Summary: This is the 14th of 31 Devotions on the book of Jonah, where I make a comparison between the story of Jonah and The Church-at-large, in the light of the present global pandemic.
# 14 – The Decisive Question
Jonah 1:11: “Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous.”
“What shall we do to you…”
In our last devotion, we looked at the first question the sailors asked Jonah – “What have you done?” Even before Jonah could respond to that question, they throw him the next question – “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?” If you look carefully at this question, it’s really a loaded one. Let’s look at it a little closer.
Sometimes when questions are asked, it isn’t so much because answers are required but more as a means of suggesting an answer. Such questions are called suggestive questions. Though the sailors were not asking an outright suggestive question, if you read between the lines, there is a glimpse of a possible solution hidden in the question. It seems like they’ve decided that since Jonah was the cause for the tempest they were facing that he was the one who would have to decide what needed to be done. Very often we think that the person responsible for a problem also has the solution to the problem – that’s not always true. Sometimes problem makers have nothing to do with the solution. In this case, though, we’ll find that Jonah did have a solution.
Not only are they asking Jonah for a possible solution, but it looks like they’ve decided that they should do something to Jonah and they want him to decide the course of action. It’s interesting that they didn’t make the decision as to how to deal with Jonah but they left that choice to him.
“…That the sea may be calm..”
It seems like their main concern is to get the sea back to its original state of rest and calm, so they could continue on their journey to Tarshish, because, as of now, it’s anything but calm – it’s so tumultuous that they’re afraid for their lives.
This is where the comparison between Jonah and The Church takes a turn that’s a lot less comfortable than the previous devotions. If we are to go with the assumption that the Lord has sent this Pandemic (that we earlier called a ‘tempestillence’) to wake up and shake up The Church; if perhaps the world somehow discovers that we are the cause for this pandemic, I wonder whether they would ask us the question - “What shall we do to you (The Church) so that this Pandemic would disappear?” Secondly, will they leave the decision to us, The Church, as to how they are to deal with us, or would they make that decision themselves? If they left that decision to us, what might we decide as to their course of action? And if they made the decision themselves, what might they possibly do? I know all these questions are based on probabilities, but they’re still worth pondering during this time.
As is the case with most of us, who consider ourselves the centre of the universe as it were because we are the most important people in our lives, so it was with the sailors too. They were so concerned about themselves that they say to Jonah, “What shall we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?” Notice the words, “do to you,” and the words, “for us.” They had discovered that Jonah was the reason God sent the pestilence, they were now concerned about how they would survive the ordeal they were facing – their lives mattered more than anything else at that point in time. It wasn’t that they were merely concerned about dealing with Jonah, they were more concerned about getting themselves out of that situation and with that intent were asking Jonah for any ideas he might have.
The world hasn’t changed much since then. All of us are still mostly concerned about ourselves and when in a life-threatening situation, most people would place themselves before anybody else. If the situation arises where people have to decide between saving themselves and saving others, most people would choose to save themselves – that’s the stark reality that we need to come to grips with. When talking about the signs of the end of the world, Jesus said in Matthew 24:7-14 – “For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Notice that Jesus said that pestilences are one of the things that are the beginning of sorrows. This pandemic is one such pestilence.