“The Lord threw a great wind onto the sea, and such a great storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart. The sailors were afraid, and each cried out to his god.” (Jonah 1:4-5)
Talk about being at the wrong place at the wrong time! These poor, innocent sailors on the ship with the runaway prophet Jonah were definitely afraid. Fear is defined by the dictionary as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
The sailors confronted Jonah as he was singled out as the one to blame for their peril, and once again, they were overcome by fear. “Then the men were seized by a great fear and said to him, “What is this you’ve done?” The men knew he was fleeing from the Lord’s presence because he had told them.” (Jonah 1:10)
We can identify with the sailors; we understand what it means to be afraid. This is a feeling, an emotion that is common to all, and we can readily share our experiences.
In this experience, they were afraid of the situation – the threatening storm. They were afraid of the man and the position he had placed them all into. They were afraid of his god, who controlled the wind and waves.
Fear is something that overwhelms and often paralyzes us. However, there is another kind of fear. According to Proverbs 1:7, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Continuing in Jonah chapter 1, “The men were seized by great fear of the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.” (verse 16)
Fear of the Lord refers to a deep reverence and awe for the Lord. It involves keeping His commands, walking in His ways, loving and worshiping Him with all of one’s heart. The one who fears the Lord obeys. Wait a minute! In this story who is the “believer” and who’s the “unbeliever”?
We can’t clearly say that the sailors were changed or “converted” to worship the one, true God that day, but they truly acted appropriately in thanksgiving. They recognized the power and authority of God, and they were the men of action. They demonstrated true fear of God.