Taking it In
Verse 4 picks up from the mild humor of vv. 1-3 and gives us a few nuggets of zesty Hebrew to chew on. You’ve got to love the verb that God “hurls” a “great wind…” As soon as we see wind our eyes should light up a bit. The word is ruah and it is the same word used to describe “spirit” in Hebrew and corresponds to sounding like breath when it is pronounced. Very similar to the way the word Yahweh does the same thing. But, in the way it is used in this verse there is almost a violent aspect to it. God hurls the breath of life but in a manner that will most certainly get Jonah’s attention. Secondly, there is a great storm on the sea. We know what happens when there is a storm in the Gospels: Jesus walks on it or calms it completely. In the Old Testament “the sea” is often representative of chaos (or even evil). In Genesis 1 we find the spirit of God (same word, ruah) “hovering over the surface of the waters.” Though chaotic, this envisions God’s control over the chaos of the sea. This would normally be a comfort for Jonah, but probably not so here given his position. Finally, the shipmates start to worry whether or not the ship will make it or be “broken into pieces,” perhaps akin to Jonah’s calling as a prophet?
Working it Out
There is a lot going on in this one single passage in v. 4 and there is a lot we can get out of this if we soak ourselves in the text a bit. We have already discussed in the last passage that many of us, like Jonah, go wayward and sometimes to intentionally ignore or get away from God’s watchful eye (or so we like to think). But in v. 4 we see the absolute divine perseverance of Yahweh. It seems as though Yahweh will stop at nothing to try and get Jonah’s attention and lure him to return to the light, so to speak. It’s a scary thing when you’re at sea and waves are crashing the ship, but in the stormy seas of life that can sometimes render us “shipwrecked,” it could be quite comforting even encouraging that God will use those to bring us back where we belong under grace. We are never out of God’s sight or love. We must ask ourselves, however, if we are trying to sail against “the wind” or if the “breath of God” is the very force driving our sails.