m running away from God just now.”

Have you ever had that experience? On a business trip? Somewhere you shouldn’t be? Enjoying a moment that you shouldn’t enjoy? And some pagan says to you, “Do you think you could pray for me?”

“You mean, talk to the God that, right now, I was trying to run away from?”


He says, “If you manage to get through to your God, maybe we won’t perish. We’ve been up on the deck for ages. We’ve tried every god. We’ve tried every phone number that there is. It’s like trying to get on AOL with multiple numbers; you can’t get a number that gets through. We’ve gone through every one of them; we’re now phoning via San Francisco, and still we’re getting nothing at all. We just wonder whether you’ve got an access code that could perhaps get us an answer to this problem, because frankly, we’re all about to go down with the ship.”

Now, the fact is that he knew when they took out the lots that he was busted. He must have known in his heart of hearts, when those sailors said, “Hey, why don’t we take out the lots and see who it is?” he knew that the arrow was going to point straight at his head. And, of course, it did. And if we’d been making a film of this, then we would’ve taken a real close-up on the eyes of Jonah while the lot was being cast in the wider camera angle. And indeed, we’d be going back and forth between the two, and we would be sensing in his eyes the fact that he knew that it was about to become very, very clear that he was the problem, that he was the reason for the storm.

And so he was honest in the answers to their questions. “What should we do to make the sea calm for us?” He says, “You better just pick me up and throw me into the sea, and it will all become calm.” He told them, “I am the one. I’m your problem. It’s all my fault”—verse 12. “The reason we have this storm, the reason that it’s come upon you, is because of me. And so let me say to you, just cast me to the ocean.”

God is sovereign over all affairs, including the ebb and flow of the tides.

And in those moments when they laid hold of him—presumably one or two took his hands and one or two took his feet, in the way that you might do with somebody that you were fooling around in a backyard. I’m not sure that they turned it to music or put it into, you know, “And one, and a two…” No, I think they were pained. I think they were saddened. I can only imagine the terror that was involved. Look at this man, the prophet of God, the voice piece of God, with a big preaching mission, with clear directions where to go and clear directions what to say. And he decides that he is going to be Mr. No, turns his back on it, makes a run for it, and now finds himself trapped in the hands of these Phoenician crewmen. What did he think about in those moments? Did his whole life rush before him? Did he say to himself, “Just for a sense of my own personal satisfaction, I would endure this?” Well, we know what happened later when he finds himself in the belly of the fish. But I wonder, was he repenting as he went over the side?

God’s Perspective

Now finally, let’s look at it in terms of what we’re told about God and God’s hand in these events. First of all, in verse 4, notice: “the Lord sent a great wind on the sea.” “Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea.” The word that is there for “sent” is not the usual word for sent, but it is actually the word for throw. It is the same word that is used later on for the throwing of the cargo; it is the same word that is used later on for the throwing of Jonah. So there’s a lot of throwing going on. And the first throwing that takes place is the hand of God throwing down upon the ocean this quite furious storm.

It is a reminder of what we find permeating the psalmist’s work. “Your laws endure to this day,” says the psalmist, “for all things serve you.”[2] And the divine control over the oceans, of the universe, was one of the constant themes of Israel’s praise. When you read the Psalms, you find them again and again praising the fact that God is sovereign over all the affairs of the ebb and flow of the tides. For example, Psalm 33:7: “He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.”

It’s a dramatic picture, isn’t it? The awesomeness of God! As the Trinity stands on the threshold of creation, and the Father says, “How about one over here? We’ll call it the North Sea.” The Son says, “I think the North Sea is… that’s a good one.” “And how about we put one here, we call it the Baltic? And how about a little one here, we make it the Aegean? Why don’t we have one called the Black Sea, and one called the Dead Sea, and one called the Indian Ocean?” Oh, I know it didn’t take place in that way, but that’s the picture. He gathers up the oceans, and he puts them in jars. In the same way that you and I may put together a gallon of pink lemonade and know ourselves sovereign over that affair, to God Almighty the oceans of the world are as much under his control as if he was able to simply gather them up and put them in jars.

Now, how different this is, you see, from the pagan mindset in the day of Jonah! For these crewmen regarded the sea as a primeval force that was uncontrollable and at whose mercy everyone lived—the same way that you see things even in this most recent movie, The Perfect Storm. There is no indication there of crying out to God. There is no purpose in crying out to God. There is no God for these people to cry out to. And even if they were to cry out to him, he would be a god who was at best on par with the primeval force of the sea, but certainly not a god who controls the sea.

I was struck the other evening, in flying into Denver—just as an aside—into the lightning and thunderstorms over Denver Airport, Thursday night, to speak at Focus on the Family on Friday morning. And when we landed, we sat on the ground for almost two hours before we got to the gate. Every gate was full. Planes were diverted to Cheyenne, others to Colorado Springs. And there we sat, with all the technology and brilliance of the Denver International Airport completely capitulating to the hand of Almighty God, who turned the lights off and then made the lightning flash across the sky! And man in all of his proud boasts can’t even figure out how to bring a stairwell up to the side of the airplane, you know. Did anybody here ever think about the fact that, as in the old days, you could open one of these doors, you could pull up one of these stairs, and maybe we could all go down the stairs. “Oh no, you couldn’t do that! No, no. We need to check in with subheadquarter forty-three and punch in this and punch in that.” And we were all like a bunch of little silly people, all queued up.

From the perspective of God, I thought about it as I looked at us all; I said, “This must be…” When I see those little things in my garden, I look at them, I go, “What are you?” you know. “What are you doing like that? Why are you fiddling around like that? Go over there, go somewhere else.” And I imagine God looked down from heaven, says, “Hey, hey, here is the Denver International Airport,” you know. “Here is all the proud boasting of man. Here is all their ultimate baggage technology and computer technology, and it is all rendered absolutely, patently useless.”

In Colorado Springs, I discovered, one of the fifteen flights that was diverted, two of the United pilots got off the plane on the tarmac and left it behind with 250 passengers on board. They said, “Thank you very much. Our time is up; we have to go for tea.” Now, somehow or another, they got off. Another man got off, arrested by the sheriff, because he started drinking all the liquor at the back of the 727. He figured out a way to get off. Another man got off by having a heart attack, and another kid got off by passing out. But the rest of the peons—me included—we can never get off.

And then you tune in the jolly Weather Channel, and some bright-faced lady talks about what Mother Nature has for us tomorrow morning. “He gathers the waters of the sea into jars [and] … the deep into storehouses.”

Psalm 107:25: “He spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted [up] the waves.” God, as Creator, exercises his rightful lordship over these events. And that, you see, was what made the thing so significant when, in the storm on the sea of Galilee, with the disciples now all freaked out, saying to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that we perish?” And Jesus stands up, and to the winds and the waves and this dramatic storm, he says, essentially, “That’s enough of that!” And immediately it is calm. And remember what they said? They looked at one another and they said, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind[s] and the [waves] obey him?”[3] Because they knew that only the sovereign Creator Lord was able to gather up the oceans in jars and bring the storehouses under his control. And Jesus stands up and he says, “I am he.” This is the Jesus to whom we commit our lives. This is the Jesus under whose banner we march. This is the Christ who is sovereign over the affairs of our time. Do we think we can run from such a God?

Now, the point is simply this: that Jonah was not engulfed by a chance occurrence. The Lord uses the sea as an instrument of punishment to discipline his reluctant prophet.

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And [he] rides upon the storm.[4]

So “the Lord”—verse 4—“sent a great wind on the sea.” And verse 17: “The Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah.” He did not leave his servant to the fate that seemed to have overtaken him; he provided the means of rescue.

In fact, this picture of the providence of God is very powerfully here in these few verses. In chapter 4, particularly, we’ll see it when we come to 6, 7, and 8: the Lord “provided a vine,” the Lord “provided a worm,” the Lord “provided a scorching east wind.” We do not go out tomorrow to be cast about on the sea of chance or buffeted by blind, impersonal forces. He is the God who “determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”[5] And he creates a punishment for Jonah that comes as close to the experience of dying without actual death.

It is here, of course, that many skeptics get off the whole boat. “Oh, three days and three nights in a great big fish, that’s a total impossibility,” they say. “Nothing like this could ever happen; therefore, it didn’t happen.”

Let’s face it, most of us don’t even understand how a stereo works. Why would we be fighting with God over the miraculous events in Scripture?

Now, I don’t think there’s any great service in trying to find contemporary illustrations that are striking in this respect, as a means, as it were, of justifying the text of Scripture. The text of Scripture stands alone, before which we will bow. But I was interested to read from an article from the Associated Press in yesterday morning’s newspaper, I think it was, in The Plain Dealer. And some of you may have seen it: when the Air France flight 71 from Papeete, French Polynesia, in the South Pacific, arrived in Los Angeles at 7:48 p.m., at the terminal gate, a maintenance worker spotted a blanket hanging from a wheel well on the 747-400 aircraft and notified authorities when he found a man. A six-foot, 180-pound man, virtually frozen, survived the subzero temperatures at 38,000 feet, at 600 miles an hour, for eight hours. When they got him down out of there, his clothes were threadbare, he was covered in all kinds of grease, and his core body temperature was 79 degrees. That’s when they got him into the UCLA Medical Center. “We don’t know of any other person whose body temperature dropped this low who has survived. Anything below 85 degrees is usually fatal,” said the doctor.[6]

It’s interesting. It’s just interesting. You know, if we all sat down and said, “Hey, do you think it is possible for a six-foot, 180-pound man to fly for eight hours in the wheel well of a 747 at 38,000 feet, going 600 miles an hour, with subzero temperatures of fifty degrees below, not counting the windchill factor, and finally to arrive in Los Angeles, and somehow or another get off, go to the UCLA Medical Center, and then go out to Denny’s for his dinner? Do you think that’s possible?”

“No,” … “that’s a stupid idea. I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous in all of my life.”

Well, this actually happened. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact of the resurrection of Jesus and all that we said this morning. Let’s face it, most of us don’t even understand how a stereo works. Why would we be fighting with God over these things?

And I say to you again, Jesus was quite prepared to use this and to draw out the parallel with his own death, which involved the punishment for sin and also, after that, a resurrection to come. Not that the contemporaries of Jonah were able to see this messianic foreshadowing, but they did see this: rebellion against God is wrong, death is the appropriate penalty, God is able to rescue from death, and grace and salvation are capable of offsetting even the most atrocious sins.

Closing observations. One: none of us lives to himself. Simple statement, reiteration of this morning. You can’t run away and disobey God and do it all on your own; you’ll take other people with you.

Two: may it not be that Jonah, below deck, silenced by his disobedience, is a picture of the contemporary church in our society—down below the deck, totally asleep to the cries up top, totally unaware of all of the angst and the agony of those who are buffeted by the storm, with a loss of identity such that people have to come and say, “Who are you?” and with a loss of authority such that they come and say, “What do you have to say about this?”

And the striking thing about it is, as I say, when you’re asleep, you don’t know you’re asleep. When you do one of those afternoon sleeps when you weren’t supposed to, and you—well, no I won’t go there—and you waken up… You waken up, you always say the same dumb thing, don’t you? “Have I been asleep for long?” You remember what Jesus said, using the picture of his return? He says, “When the owner of the house comes back, make sure you’re not asleep.”[7]

Father, we look at Jonah and we see ourselves: running, hiding, sleeping, dodging, trying to figure everything out—everything but a simple, childlike trust and obedience to you. So grant, then, that in this act of obedience, as we now come to gather round your Table, it may establish for us the pattern of the days that follow from now; that since Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,”[8] and we’re about to do it, so tomorrow, when we awaken, we will do other things that he has called us to do.

Thank you for the privilege of gathering in this way. Thank you for the wideness of the invitation, that it is a meal for sinners, for those who know ourselves to need a Savior and to have found one in Christ. So bless to us these dying moments of our worship, now, we pray. For Jesus’ sake we ask it. Amen.

[1] Acts 27:9–10, 21 (paraphrased).

[2] Psalm 119:91 (NIV 1984).

[3] Mark 4:41 (KJV). See also Matthew 8:27.

[4] William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (1774).

[5] Psalm 147:4 (NIV 1984).

[6] Associated Press, “Stowaway Nearly Freezes in Jumbo Jet’s Wheel Well,” Plain Dealer, August 5, 2000. Paraphrased.

[7] Mark 13:35–36 (paraphrased).

[8] Luke 22:19 (NIV 1984).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.