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Lesson 12: The Restless Prophet *

Introduction: How do you react when God takes you out of a role that you enjoy, and places you in a role that you don’t like? Truth be told, the new role makes you very nervous. Prophet Jonah knows a lot about this kind of change. Let’s dive into our study about him and learn more!

  1.         Our Hero

  1.         Read 2 Kings 14:23-25. Figuring this out could make your eyes cross. We have altogether too many "Jeroboams" in these verses. Can anyone tell how Jeroboam did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam? (We have two different "Jeroboams." Jeroboam I is "Jeroboam son of Nebat" and Jeroboam II is "Jeroboam son of Jehoash.")

  1.         What do we learn about Jonah? (That he advised this evil king.)

  1.         What kind of advice did Jonah give Jeroboam II? (Advice about restoring the borders of Israel.)

  1.         Why would God help an evil king like Jeroboam II? (It was a combination of God's concern over the suffering of the people and keeping His promise to His people. God loved His people.

  1.         What does this teach us about God's willingness to work with less than perfect people? (He is willing. This is a theme we will see developed in our study of Jonah.)

  1.         What did the people of Israel think of Jonah? (He was a patriot! He was a national hero.)

  1.         Our Hero Disappears

  1.         Read Jonah 1:1-2. Put yourself in Jonah's place. You are a prophet and a patriot. Your messages from God have been an important part of the defeat of the enemy. Nineveh has terrorized the people of Israel for many years. How do you react to this new assignment?

  1.         Is it like your old assignments? (No. You are now going to be a prophet to the enemy.)

  1.         A prophet's job is to go to his own people, right? Why would the patriot prophet be sent to the land of the enemy? (One commentary revealed that Jonah is the only case of a prophet being sent to a heathen nation. I've got to believe that Jonah did not want to hear this command from the Lord. Another commentary reports that after Jonah's day Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire that ultimately destroyed Israel.)

  1.         Let's step back a minute. All agree (God, Jonah, and the Israelites) that the Ninevites were evil people. What solution do you think Jonah would have preferred? (Just destroy them. That was his message from God when it came to prior enemies.)

  1.         Let's skip ahead a minute. Read Jonah 3:4. This is the message that Jonah ultimately gave to the people of Nineveh. If Jonah were truly a patriot, why wouldn't he want to spit in the eye of the Assyrians and tell them their city would be destroyed? (An obvious problem is that he does not have the army of Israel with him. He is going to Nineveh "alone.")

  1.         Read Jonah 1:3. Nineveh was near the modern city of Mosul in Iraq. Anyone know where Joppa is? How about Tarshish? (The Bible Knowledge Commentary tells us that Joppa is modern Jaffa in Israel. Tarshish was probably Tartessus in Southern Spain - about 2,500 miles west of Joppa.)

  1.         Is Jonah heading in the right direction? (No. He was going in the opposite direction that he was supposed to go.)

  1.         Do you think Jonah went down to the port and caught whatever ship he could find? (The sequence in verse 3 suggests that he had Tarshish in mind before he got to the port. Jonah intended to put about 3,000 miles between himself and where he was supposed to be.)

  1.         Read Jonah 1:4-6. Who is God trying to reach? (Jonah, the one who was sleeping.)

  1.         If God is reaching out to Jonah, why are so many other innocent people involved?

  1.         Why does the owner of the boat have to suffer damage to the boat, the shippers lose their cargo, and the sailors suffer mental distress?

  1.         Would you recommend that God have a more refined aim when it comes to addressing sin? (None of the others caught in the "cross-fire" between God and Jonah knew about God. This experience taught them lessons about the true God that were much more valuable then whatever goods or tranquility they lost in the process. Jonah 1:16 sounds like the result of an evangelistic series!)

  1.         Our Hero Swallowed

  1.         Read Jonah 1:12 and Jonah 1:15-2:2. In our story so far, what does God control and what does He not control? (He controls the weather and the fish. He does not control the allegiance of people.)

  1.         What do you think about Jonah's faith at this point? "Then" in Jonah 2:1 infers that it was after Jonah was in the fish for three days that he prayed. I'm not certain Jonah gets credit for great faith.)

  1.         Read Jonah 2:3-4. Litigation has shown me that two perfectly honest people can report the same incident in much different ways. Do you see what happened to Jonah in the same way he saw it? Was he “driven” from God’s sight?

  1.         Read Jonah 2:10. Does Jonah deserve this?

  1.         The Message

  1.         Read Jonah 3:3-5. What do you think about the tone of Jonah's message? Is it attractive, upbeat, and designed for the modern man and woman?

  1.         Does this message appeal to the vanity of the citizens? Does this message appeal to the curiosity of the citizens?

  1.         Is it possible the message was condensed for us for the purpose of brevity?

  1.         What reasons would the citizens of Nineveh have to believe Jonah? (Everything in this story so far has been illogical when viewed in human terms. God's hand has been on everything. My belief is that this is no different. The reason the Ninevites believe is that the Holy Spirit is acting on their hearts and minds. The message itself does not seem to be attractive.)

  1.         Read Jonah 3:6-9. Verse 6 starts out, "The word reached the king." Tell me what you think the King heard? (He heard that something unique was going on in the kingdom. A foreign prophet had come with a message of doom and all the people believed him.)

  1.         Is the reaction of the King of Assyria what you would expect? (How many important people do not like to accept an idea that "comes from below?" I would think the King was used to leading the nation - not following the people.)

  1.         Read Jonah 3:10 and Jonah 4:1-2. Imagine a Billy Graham evangelistic series resulting in a city-wide, top to bottom conversion. Then insert "Billy" into our Bible text instead of "Jonah." Can you imagine it?

  1.         What is wrong with Jonah? (He loves himself and his reputation more than he loves God or other people.)

  1.         How do you think Jonah reacted to God's mercy to him? Was he as upset about God showing him mercy as he was to God showing mercy on the people of Nineveh?

  1.         Read Jonah 4:3-4. What does this teach us about God? (Were you ready to let Jonah die after hearing what he had to say in Jonah 4:1-2? God, however, shows mercy by trying to reason this out with Jonah. God sounds like He is in the role of a counselor.)

  1.         Read Jonah 4:5. What do you think Jonah hoped would happen to the city? (I think he was waiting to see fire fall from heaven.)

  1.         In light of Jonah 4:3, what reason would Jonah have to believe that God would send fire? (The only reason I can see is that Jonah offered to die when he learned that God was going to show mercy. Assuming Jonah has the defective character that he seems to have, his line of logic is that God considers me so important that He will destroy Nineveh now that I've told Him I would rather die than live.)

  1.         How would you rate Jonah’s job performance?

  1.         Friend, do not miss the hope that shines out of this book. The violent, terrible Ninevites are spared by God's grace when they turn to Him. God keeps tenderly working with the twisted Jonah to accomplish God's goals on earth. Whether you have been outwardly evil, or outwardly a Christian with a twisted, selfish heart, God still wants to draw you closer to Him. Will you respond today?

  1.         Next week: The Ultimate Rest.
* Copr. 2021, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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