Jonah: Sovereignty and Selfishness

Collin Selman
3 min readDec 15, 2022


Jonah 1:8–17


Last post we discussed Jonah’s calling, his running, and God’s pursuit. We ended by diving into a discussion on God’s sovereignty in creation and chance and we pick up here.

Sovereignty of God

God has complete sovereignty.

  • Over the Sea (Creation, vs.4–6, 15)
  • Over the Lots (Chance/Coincidence, vs.7)
  • Over the Fish (Circumstances, vs.17)

But what is sovereignty?

  • “Supreme in power, superior to all others, supremely efficacious” — Webster
  • Stands alone, strong…
  • Able to effect your will (Lamentations 3:37–39, Job 42:2, Daniel 4:35, Ephesians 1:11)

How do we react to God’s sovereignty?

Do we bristle, scratch our heads, or become angry? Or do we rest in it? Submit or fight?

What does His sovereignty mean to us? That everything in our lives is meaningful, the good and the bad if we have the faith to see it. Peace in a chaotic world. Freedom in a rebellious world.

How did the sailors react to God’s sovereignty? Praise and worship.

Contrast this, how did Jonah react? By running, by prioritizing his will above that of a sovereign God’s. So now we turn our eye to the selfishness of Jonah.

Selfishness of Jonah

  • In the Storm

How did Jonah display his selfishness in the storm? Sleeping away the storm. By demonstrating an apathy towards the situation. Have you ever fallen into apathy when the situation called for action?

And yet, looking at the sailors, they were doing everything they could to save the ship and themselves.

  • Result of the lot/interrogation

This might be harder to see, but look with me. Which questions did Jonah actually answer? (Mostly just answers the questions about where he’s from. He never mentions that he is a prophet.)

Why does he conceal his occupation? Because of fear? Maybe knowing what he’s about to have to do.

And yet the sailors give him the benefit of the doubt and then realize his mistake (understanding his designation of the highest deity).

They could have genuinely thought he was running away from a god’s territory and yet he admitted he was in his God’s own realm.

  • Stopping the storm

We read that Jonah told them to cast him overboard. Which almost seems like a selfless act, right? But why do you think Jonah told them to cast him over? What was the alternative?

The sailors obeyed even when it wasn’t what they wanted to do (after trying to further save Jonah’s neck).

As a stand-in for Israel, Jonah shows how Christ was the more perfect prophet, offering up himself as a sacrifice instead of reluctantly. Christ submitted to God’s will while Jonah fled from it. The sailors had compassion on Jonah even while Christ’s persecutors were willing.


Ending out the chapter, why the fish?

God could have let him die or zapped him to Nineveh immediately but there was something in the journey that God still wanted to draw out in Jonah

To make him uncomfortable, to break into his selfishness, to force a quiet solitude, to forecast Christ’s descension, to preserve his life and penetrate his heart, to wake him up to his selfishness

We could honestly get to the same answer, but asking a different question: if God has this complete sovereignty, then why did he pursue a selfish servant such as Jonah?

Because God wanted to work in the heart of Jonah just as much as in the homes of the Ninevites.


  • In what ways do we try to flee from God?
  • How is God trying to get our attention and we’re turning a blind eye?
  • What sins do we stubbornly hold onto?
  • What are the implications for us as we face storms in our lives? Even if the storms are self-inflicted, we may have a fish from God.




Collin Selman

A Christian, a husband, a father, a blue-collar intellectual, an engineer, a carpenter, a gardener, and who knows what else in the future.