First, we learn that people outside the community of faith have a right to evaluate the church on its commitment to the good of all.

The sailors are in peril. They have used what technology and religious resources they have, but these are not enough. They sense that they cannot be saved without help from Jonah, but he is doing nothing to help. And so we have this memorable picture of the heathen captain reprimanding God’s holy prophet. Hugh Martin preached a sermon on this text entitled “The World Rebuking the Church”5 and concluded that Jonah deserved it and, to a great extent, the church today deserves it too.

What is the captain rebuking Jonah for? It is because he has no interest in their common good. The captain is saying: “Can’t you see we’re about to die? How can you be so oblivious to our need? I understand you are a man of faith. Why aren’t you using your faith for the public good?” Jacques Ellul writes:

These Joppa sailors . . . are pagans, or, in modern terms, non-Christians. But . . . the lot of non-Christians and Christians is . . . linked; they are in the same boat. The safety of all depends on what each does. . . . They are in the same storm, subject to the same peril, and they want the same outcome . . . and this ship typifies our situation.6

We are all—believers and nonbelievers—“in the same boat.”

I have just completed a six session Bible study based on Tim Keller’s new book, The Prodigal Prophet (the book of Jonah). It is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription plan. The idea is to invite each participant to purchase their own book. Sessions include:

Prodigal Prophet, Lesson #1
Chapters 1, 2
Running from God / The World’s Storm

Prodigal Prophet, Lesson #2
Chapters 3, 4
Who is My Neighbor?
Embracing the Other

Prodigal Prophet, Lesson #3
Chapters 5, 6
The Pattern of Love
Running from Grace

Prodigal Prophet, Lesson #4
Chapters 7, 8
Doing Justice, Preaching Wrath
Heart Storms

Prodigal Prophet, Lesson #5
Chapters 9, 10
The Character of Compassion
Our Relationship with God’s Word

Prodigal Prophet, Lesson #6
Chapters 11, 12
Our Relationship with God’s World
Our Relationship with God’s Grace