Life sometimes plucks from our mouths secret wishes and truths we try to hide. Welcome to Jonah’s first recorded words.
As sailors cross-examine Jonah, the runaway prophet identifies himself as a Hebrew (v. 19). Without catching his breath, he confesses his faith with a creed that any Israelite knows by heart. Jonah knows his Scripture, but stubbornly rejects his task. He confesses the Creator, but tries to run away.
While Jonah is on the Mediterranean, headed for a hiding place, God throws a great storm against the ship. It’s so severe that the ship is on the verge of breaking up. The sailors pray fervently. But not Jonah, who is asleep, oblivious to the life-threatening weather. The sullen prophet is out of touch with God’s activity.
Literature bears witness to the timeless truth we see in Jonah. Recall Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven,” or Augustine’s Confessions, or Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. All conclude that God closes in even while we are hiding. There is no way to escape, hide from, or evade God. Edmund A. Steimle writes, “He always does catch up with us sooner or later in some storm of life….There is no escape from God. You know it and so do I. And so did Jonah!” Augustine knew, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” The psalmist affirms: “If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” (Ps 139:9-10)
Jonah holds a mirror before us and asks, “Do you see yourself?”
What causes someone to confess a belief but not live it? What causes a person to refuse God’s leading? What actions help a person hear and do God’s will?
God who creates and calls, make me whole. My words and actions, my confession and deeds are often at odds. Keep me mindful that my “heart is restless until it rests in you.” Through one who loved wholeheartedly. Amen.