|What happens when we run from God? |
Jonah received specific instructions from God, yet he chose to go in the opposite direction. As a consequence, Jonah wound up spending three days in the stomach of a large fish.
1. Was God being too harsh on Jonah?
2. Was Jonah getting what he deserved?
3. Was God being vingeful or patient with Jonah? Why or why not?
4. Are there negative consequences for us when we choose not to follow God's instructions?
Jonah's message to the people of Nineveh was one of gloom and doom. "God is going to destroy you." Immediately the people repented and turned back to God. It seems ironic that Jonah, a religious leader and prophet, had to be eaten by a fish before he would follow God. Yet, these vile offenders repented almost immediately.
1. What ways has God used to get your attention?
2. Do you tend to be more like Jonah or the people of Nineveh?
The People of Nineveh
History tells us that the Assyrians were a cruel and heartless people who thought nothing of burying their enemies alive, skinning them alive, or impaling them on sharp poles under the hot sun. "If the city of Nineveh is going to be overthrown, then let it be overthrown," argued Jonah. "I would rather disobey God than see my enemies saved from judgment."
Wiersbe, Warren W.: Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the Old Testament. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1993, S. Jon 1:1
1. What if God asked you to do good to your enemy?
2. Do you feel God still has grace for people like the Ninevites?
3. Watch the following video on forgiveness. In what ways was God asking Jonah to have compassion for people who had caused such harm to others?
Jonah Misses the Point
Some scholars believe that Jonah is actually the author of his own book. It is the only book of prophets where the focus is on the prophet himself. Yet, Jonah ends very abruptly with no real resolution. Even though God tried to explain, Jonah simply didn't understand. God was patient with the people of Nenivah, but He was especially patient with his chosen prophet..
Are pages missing? Was Jonah saying, "I still don't understand God." Or was Jonah using himself as an example of what prejudice, unforgiveness, and pride can do to a person? What do you think?
Are there areas of your faith where you still need God's help and understanding?
Jonah--Discover God's Grace
Before you begin this lesson, listen to the story of Jonah as told by Mary Margaret.
|The Story of Jonah|
The story of Jonah seems too outrageous to be included in Scripture. Can God really prepare a fish that is large enough to swallow a man? And how could a person survive inside a large fish for three days? I suppose, if God is responsible for creating the entire universe, He could also make a fish to accommodate a human passenger for a long weekend. The question is not whether God can command nature or create a fish: The real story is one of God's patience and grace.
The story of Jonah may be very familiar for some. Others may be hearing it for the very first time. Either way, spend some time with your class to review this incredible story. Use the questions on the side panel for discussion as you consider the important lessons found in this text.
- God gives Jonah a command: God instructs Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against its wickedness. (1:1-2):
- Jonah Objects: Jonah refuses and boards a ship going to Tarshish, in the opposite direction from Nineveh! (1:3)
- The Storm: God sends a violent wind that threatens to sink the ship. (1:4)
- The sailors attempt to protect the boat in the storm. They pray to their gods and throw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. (1:5-6)
- The sailors attempt to figure out who is to blame for the storm. They cast lots to determine who is responsible for their trouble, and the lot falls upon Jonah. (1:7)
- The sailors confront Jonah, demanding to know who he is and what he has done. (1:8)
- Jonah acknowledges that he is running from God and advises them to throw him overboard (1:9-11-14)
- The sailors throw Jonah overboard, and the storm stops at once. (1:15-16)
- God arranges for a great fish to swallow Jonah. (1:17)
- The waters close around him (2:1-5a).
- Seaweed wraps itself around his head. (2:5b).
- He sinks to the bottom of the sea. (2:6)
- Jonah remembers and renews his previous vow to serve and obey God. (2:7-9)
- God commands the fish to spit Jonah up on the beach.. (2:10)
God Pardons the People, But Jonah Becomes Angry at God
When Jonah preaches to the Ninevites, they repent and are saved. But Jonah resents God for saving his enemies, so God has to teach him about compassion. (3:1-10)
Jonah still doesn't understand why God was so compassionate. He builds a shelter outside the city and waits to see what God will do. A plant grows and provides shade for Jonah, but during the night the plant is destroyed. Once again Jonah is angry. God responds by saying:
"You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much ?cattle?" (4:5-10)