The men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.Jonah 1:16 (HCSB)
After throwing Jonah to his death, a supernatural calm comes down, and the storm ends, and the seas cease to rage. Then the sailors are filled with fear—literally, ‘they feared the Lord with a great fear’. When Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples literally ‘feared a great fear’ (Matthew 8:23-27). When God does something amazing, we are gripped with awe: we are awestruck at the power of God and the wonder of His majesty. We wonder quietly, ‘If God could do this, what could He do to me?’ We recognize that we are very, very, very small compared to God.
But there is a big difference between the fear the sailors felt earlier and the fear they feel now. Before, they feared for their lives, in terror at their impending doom. Here, it is not death that they fear but “the Lord”. This makes a huge difference. The fear of death led them to try harder, to exhaust themselves in frantic panic, to fall into despair and gnash their teeth in anxiety. The fear of the Lord led them to offer up a sacrifice to God and make vows. Whilst we cannot be certain, it seems that seeing the power and glory of God led them to commit themselves to the true God who sits in the heavens and made the sea and the land. They abandoned their idols and sacrificed no longer to sticks, stones, and dead men’s bones (and the demonic forces often hiding behind such things).
We may not see a storm miraculously calmed (then again, we might!), but there are countless times in our lives where we see God in His sovereign wisdom and power act today. He cures the sick, leads the spiritually blind to Himself, protects His own, provides for the poor, forgives the worst of sinners. As Christians, we are to always be looking for God acting in the world. Upon seeing it, we are to remind ourselves of how wonderful our God is, make vows to always give thanks to Him, and offer up our lives as sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.