I think one of the funniest verses in the Bible is Jonah 1:10b. Not for what it says, but for what it implies.
Here it is:
For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
Because – When did he mention this? Was it when he came on board? Did the first mate ask him in his brief interview when Jonah came on board as a passenger?
First mate: Name.
First mate: Occupation.
First mate: Reason for travel.
Jonah: Running away from my God, because I don’t feel like doing what he commanded.
First mate: <shrugs> Whatevs*. Come on up.
I mean, who knows what kind of other weird motivations to cross a sea this sailor has heard from would be passengers.
Or did Jonah mention it in the galley after dinner during a game of cribbage?
Other Passenger: So what’s your story? What’s in Tarshish for you?
Jonah: Well, not my God’s presence, for one.
Other Passenger: Huh. Your deal, Ogden.
However the conversation went, the sailors apparently weren’t bothered by this. Nor did they ask for more details.
Until the storm.
Just as an aside, on the list of dos and don’ts for a passenger on a small ship – one of the ‘don’ts’ is “Relax and have a lie-down while the waves get so big that sea-hardened sailors are ‘crying out’ like babies”.
Which is, of course, what Jonah did. But they woke him up for the Casting Of Lots. One wonders if they often did this:
Alright, who muddied up the deck with his boots? Throw those dice, Milford. We’ll find out!
In any case, ‘the lot fell on Jonah’. Can you picture all heads turning to look at him? I can.
And then I picture the captain asking politely, but with some assertiveness, “Please tell us a little more about yourself.”
And Jonah swallows and (to his credit) decides to only mention the information pertinent to the situation at hand, “I serve … well, you know the god I said I was running away from? Well, He’s the”, and he clears his throat, “…God who created the land and the sea.”
If I were writing a radio teleplay of this story, at this point I would:
SFX** – The Pulling-the-needle-off-a-record-player screechy noise. (yes, I know it’s oft-used and outdated but it still scores well with the young kids).
SFX – Silence. [I’d say crickets, but crickets is over done, and really, would this kind of insect be on a boat?]
And then the captain pauses and says, “The, um . . . the god who created the what now?”
And Jonah is not pleased that he has to repeat himself. But he does and this time he is more to the point: “The God who created the sea. Including this one.”
If I was writing a play or television screenplay of this story, I would have the Captain blink. Twice. And then calmly turn around and face his men. And then, not so calmly (in fact hysterically): Row! Row! For all you’re worth!
It’s recorded that about here in the story, some of the men also said, “What is this that you have done!”
It’s not recorded, but at this point, the First Mate might have had a few more words. Y’know, something like, “Really? You couldn’t have mentioned this before when we were initially speaking together? Wow. Just . . . Wow.”
All of this because this captain, the first mate and all the sailors are smart guys*** and they know that a god who created the sea your ship is on has the ability to wreck stuff on the sea your ship is on. Including your ship.
There are other messages in the book of Jonah, but this has to be one of them, right? And I think we can generalize: If you are somewhere that your God created, defying him is unwise.
If you believe this, I recommend you live like you believe this.
* What? You didn’t know that ‘whatevs’ is originally from an early common Mesopotamian tongue? More interestingly, linguistic analysis shows that, unlike in our culture, it was used by the more masculine of speakers.
** Sound Effects
*** Although, I can imagine one newbie sailor who’s a little slow on the uptake, commenting loudly as he’s pulling on the main-mast ropes: What? What’s the big deal? Won’t anyone explain what’s going on?
[If you’d like to read other posts where I try to be funny, please see my Attempts category.]