Doing life with loaded dice: Lesson from Jonah

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Maybe you’ve heard the slogan from one of Nationwide’s commercials. The company tells you,“Life comes at you fast.”

That same tagline could’ve been applied to what is happening so far in Jonah.

Here’s the quick recap.  God tells Jonah to “get up and go” to Nineveh – the capital city of one of the biggest enemies of Israel (Jonah’s people).  Jonah decides to “get up and run.” He boards a ship heading to Tarshish (the opposite direction of where God told Jonah to go!).  A storm rolls in and the sailors are scared to the point they are throwing their precious cargo into the sea.  Then the captain finds Jonah asleep in the bottom of the ship and wakes him up.

Now that we’re caught up, let’s deal with the BIG problem. This massive storm is threatening the lives of everyone onboard the ship and they are looking for a solution to the problem.  By the way, the solution is that they arrive safely in a port.

7 Meanwhile, the sailors said to each other, “Come on, let’s cast lots so that we might learn who is to blame for this evil that’s happening to us.” They cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they said to him, “Tell us, since you’re the cause of this evil happening to us: What do you do and where are you from? What’s your country and of what people are you?”

9 He said to them, “I’m a Hebrew. I worship the Lord, the God of heaven—who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 Then the men were terrified and said to him, “What have you done?” (The men knew that Jonah was fleeing from the Lord, because he had told them.)  — Jonah 1:7-10

Your life is on the line and storms swirling around you, so why not play a game The sailors turn to chance.  They cast lots and it’s essentially throwing out some small marked rocks.  Then the results of that throw are interpreted. It’s probably along the lines of throwing a handful of dice today.

Casting lots was one way to seek a solution to an issue.  There were no political or agendas when casting lots.  All that mattered would be how the stones landed.

On this day, on this ship in the middle of a storm, the lot fell on Jonah.

When it falls on Jonah, it seems to be saying what everyone else on the ship is already thinking: “Jonah, who are you?”

As Jonah speaks, he tells them that he followers and worships God.  But that statement only opens the door to more questions.  Jonah claims to follow and worship God, yet, Jonah has already informed them that he is running away from God.

The sailors, however, call Jonah out on his claim and ask, “What have you done to God?”

It’s an interesting twist that at this place in the story of Jonah, a group of idol worshippers are calling Jonah out for not following after the God he professes to follow.  Jonah’s claims are met with “Who are you and what have you done?”

There’s a big fancy word that we really don’t like to use that describes this very thing.  It’s a word that means you say one thing and do another.  It’s that word that people outside the church say about people in the church.

I’ll help. Hyp-o-crite.  Before we jump on the finger-pointing bandwagon (and the sailors here certainly can do that), let’s make an honest statement about this word,

There ARE hypocrites in the church.  In fact, the church is filled with them.  If you want to meet a hypocrite, stand in front of the mirror tonight and introduce yourself.

At some point along the way in our relationship with God, every single one of us says one thing and does another. (It’s another dirty word — sin!)

Maybe this is a good place for us to take a break from Jonah and to talk to God about some of those times when we’ve been hypocritical in our faith.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, forgive us for the times we say one thing and do another.  Help us to live lives where our words and deeds back up our claims of belief.  Help us to put love into action. Amen.

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