We live in a culture that prefers to blame others for our own mistakes. As students, when you bomb a test or quiz (which at NRCA, could mean a “B” or lower to some of you), it’s easy to say that it was the teacher’s fault (it was too hard, too long, about stuff that wasn’t taught, etc. – you get the point). If your team loses, it was because of the referees, the other team cheated somehow, your coach didn’t know what he/she was doing, or the rest of your teammates didn’t do their jobs. Even when you might admit that something like not doing homework or studying was “sort of” your fault, you want to blame it on your extreme busyness (because you hate “having to play” on two sports teams in the same season, right?) and just not having enough time in the week (because other students get 8 or 9 days, right?). Finally, you might even blame your struggles with following or not following Christ on others – church and chapel speakers are just too boring for you, reading the Bible and praying take too much time and effort (because you need at least 2 hours a day for Fortnite and/or Snapchat, right?), and obeying your parents and teachers is only cool when you think they are right. The peer pressure to blame others is strong even at Christian schools like NRCA.
But today’s passage shows us a radically different, biblical response to our mistakes and sins – taking responsibility and accepting the consequences. Wow! You see, even before the sailors cast lots (kind of like drawing straws or rolling dice) to figure out who had angered the God who sent the storm, Jonah knew that the lot would fall on him. He makes no attempt to hide his guilt here. Jonah simply admits that it is HIS God who sent the storm because of HIS sin and disobedience. Surely this was painful for Jonah to admit. But with his confession came freedom from guilt. When we stop ignoring our sin and honestly admit it to God and ourselves, then we are ready for God to take away our shame and help us repent and get back to walking with Him in obedient faith. My prayer is that whatever sins might be hurting your relationship with God right now, you would find the joy of God’s forgiveness and renewal by taking responsibility for your words and actions. Stop looking at others, look to Jesus, and listen for His voice. Hear and believe His promises in Jeremiah 29:12-13 – “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
The Text (Jonah 1:7-10)
7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”
9 So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
Questions to Think About
- When was the last time that you got alone with your Bible for a good hour or half hour and just asked God to speak to you about your life and what He wants to do in it? What might happen if you tried that today?
- Have you ever had a time when you were running from God but finally got tired, gave up, and honestly came back to Him like Jonah did in today’s passage? What happened?
- Are you experiencing God’s joy and peace right now? If not, could it be that you’ve been looking too much at others and instead need to look to Jesus and listen for His words about your own life?
- Our culture’s tendency to blame others for our sins goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Remember what happened after Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit? God called on Adam to admit his fault, but Adam blamed God and Eve by saying that it was the fault of the “woman that you [God] gave me.” Eve then blamed Satan for tricking her. But the blame game did not save them from the harsh consequences that came with sin entering the world. The longer we continue to blame others for our own mistakes, the harder it becomes to finally admit where we’ve gone wrong and get back on track with God. It’s better to stay close to Jesus and keep short accounts with Him of our sin.
- Jesus addressed the blame game problem in the Sermon on the Mount when He warned us to first get the logs out of our own eyes before we try to get the sawdust out of our neighbors’ eyes (Matthew 7:3-5). It is easy to see other people’s sins but harder to see our own. That’s why we need to read the Bible every day. When we read the Bible carefully and humbly, God uses it like a sharp sword and a light to stab our hearts and show us the sins that we have hidden even from our own selves. This hurts when we first start learning how to read the Word on our own and let God do His spiritual surgery. But then we realize that God is doing this work because He loves us. When we understand that God wants to set us free from the burden and guilt and bad consequences that sin brings, we discover the truth that God does indeed do all things for our good (Romans 8:28).