Jonah 1:6 – “So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.”
So the captain came to him, and said to him
A Rude Awakening
When the news of Jonah sleeping got to the captain’s ears, he came down himself to meet Jonah. One of the worst things that can happen to someone who’s sound asleep is for someone to awaken them with a loud voice and in anger. It disorients a person and it takes time for the person to realise what’s happening as he transitions from that blissful world into the world of reality. One can imagine Jonah’s thoughts and feelings when he’s awoken out of his slumber.
I’m sure the Captain must have been amazed at the ability of Jonah to sleep amidst such a terrible tempest. It must have also infuriated him that while he and his team of sailors are battling to save the ship and their lives, that there’s a man who can, not only be so oblivious to the situation, but could also be so sound asleep. I’m sure with the combination of the emotions, of fear for their lives, anxiety as to how to proceed further, and anger at Jonah sleeping, the Captain must have been rather stern when he spoke to Jonah.
What do you mean…
He begins by asking Jonah what he means by sleeping. His question can mean one of several things – I’ve just mentioned three possibilities below.
1. How can you sleep amidst such a crisis?
2. Do you think we deserve what we’re getting?
3. Are you sleeping, hoping the problem will disappear or be solved?
We can look at ourselves, The Church and ask ourselves the above 3 questions
1. Are we asleep amidst this global crisis?
When people are crying out to their ‘gods’ for answers concerning this pandemic, when they’re being gripped with the fear of death and when every area of their lives is being affected, are we, The Church being complacent, living like nothing’s amiss or are we actively involved in helping those around us the best we can? Are we doing all we can to make God known to those around who are searching for the truth at this earth-shaking time? People are a lot more open now than they’ve ever been to the Gospel and we need to be as much involved as possible in sharing it in love. The world is in need of love, encouragement, motivation and love more now than it’s been in the recent past.
2. Do we think that people are getting what they deserve?
I’m sure this thought has crossed some of our minds recently when we considered how some cities or countries were worse affected by this virus than others, as if it were an act of God to punish some more than others. We need to remember Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-5 where he responded to those who told him about an incident where Herod had mingled the blood of certain Galileans with their own sacrifices. Jesus said that they were not worse sinners than all the other Galileans and went on to add that if the people talking to him didn’t repent, they would perish in the same way. Jesus then mentioned another incident, where the tower of Siloam fell on, and killed 18 people in Jerusalem, and He asked whether they were worse sinners than all others who lived in Jerusalem, and he went on to say, ‘No,’ and added that unless the people speaking with Him repented, they would perish in the same way. We can’t afford to be judgmental about people as we’re all sailing in the same boat at the moment.
3. Are we sleeping, hoping this pandemic will disappear?
The world around is in turmoil – without a proper understanding of how to proceed through this period – lockdowns, openings up and more lockdowns are making it rather hard to come to grips with, dealing with the grief of losing loved ones, the fear of death gripping people’s hearts, losing jobs or being paid half salaries, the stress of online studies and work, the separation from friends and so much more. But through all of this the voice of The Church worldwide is not heard loud enough. Are we enjoying a siesta, being concerned about no one but ourselves at this time? Have we forgotten that the reason we were left back on earth after our conversion was to help those around us in every possible way and eventually point them to their Creator, who alone can save them from not just physical death, but death eternal? Do we suppose that this Pandemic will disappear, just like it appeared and that all will be well again? It’s not really that likely that this is the way things are going to pan out. There seems to be the hand of the Lord involved in this, and we. The Church, seem to be the ones whose attention the Lord is trying to get to get us back on track of fulfilling the Great Commission.
Have you noticed how our reference to people depends so much on our feelings towards them at that particular time? When all’s going well, we use pet names or affectionate names to refer to them. When we get a little upset about something, and there’s a tinge of anger, then we call them by their regular names or sometimes, even by their full names and when emotions are high, then we rename at our discretion, with names that best describe their behaviour at the moment. In this case, it’s obvious that the Captain was in the 3rd category, where his emotions were flying high, and he called Jonah by a name that best described him at the moment – ‘Sleeper.’ There’s nothing wrong in sleeping – it’s a God-given gift, but there’s a time for everything, and when in a crisis, that’s the last thing you’d expect someone to be doing.
If the world were to look at The Church today, especially during this pandemic, how would they refer to us? Would it be with beautiful names that express their appreciation for all we do for them? Will it be with a tinge of anger for what we are not doing for them? Or will it be with names that depicts their anger towards our behaviour toward them during these tough times? Will they, by any chance refer to us ‘Sleepers?’
Arise, call on your god
All the mariners had called on their ‘gods,’ now it was time for Jonah to call on his God. The word, ‘arise,’ seems to suggest that the first few words of the Captain were spoken to Jonah while he was still lying down, after being rudely awoken from his deep sleep. The Captain asks him to arise and to call on his God. Isn’t it surprising that people who didn’t really know God were waking up someone who knew God, telling him to pray?
As we interact with unbelievers during these days, what we’re observing is that they are seeking God a lot more now than perhaps some of us who claim to know the Lord. They are also a lot more open to the Gospel now, than they’ve ever been, but the question is, “Are we taking the time to share it with them?” It’s as if the world around is shaking us up and telling us to call on our God. It’s about time we The Church called on God about this crisis in a way like we’ve never done before. We can’t afford to remain asleep when the world around is in turmoil. The words of Jesus in Mathew 26:40-41 rings true for a time such as this – “Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Perhaps your god will consider us
Whatever the concept of God is to the Captain, it’s clear that he seems to believe that God can have mercy on them so that they don’t perish. They had tried all the ‘gods’ they believed in and nothing changed, so now they ask Jonah to call on his God for help. Isn’t it surprising that people who don’t believe in the true God, seem to have an understanding that God is merciful and will answer prayer?
Do we, The Church still believe in a God of mercy, who answers our prayers or has God been reduced in our lives to a mere traditional, ritualistic, once a week affair, where He’s no longer personal to us? Have we fled from God’s call on our lives and is the Lord trying to get our attention to get back to Him and His calling for us?
So that we may not perish
It’s a well-known fact that man’s biggest fear is the fear of death and during this pandemic this fear, which lay low for so long, has surfaced like no other time in the recent past. This fear seems to be the sailors’ biggest fear at this moment in the story – the fear of death. It was so obvious, that the Captain actually verbalised his fear, asking Jonah to call on his God, “so that we may not perish.”
For us The Church, is death still our biggest fear in life? Now that we have come to know the Author of life – Jesus, we don’t need to fear death like the rest of the world. Death for us is a step from life into life in eternity. Having received this amazing gift of life from God Himself, we need to be a lot more concerned about the perishing world around, and do all we can to ensure that they get saved.
Let’s stop and do a soul-searching with the light of the Holy Spirit and be open to what He reveals to us about our walk with the Lord, and about fulfilling God’s planned purpose for our lives as individuals and as The Church at large. May we do all we can to get back into an intimate relationship with the Lord – one that we enjoyed when we first came to know Him.