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Lesson 4: The "Dove" Flees *

Introduction: Jonah's name in Hebrew means "dove." When you think about doves in the Bible, they are generally associated with good news, right? After the great flood, a dove revealed the water had receded. Genesis 8:11. When Jesus was baptized, God's Spirit was pictured as a dove affirming that Jesus was God's Son. Matthew 3:16-17. On the other hand, GoBible reader Dr. Izak Wessels, sent me a note pointing out that in Hosea 7:11 a dove is called "easily deceived and senseless." What kind of "dove" is Jonah? A man of good news or a silly bird? Let's jump into our lesson and learn more about this unique prophet!

  1. Wrong Way

    1. Read Jonah 1:3. Nineveh was near the modern city of Mosul in Iraq. Anyone know where Joppa is? How about knowing where Tarshish is located? (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 the wrong way -- the opposite direction he was supposed to go.)

      2. Do you think Jonah went down to the port and caught whatever ship he could find? (No. The sequence in verse 3 suggests that he had Tarshish in mind before he got to the port.)

      3. Jonah had in mind putting about 3,000 miles between himself and where he was supposed to be. Why?

        1. Let's be practical here. Would you rather go to the beaches of southern Spain or Iraq?

      4. Notice that verse 3 gives us several specific details about Jonah's actions. First, he looked for a ship heading to Tarshish. Second, he bought a ticket. Third, he got on board. Why do you think we have these details? (When I get on a plane, after everyone is seated, they announce our destination. No doubt they do that for people who might have accidentally gotten on the wrong plane. All these details in Jonah's story show us this was no accident, he did not board "the wrong plane." Jonah made the deliberate decision to run. He ran through several "red lights" when it came to disobeying God.)

      5. What was Jonah's goal in all of this running? (To flee God.)

        1. Does this make any sense to you?

        1. What do you think Jonah had in mind? (The New Bible Commentary tells us that it was common to believe that a god only had power in those places where he was worshiped. By going so far away Jonah might have hoped to escape God's sphere of influence.)

      1. Why would God choose a guy like this to be His messenger?

        1. What does the fact that God was still following His "wrong-way dove" teach us about our God?

      2. You make God sound like a "stalker." Is this good? (Generally a stalker does not have your best interests in mind. God pursues us to save us.)

  1. The Storm

    1. Read Jonah 1:4-5. Who is God trying to reach? (Jonah, the one who was sleeping.)

      1. What does this teach us about God's power to reach out to us? (God is willing to change the course of nature to get our attention. God has a powerful will and powerful means.)

      2. 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?

        2. Why do the shippers have to lose their cargo?

        3. Why do the sailors have to suffer such mental distress?

      3. What do you think about Jonah peacefully sleeping while everyone else is suffering because of his sin? (This brings to mind the times when I am at a traffic light and the person ahead of me is fooling around and does not notice the light has changed to green. They finally notice in time to drive through the "yellow" light. As a result, they get through the light and I do not!)

        1. Should God have a more refined aim when it comes to addressing sin? (The way this story reads, 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 they were having an evangelistic series!)

        2. What does this teach us about suffering? (Some bad things are sometimes intended to happen to us - just as God intended to catch Jonah in the storm. But sometimes we have bad things happen to us simply because we live in a world in which good and evil are locked in combat.)

        1. Some would argue that God never intends "bad things" to happen to us. They would say that Satan sent the terrible storm in an attempt to kill Jonah and everyone else on the ship. God intervened for good by sending the fish to save Jonah. Anything wrong with that view? (The first problem with that view is that it contradicts the plain text of the Bible. Jonah 1:4,12&14-16 clearly attribute the start and end of the storm to God. The second problem is that if you believe that God could control the storm, what moral superiority is there in God allowing Satan to start the storm as opposed to starting the storm Himself? Trusting God, rather than making excuses for Him, is the best approach.)

      1. How do you explain that Jonah was sleeping during the storm? The first thing the captain asks him (v.6) is "How can you sleep?" I think that is a great question! Jonah's answer is not recorded. What do you think is the answer?

        1. Is this like Jesus in Mark 4:37-39? (Jesus did not need to fear the storm. Jonah is not in that same position. It seems there are a number of potential explanations for Jonah's sleep. He could be tired because he has been running so hard away from God. He could be sleeping because he believes he is at last safe from God. He could be sleeping because he is depressed and does not care about his life very much any more.)

    1. Friend, running away from God is not an option. He will not force your will, but He will pursue you. Why not make it easier on everyone and give your heart to Him today?

  1. Next week: A Hebrew Prophet and Heathen Mariners.
* Copr. 2003, 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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