WEEK 6: Stormy vows
“Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to You; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:8-9, ESV)
Jonah was lying in the belly of a fish, and having made peace with the fact that God had created a tempest over the sea and had commanded a fish to swallow him up after he had been thrown overboard, he concluded that no one was to blame but himself. After giving himself up to God – the only constant in every situation, good or bad – Jonah started to see and understand what God was seeing and wanting him to do.
In chapter 2 verse 8, Jonah expresses an understanding that it’s not about Israel being the chosen people of God and the rest of humanity mere observers to the blessing on Israel. No, in God’s eyes, there were those who worshipped Him and those who “paid regard to vain idols”.
When Jonah was flung into the sea and swallowed by the fish, he had no idea whether the sailors had survived. For all practical reasons, the storm was still raging and could have capsized the boat, drowning them all. The sailors, however, were safe and the storm was over, and because the God of Jonah saved them, they “feared the Lord exceedingly and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows” (1:16). What the sailors did was exactly what Jonah was now promising to do: sacrifice and vows.
Jonah deliberately used the words “vain idols” when he called out to God, because it was the last thing he saw before he was flung into the sea. He had seen the frightened sailors paying regard to their gods, hoping they would save them from the storm. When Jonah became a prophet, he would have made vows to God to always follow and be obedient to whatever God asked of him. But when God asked him to go to Nineveh, he had run away, breaking his vows. In running away, Jonah realised he was no better than the sailors paying regard to vain idols. At that moment, in the belly of the fish, he was as lost without God as they were. Realising this, Jonah quickly recalled his vows, promising to fulfil them and to bring sacrifices to God.
Watch that you do not become like Jonah who needed a storm and a fish-home to remind him of his vows, his promises and his intended sacrifices to the Lord. Recall your vows to God today, and start fulfilling them before the storm comes.