It was the worst storm the sailors on Jonah's ship had ever seen. The sky turned black. The winds roared. Rain stung the sailors' faces. Wave after wave lifted their ship high into the air and sent it crashing down again.
The sailors were terrified!
They were sure their ship would break in two, and so they started grabbing all the stuff they didn't need and throwing it over the sides to keep from sinking.
Meanwhile, the one thing they really needed to throw over the side was asleep below the deck. It was Jonah.
The captain crawled down under the deck and shook Jonah, “Wake up, man! We are all going to drown! Pray to your God to save us!”
Above the deck, the sailors were fighting the storm with all their might. “Why are the gods so angry with us?” they shouted to each other.
(They were smart enough to know that there was a god who made the earth and the sea and everything in it - but in their time of trouble, they didn’t know who he was. A lot of people are like that.)
“Let’s draw straws,” one of them shouted through the storm, “Maybe this god - whoever he is - will show us who is causing all our trouble.” And so they all scrambled below the deck and got some straws ready.
Jonah drew the shortest straw.
“This is all my fault!” Jonah said.
“My name is Jonah, and I am a Hebrew. I worship the Lord God, the God of Abraham, the creator of the earth and the sea and all that there is.”
“What have you done to make your God so angry?” the sailors asked.
“Um... well.... (Jonah didn’t want to have to admit it)... I am running away from God.” Jonah said, and he told then the whole story - well, as best he could, shouting over the raging storm.
“What can we do to save ourselves?” the sailors cried.
“Throw me into the sea and you will be saved,” Jonah said.
Jonah knew it was the only thing they could do. He would have to take his punishment. One person would have to die so that the others could live. Many, many years later Jesus was going to do the very same thing. Only, he took OUR punishment. He died for us, so that we could live with him forever.
But the sailors weren’t willing to throw Jonah into the churning sea. They thought if they tried real hard, they could save themselves without God's help. And so they rowed with all their might to try to get the ship back to dry land.
But it was no good. The winds just blew all the harder, the rain stung their faces all the more.
Finally, they cried out, “Please, O God of this man Jonah, forgive us for what we are about to do!”
And then the sailors picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea.
At once the winds stopped, the waves rolled away, and the sea became as smooth as glass. Now those sailors knew who the real God is, the God who can calm the seas.
They thanked God for saving their lives, and they vowed to follow him from that day on.
Jonah saved their lives twice that day! He saved them from the storm (well, GOD saved them - Jonah helped), and he saved them from something much worse than that - a life without knowing God.
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Bible Stories for Kids by Paul Dallgas-Frey
. Copyright © 2004 Paul Dallgas-Frey. All rights reserved.