Sermon on Jonah 1:7-16 – “One For All”

Sermon on Jonah 1:7-16 – “One For All”

Sermon for Sunday Evening, May 5, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Sermon Text

[Jon 1:7-16 ESV] 7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.


One man sacrificed for the group.

Here, Jonah is sacrificed for the physical salvation of all who are on the ship.

Later, Christ is sacrificed for the eternal salvation of all who are united to him through faith.

The sailors even say that Jonah is “innocent blood,” like Christ who was slain and yet sinless.

They try to shirk their responsibility for Jonah’s likely death in saying the Lord is doing as He pleases. Well, it is true that God is guiding all things. But if you throw someone off a boat or a bridge, that’s on you!

But note that, like Christ, Jonah goes willingly. “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea.”

Well, how do we get to this point, where Jonah is being thrown off the boat for the salvation of the rest?

We saw last week that Jonah is running away from God. He’s gotten onboard a ship going the opposite direction of where the Lord had told Jonah to go. And the Lord brings a storm upon them, but Jonah is found to be sleeping in the boat.

The sailors rouse Jonah from his sleep and then decide to cast lots to see whose fault it is that “evil has come upon us.”

And the lot is drawn for Jonah.

Is this advocating that we draw lots in such occasions?

Well, there are some things to note about drawing lots.

1. There is a broader term for this called “Cleromancy.”

2. Casting lots was used for selecting people, assigning work, distributing booty, and settling disputes.

3. In the majority of cases in the Bible we are not told what was used for lots.

4. Hebrew laws condemned witchcraft, but Israel did cast lots. Sometimes it is even commanded by God to cast lots. Ultimately, the casting of lots was a common practice even amongst the Jews.

Obviously gambling is wrong. But maybe there can may be a moral use of casting lots for deciding between two equally good and moral answers.

We do see in the New Testament an example of casting lots that apparenly was moral

[Act 1:21-26 ESV] 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Note that they didn’t cast lots among all the disciples, all the followers of Christ, but CHOSE two men and they cast lots. So wisdom was still being used in narrowing down the selection to two qualified men.

There are many preachers who will dedicate a large section of their sermon here on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of casting lots. And there is some value in doing so. But ultimately that is not the focus of the passage. It doesn’t say whether casting lots is wrong or right, it just merely reports that they did cast lots. So we’ll move on from that subject.

Well, after the lot is cast and Jonah is found to be the problem, the sailors ask him four questions in rapid fire. Rapid fire, because the time is critical in the storm!

8 And they said to him

“tell us on whose account this evil has come to us.

What is your occupation?

Where do you come from?

What country?

And from which people do you come?

These four questions can be broken into 2 sets of 2. Two about him and two about his origins.

They inquire about his occupation because it might be a disreputable one which has excited the wrath of the Gods. They ask, in essence, “WHO ARE YOU / WHAT HAVE YOU DONE … TO BRING THIS STORM UPON US?”

Then we have Jonah’s answer.

He doesn’t say anything about his profession. I suppose he must have had some job other than “prophet.” Being a prophet probably wasn’t very … profitable.

A prophet needed another job, usually.

Amos was a “herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.” (Amos 7:14)

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob produced grain and wine. (Genesis 27:37)

David was a shepherd.

Elisha was a farmer.

Ezra and Ezekiel were priests.

But Jonah, we’re not told. Possibly he served as a prophet for the king’s court. Whatever his job, he doesn’t say.

He jumps to those personal and national identity questions.

9 And he said to them,

“I am a Hebrew,

and I fear the God of the heavens

who made the sea and the dry land.”

It is funny that Jonah now says “I fear the God of the heavens” when he is in blatant disobedience to God.

Jonah must be pretty embarrassed here. HE is supposed to be the believer, the follower of God. But HIS sin is causing the trouble that all are experiencing.

Jonah seems now to be recognizing his fault. The storm has awakened him to that understanding.

And he calls God “He who made the sea and the dry land.” That is, the God of everything. And, I think this covers both the land route that Jonah was supposed to take, and the sea passage that he is actually taking. God is God even there, even in the ocean with all its chaos.

While the pagan sailors blindly grope for answers, Jonah has faith in God only, and calmly confesses it. The God of Heaven is in control of all things! And so Jonah remembers that he is a Hebrew, a follower of the true God.

So then, next we have the sailor’s response.

They are henotheists. They have no problem believing in Yahweh, but not in Him alone. In henotheism every country has its god or gods. And those god(s) might be more powerful in their own local.

The sailors believe that Jonah must have done something to offend his god.

But it has been pointed out, “The sailors are bewildered, for they see themselves in a no-win situation: they are suffering because of Jonah’s guilt, yet sending him to his death might well bring his God’s wrath upon their heads.” But when the ship is going down, they have to do something.

The fearful sailors, when they call Jonah “innocent blood” are begging God’s understanding, for the crime they are about to commit, throwing him overboard.

Fortunately for them, Jonah OFFERS himself. “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”

They try rowing back to shore themselves, but that fails. And this is fascinating theologically. In times of trouble, man looks for his own solution. But the real solution is God’s solution; the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The story of Jonah is very much the story of Christ “writ in miniature.” An abbreviated account.

Well, Jonah is thrown overboard; “hurled into the sea.” And then what happens? “the sea ceased from its raging.”

Theologically, we can say the parallel is that in Christ’s sacrifices, in Christ’s death, the wrath of God ceases to be upon us.

Christ has died, one for all.

One for all.

[Heb 10:10 ESV] 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

[Rom 6:10 ESV] 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Granted these say “once for all” pointing to that time element rather than the subject, Christ. But they do so “for all.” And this is not a universal “ALL all,” but ALL sorts of people, ALL of God’s people.

The words of 2 Corinthians 5:14 actually matches our sermon title, “one for all.”

[2Co 5:14-15 ESV] 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

So we are called to trust in Christ who died for us.

And look at the futility of the alternative:

“Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.”

That is a picture of sinners trying to get out of the storm of life by their own efforts. They are flailing about. I picture those wacky inflatable noodles. And their hands flop this way and that, but they get nowhere.

All the rowing of men, all the efforts we put into achieve salvation or to pardon ourselves of our sins are bound to fail. “they could not.”

And not only are their efforts failures, but as they rowed HARD to get back to dry land, the sea grew MORE and MORE tempestuous against them.

Those that fight against God only dig themselves deeper into trouble.

An alternative is needed.

Man cannot row himself to safety.

God is needed to come in and calm the storm.

He does so through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, dying on the cross for our sins in the substitutionary atonement. One for all.

So the Gospel is in Jonah. And not just in the “3 days” of the big fish, like’s Jesus’ 3 days in belly of the earth.” What is prominent in Jonah is the self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.

But there’s another subject here that should be addressed.

A question.

Who are you?

Imagine those words of sailors coming to you?

What is your occupation?

Where do you come from?

What country?

And from which people do you come?

How would YOU answer?

And what if you are IN SIN? Maybe even a person sees you sinning, and asks about you.

Do you deny the Lord because you are a sinner?

Or do you proclaim him?

The occupation question is a prominent one in our culture. So much so that I like to avoid it. I ask, “Tell me about yourself.” And I’ll hear in response what a person finds valuable. You can learn a lot about a person asking them, “Tell me about yourself.”

If that question comes to you, I hope that in some way you can give glory to God.

Peter tells us to be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks what is the reason for the hope that is in you.

Who are you? From which people do you come?

I feel convicted here. I tell people things like “I’m a homesteader” or “I’m a woodworker” etc. But I should start off — we should all start off — saying “I am a Christian.”

That is just a fact. And nothing can explain me more than that. I hope that is the case for you as well. All you positions politically, theologically, and of how you live your life all should be tracked back to that statement, “I am a Christian.”

We sang a song in my childhood, faster and faster around a guitar, I am C, I am a C H. I am a CHRISTIAN. And I have CHRIST in my HEART and I will LIVE ETERNALLY.

Let us remember that. I AM A CHRISTIAN, saved by the Lord Jesus Christ who sacrificed himself for my benefit and my salvation. Praise be to God.