Then the men were even more afraid and said to him, “What is this you’ve done?” The men knew he was fleeing from the Lord’s presence, because he had told them.Jonah 1:10 (HCSB)
The most famous sermon of all time—except the Sermon on the Mount—was by a British colonial evangelist named Jonathan Edwards. During a revival in 1741, Edwards preached a sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edward’s theme was that “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” It is only the mercy and love of a God who doesn’t need us that keeps us from eternal damnation for our many sins. It is only grace—the freely given totally undeserved gift of mercy and love to someone who is ill-deserving of it—that offers us hope of salvation.
Christians today generally do a disservice to God. We have placed the mighty God of the universe, who does whatever he wants whenever he wants (Psalm 115:3), in a nappy and placed him in a toddler’s play pen. We have turned a hardened, physically strong, and rugged carpenter/stonemason into a blonde bombshell who looks more suited to the catwalk than Calvary. We have taken the Lion of Judah, who will crush all his enemies beneath his feet, and made him into the most adorable Andrex Puppy. We have converted the wonderful and magnificent Bridegroom into our cute and hip BFF (best-friend-forever).
This is a grave mistake. God will not be mocked. As much as it is true that God is our loving Father and that Jesus is our friend, our brother; as much as it is true that God’s love is like a hen gathering in her chicks under the shadow of her wings–It is also true that God is a holy, righteous Judge—slow to anger and quick to forgive, but angry nonetheless. In fact, God is quite simply terrifying. In Genesis 31:42, we are told that one of God’s names is “The Fear of Isaac”. Every person who meets God in the Bible falls down as if dead in terror and fear; they shake and tremble; they are lost for words before the holiness of God. Even the beloved disciple John, who rested upon Jesus during the last supper, upon seeing Jesus in his full glory, fell down in terror, unable to look upon the sight.
When the sailors on the boat discovered that Jonah was fleeing the God of heaven who created the sea and land, they were afraid—and rightly so! If we want to grow in holiness and truth, we must know and recognise that God is not just our friend but also our awesome King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Emperor of Everything.