Paul and Jonah
Acts 27:1-28:16 describes Paul’s voyage to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. It was late in the year, when sailing on the Mediterranean was dangerous. At one point they had to decide whether to continue to Rome or spend the winter where they were and finish their voyage the following spring.
Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
They rejected Paul’s advice and continued their journey.
But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.
A storm rose and the crew of the ship gave up all hope of survival.
When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
The only thing standing between them and death was the fact that Paul was on the ship and God wanted him to appear before Caesar.
Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”
The ship was wrecked but everyone on board survived and they eventually reached Rome.
Another servant of God, the prophet Jonah, experienced a storm at sea. His experience was different from that of Paul. God called him to preach to Nineveh. He didn’t want to obey so he got on a ship to flee to Tarshish. God sent a storm and he realized the only protection from the storm was for the sailors to throw him overboard. When they did this the storm stopped. Jonah 1:1-15
If you are familiar with the Bible you know what happened next. God sent a fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah repented of his sins while he was inside the fish. The fish vomited him up on the shore and God again called him to go to Nineveh. This time he obeyed and the people of Nineveh repented. Because of their repentance God didn’t destroy the city. Jonah 1:17-4:11
Paul was on the ship because of his obedience to God and his presence protected the others. Jonah was on the ship because he was disobeying God and his presence endangered the crew. The lesson we learn from this is that when we obey God we bring his blessings and protection to those around us but if we disobey God we endanger those around us.
At least that would appear to be the lesson if it weren’t for this verse which describes what happened to the sailors after they threw Jonah overboard.
Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.
Jonah’s disobedience led to the crew of the ship he sailed on becoming worshipers of the true God. His presence was ultimately a blessing to them. Perhaps this verse explains why Paul and Jonah both brought blessings to those around them even though one was acting in obedience to God and the other was disobeying God.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
When we are saved each of us is given work that God wants us to do. Whether we obey or not God will accomplish the purpose for which we are saved but if we don’t obey we will lose the reward we could have received for obedience. Here is what Paul said at the end of his life, while he was in prison waiting to be executed.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
We know nothing about how Jonah’s life ended. Perhaps he repented of his disobedience and began serving God as faithfully as Paul did. If so his life ended just as triumphantly as Paul’s did. If he did not he faced the prospect of entering Heaven without any of the rewards he could have earned by obedience.
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15