There is a passage in Psalm 107 (23-37) which states:- “Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.” The Israelites of old were not known as a maritime nation, in fact they hated the sea which they thought of as a place of chaos. The only story of a sea voyage in the Old Testament is that of Jonah which included a storm or tempest. But the seamen involved were all pagans who prayed to their own gods. But when Jonah told them about the God he believed in, but was disobeying, they became more afraid of Jonah’s God than the storm and began to pray to Jonah’s God before eventually threw Jonah overboard to what they believed was certain death. Some years ago I heard that there was a Jewish tradition that the sailors went back to the shores of Israel and went up to Jerusalem to pray in the temple and offer sacrifices to Jonah’s God. This passage in Psalm 107 seems to confirm this. The irony is that in refusing to preach to one lot of pagans he leads to the conversion of another bunch of heathens, before going on to successfully lead the Ninevites to repentance. Not for nothing did Jesus say when asked for a sign gave the example of Jonah; not only in that the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the ‘fish’ represent the death and resurrection of Christ but also that Jesus’ mission was also to bring in those beyond the boundaries of Judaism. An inference that was not lost on His hearers.
David Rose, 2016.