Sunday, November 01, 2009

Wartime Conversions

Jonah 1:14-16
(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.

We diagrammed Jonah 1 in Hebrew class on Thursday and this happened to come up in my slow walk through the prophets, so I thought I'd comment on something. Earlier in the chapter we see that each man was calling out to his own god. By the time the storm really got going and they learned more about Jonah and the God that he supposedly serves, they were convinced that their own gods could do nothing to save them.

This is bolstered by the language used. Earlier in the chapter each man was calling out to elohim, or gods in general (though this is sometimes used for YHWH). But by this point in the chapter they are calling out to YHWH. In other words, they realized the futility of their own gods and saw their need for the One True God.

As professing American Christians we tend to look down our collective noses at the ignorance of these sailors and are glad that they came to see the light as we have. I would submit that these sailors had a deeper and truer faith than most in the pews this Sunday morning. We may not have the same names for our gods that these men did, but we tend to be just as guilty.

Take away someone's job and see how he reacts. Does he trust God or does he get upset because you've removed his idol? Downgrade his car. Replace his wardrobe with one from the thrift store or from Wal-Mart. See what he thinks.

Take away someone's coffee. Take away the fine food that they enjoy, or at least reduce the quantity significantly. See how that goes over.

Take away the NFL. What would our nation do on Sunday afternoons in the fall? Take away Division I football or basketball and see how it goes over.

And so on. We all have to fight idolatry at some level. Let's not look down at these formerly pagan sailors, but let's emulate the deep faith that they developed in YHWH.

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