The Storm

The Unpredictable Plant
Eugene Peterson

[4] But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. [5] Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. [6] So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

– Jonah 1:4-6

Storm is the environment in which we either lose our lives or are saved; there is no cool, safe ledge on which to perch as spectators.  There are no bleachers from which to enjoy the lightning and thunder, the waves and breakers of the storm.  We are in it, prophet and people, sailor and saints.  Nothing else matters at this point; it is life or death.  Whatever else has been on the agenda is on it no longer.  There is this single item: salvation – or not.

Money, a powerful element in human autonomy, holds a key place in [this story], Jonah using his excessively large sum of money to purchase passage to Tarshish…But the power of money disappears in the storm.  There is only a single power to deal with now: God – and God’s salvation.

StormThe only thing the sailors found useful to do in the Jonah storm was to lighten the ship, get rid of what they had heretofore assumed was their primary concern: “they threw the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them” (1:5)…As God’s action intensifies, the significance of our human lives…comes into focus as the single point of who we are, not what we have to offer him, not what we can do to help him.

If the storm sets the conditions in which these stories take place, prayer is the essential action.  In the Jonah story, the sailors pray, each crying to his own god (1:5) and then to Yahweh (1:14).  The captain asks Jonah to pray to his god, but Jonah doesn’t do it (1:6).  Jonah will later pray from the fish’s belly, but the salvation has by then already been accomplished…

Trouble, at least extreme trouble, storm-trouble, strips us to the essentials and reveals the basic reality of our lives.  In Jonah it was prayerlessness…The storm revealed Jonah to be a prophet who did not pray.

Genesis 5

[21] When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. [22] Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. [23] Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. [24] Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

– Genesis 5:21-24

Genesis 5 is a genealogy, a family history from Adam to Noah.  Each generation is described as having lived, fathered a child, and died.  When the pattern is broken, the author of Genesis is drawing our attention to something.

6a00d834890c3553ef01b7c6fb216e970bWhen the genealogy gets to Enoch, we find that he “walked with God” and he did not die, but “God took him” (v. 24).  We are not told any details of Enoch’s life, simply that those who walk with God escape death and are taken by the Lord.

Following the fall, generation after generation succumbed to death.  Enoch is only one man, but he escapes death and gives humanity hope that perhaps there is a way out of the endless cycle of death and destruction.

If nothing else, this would be too good to be true.

Genesis 3

[4] But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. [5] For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [6] So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

– Genesis 3:4-6

In verse 5, the serpent tempts the woman with the prospect of being like God.  Yet man and woman are already like God, made in His very image.  What could the serpent mean?

Eve-and-serpent_christianimagesourceIn Genesis 1, God looked at his work after each day and declared that it was good.  Part of being God is determining what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong, what is beautiful and what is ugly.

Satan is essentially saying, you can determine for yourself what good and evil is.  And in verse 6, we see that the woman does.  In Genesis 2, the Lord had told the man and the woman that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would lead to death but she sees it as “good for food,” “a delight to the eyes,” and “desired to make one wise.”

We are not “sinners” because we do awful things like Hitler or Pol Pot.  No, we are aiming to be God, to take His place if it were possible.  What else but death can result from the  rejection of the Giver of Life and disobedience to the One who Defines Reality.

But then what else but life can result from pursuing and following that same God?