The Sailor and the Sleeper


I am torn when it comes to the story of Rip Van Winkle. I can never decide whether to feel sorry for him or be jealous of him. The idea of being led away by an aging stranger whom Rip was only trying to help has always seemed rather creepy, but I have to admit the idea of a decades-long nap is tempting. A deep sleep also plays a role in today’s passage. But this sleep is not fictitiously induced. It is the result of something altogether different.

  • What, if anything, causes you to have trouble sleeping? Why?


4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. Keeping in mind that the sailors aboard Jonah’s ship were professionals, what do the mariners’ actions in verse 5 indicate about the severity of the situation?
  2. Where was Jonah during this uprising? What does this indicate about Jonah’s mentality at the time?
  3. The captain of the ship was clearly not a monotheist, yet he awakened Jonah to pray. What does this behavior indicate about human nature in dire situations?
  4. Why don’t we spend more time in prayer for unbelieving people as the storms of life threaten all around us?


How could Jonah sleep when everyone else aboard the ship was panicking? A better question might be how could Jonah sleep when the very people God had called him to rescue in Nineveh were drowning? Jonah had heard God’s call to Nineveh and turned his back. He was busy thinking about his own comfort, which makes concern for the perishing condition of others rather difficult. He was busy deliberately following his own will, which meant communication with God was the very thing he was running from. You see, complacency and prayerlessness are often the result of willful disobedience. Jonah’s sleeping body was indicative of his unresponsive spirit.

  • Ask God if there is any disobedience in your life that might be causing your spirit to be unresponsive to him or to those around you.
  • Pray to be awakened!