“I worship the Lord, the God of Heaven, who made the sea and the land.” ~Jonah 1:9
I imagine that when Jonah paid his fare and collected his ticket and boarded that ship to Tarshish, he never dreamed of talking to the boat’s crew about God. They would never listen. If he asked them to respond to his God, they would just say “no.” These kinds of people — these pagan sailors with their different gods and values, different cultures and beliefs and lifestyles — are not interested in the Lord.
But in the middle of that violent storm, as the wind and the waves grow increasingly stronger and the ship begins to break up, the sailors begin to fear for their lives. They’re drawing straws, casting lots, trying to figure out who or what is to blame for this great trouble. And Jonah, in the middle of the storm, in the middle of the turmoil and fear and noise and anxiety and panic — he answers their questions with a confession.
“I worship the Lord, the God of Heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
And that’s all it took.
Jonah confesses the Lord. The sailors reluctantly acted on Jonah’s instructions by throwing him overboard. And they begin calling on the name of the Lord. Praying to God. Begging God for forgiveness. And when the storm goes away and the seas grow calm, they greatly fear the Lord. They revere the Lord. They’re in awe. And they’re moved. They offer sacrifices to God and they make vows. They make commitments to him right there on the spot.
Jonah confessed the Lord to these pagan sailors. The sailors saw the great power of God. They experienced the merciful salvation of God. And their lives were changed.
This part of the story tells me that the world we live in is not closed to our faithful witness. Even if it’s a weak witness.
Hey, this world is in a crisis. This world is desperate. It’s hopeless. It’s grasping at straws, rolling the dice, shaking the magic 8-ball, grasping for truth, dying for something solid to believe in, anxious for something stable to hold on to. And so many people we run in to are wide open to the truth of our God. If we’ll just confess it in front of them.
The sailors were not looking for this witness. They weren’t looking for Jonah’s statement of faith. They weren’t looking for the Creator of Heaven and Earth. They didn’t know what they were looking for. But through Jonah’s witness — as weak as it was — they encountered our God and experienced his salvation. They acknowledged their helplessness in rowing against the storm on their own. They believed in God and his Word and they acted on it. And they worshiped him in reverence and in awe.
Your witness may be weak. But your God is strong. Your testimony may not be much more than “I worship the Lord.” But your God is ready to use that testimony to change the lives of the people around you.