The prophet Jonah has been called by God to warn the people of Nineveh that they will be destroyed unless they change their ways. Instead of heeding God's call, Jonah tries to run away in the opposite direction. He boards a ship bound for faraway Tarshish. The ship is beset by a huge storm that threatens to destroy the ship and kill all those on board. The ship's crew begins to throw the cargo overboard in an attempt to save the ship and themselves. The pagan sailors also begin to pray to their many gods. While all of this is going on Jonah is in a deep sleep below deck. The captain discovers Jonah and rouses him from his sleep. The captain orders Jonah to pray as well.
Then the sailors said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity." They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
So they asked him, "Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?"
He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land."
This terrified them and they asked, "What have you done?" (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
Jonah 1:7-10 (New International Version)
The casting of lots may have been somewhat akin to a drawing of names from a hat. In any event, the outcome was the same--a name of the party who was responsible for this horrible storm was determined and that person was Jonah. God had called Jonah and Jonah had tried to almost pretend he hadn't heard God. But now on this confined environment of a ship on a stormy sea Jonah could no longer hide. The captain found Jonah and asked him how he could sleep. The captain wanted some answers.
The frightened crew also needed answers. They wanted to know who was responsible and Jonah's name coming up was surely not a coincidence--God's hand was in this. God's call was not going to be ignored. Now Jonah was in the hands of these men who needed to know who Jonah was and why they might be going to die because of him. In this verse we read some of the questions thrust upon Jonah.
We also read another interesting fact: The crew apparently already knew the answers to the questions they were asking Jonah because the verse says "he had already told them so". The past glory of Israel was probably known to all of them and the reputation of the God of the Hebrews was also probably common knowledge. Facing death the sailors were likely questioning their own faith and the power of this Hebrew God who controlled the seas. In a way, their questions to Jonah were almost rhetorical. These were questions that Jonah needed to ask himself. Jonah needed to re-evaluate who he was and what he was supposed to be doing. His actions of rebellion were going to not only destroy him, but also take the lives of the innocent crewmembers.
How often do you take a personal inventory? Who are you and are you doing what God wants you to do? Have you ever made choices in your life that may be adversely affecting others? Are you currently setting a bad example that may be leading others astray?
Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins?
Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.
Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say:
"We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven.
"You have covered yourself with anger and pursued us; you have slain without pity.
Lamentations 3:37-43 (New International Version)