Summary: The sailors had been in many storms no doubt, but there was something different about this one.
You know I believe we ought to look seriously at the scene on the ship. I know we have already talked about Jonah on the ship but there are some other lessons we can learn from this picture. Actually, what we can learn is something about the detection of Jonah’s sin.
What we have here is something that is not taking place in a conference room but on the sea and not at all calm. The waves are crashing the side of the ship and what you would find is all the sailors grabbing all they can hold too to stay upright. They are in a life and death situation.
In our study of this verse on the detection of Jonah’s sin, we want to consider the first of all THE SUMMONS OF DETECTION. "And they said every one to his fellow, come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us" (Jon 1:7).
If they had been on the sea many times and I believe they had, this must have been some storm that was different than any they had encountered before. They knew there was something different about this storm. They seemed to know that this storm was caused by someone. I don’t believe they would have cast lots at every storm that come on the sea as they were sailing.
Now I don’t believe it is always smart to act as a detective every time something goes wrong. I know that there are those who have their own ideas when something goes wrong of what caused it. Most of the time, they are best being a detective when something goes wrong in someone’s life other than their own. You know some of those as well, don’t you? A lot of times people believe bad things happen in other people’s lives because of the way they lived their life. Don’t feel like that is something new because it happened in the day of Jesus. You remember there was a blind man and the disciples of Jesus asked, "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered ’Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him" (John 9:3) So, keep this in mind, bad things do happen to good people.
Now when we do detective work we ought to look at our own doorstep to check first. If you get right down to it, you probably know about yourself than anyone else. I realize we have to really get serious in looking into our own lives but we ought to do that. I have found when I do that, I have little time to look for the sins of my fellowman.
We see not only the summons of detection but also THE SYSTEM OF DETECTION. “So they cast lots” to discover which person was at fault.
This is certainly not condoning gambling or rolling dice before we make decisions in life. It does not condone the lottery that is so popular in the nation today. While the casting of lots was done many times in the Old Testament, it was done to seek the will of God and for the good of mankind. Lots were used in the Old Testament to determine which of two goats was to be the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement. Casting lots was used to divide up the land of Canaan to the tribes of Israel. There were many more times that the castings of lots were used but only twice in the New Testament, and each time a cloud is over it. Casting lots for the clothes of Jesus was done by the soldiers at the foot of the cross. That was a scene that makes all people turn their head away in disgust. The other time in the New Testament was in choosing the disciple that would replace Judas. Lots were cast to choose between Barabbas and Matthias. Matthias was chosen by casting the lots but a choice that was never given Divine confirmation.
Now when we are seeking the will of God today, there is no need to cast lots because we have the Holy Spirit of God that lives in us. People who want more than the Spirit of God and the Word of God to guide them in life are in trouble spiritually when they depend on lots. The practice of casting lots today is not used to seek the will of God, but for personal gain and greed. God did use it here to reveal Jonah’s disobedience.
We see in our text the summons of detection and the system of detection and I want you to notice also THE SURENESS OF DETECTION. “The lot fell upon Jonah,” we are told in verse 7.