But the Lord brought a great storm on the sea. The wind made the sea very rough. The storm was very strong, and the boat was ready to break apart…The sailors were very afraid. Each man began praying to his god.
…The captain of the boat saw Jonah and said, “Wake up! Why are you sleeping? Pray to your god! Maybe your god will hear your prayer and save us!”
Then the men said to each other, “We should throw lots to find out why this is happening to us.”
So the men threw lots. The lots showed that the troubles came to them because of Jonah. Then the men said to Jonah, “It is your fault that this terrible thing is happening to us. Tell us, what have you done? What is your job? Where do you come from? What is your country? Who are your people?”
Jonah said to them, “I am a Hebrew. I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the land and the sea.”
Jonah told the men he was running away from the Lord. The men became very afraid when they learned this. They asked Jonah, “What terrible thing did you do against your God?” Jonah 1 Easy-to-read Version
Here we have magic and God’s power face to face. The men knew that the gods could cause storms, especial out of season (the Mediterranean has a storm season just like the monsoon and hurricane seasons). They knew the gods would show them who was the “guilty one” by using lots (something like short straws, dice or other “chance” objects).
Look at how they reacted when they realized it was the “God of heaven who made the land and the sea” who did this. I would have been “very afraid,” too!
If you continue reading, you will see that as soon as they sacrificed Jonah to God by tossing him in the water (I love how they hated to do this, they were honorable men), the storm stopped immediately.
This reminds us of someone else who could do the same thing: Jesus (Mk 4:39; Matthew 14:32). In Mark’s story of Jesus’ nap, He just spoke, “peace, be still,” and the winds and water obeyed (the water had to obey, or the waves would have continued for some time). In Matthew’s account of Jesus foot-surfing to the disciples, Jesus didn’t even have to talk; it just calmed down as He climbed into the boat.
I’m sure there are a bunch of other stories about people groups who are familiar with demonic power (we call them animists), but this one will have to do for today (and fits nicely with American Thanksgiving coming up).
BTW, Praise God, He doesn’t insist that we get our act all together before He helps us. None of God’s earthly children are perfect, but He cares for us anyway!
Here are some quotes from the Plymouth Pilgrims during their first Summer in New England:
Bradford wrote, “the Lord seemed to blast… and threaten… sore famine unto them, by a great drought which continued from the 3. week in May, till about the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat… the corn began to wither away.”
“they set a part a solemn day of humiliation to seek the Lord by humble & fervent prayer, in this great distress. And he was pleased to give them a gracious & speedy answer, both to their own & the Indians admiration, that lived amongst them…. toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain, with such sweet and gentle showers, as gave them cause of rejoicing, & blessing God. It came, without either wind, or thunder, or any violence,… the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith. Which did so apparently revive & quicken the decayed corn & other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold.”
An Indian named Hobamak who witnessed this event said to a Pilgrim: “Now I see that the Englishman’s God is a good God, for he hath heard you, and sent you rain, and that without storms and tempests and thunder, which usually we have with our rain, which breaks down our corn, but yours stands whole and good still; surely your God is a good God.”
The Indians could get their gods to send rain, too. But when it came, it was as bad as the drought.
Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:
Who covers the heaven with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow upon the mountains.
He gives to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.
The LORD takes pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. Psalm 147:7-9,10