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Sabbath School Lessons on Jonah
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 5: A Hebrew Prophet and Heathen Mariners *
Introduction: Jonah had God's "marching instructions" for him.
Instead of marching in the correct direction, he ran off the other
way. Instead of bringing news of the Great God of Heaven to the
citizens of Nineveh, Jonah first brought the news to a group of
heathen sailors. Let's dive into our lesson and find out how the
Lord's work gets advanced even when we are unruly!
- Gods of the Sailors
- Jonah is on board his escape ship. Tired, he heads down to
the hold for some "well-deserved" rest. While he is
snoring away in the hold, something quite different is
going on up above. Read Jonah 1:4-5. Were these
- In every group caught in some difficulty you have
those who simply do not believe God exists or who
have not taken the time to come to a firm conclusion
on the matter. Are these sailors like that?
(Apparently not. Verse 5 tells us that they "all"
were afraid and "each" cried out to his own god.)
- How completely did these sailors trust their gods?
(The next line continues "and they threw the cargo
into the sea to lighten the load.")
- Is that distrust or common sense?
- In the context of God's people rebuilding the
wall around Jerusalem while the enemy lurked
nearby, read Nehemiah 4:16-18. Is this a lot
like tossing the cargo into the sea?
- Looking ahead, did the sailors call for supernatural
help from these various deities cure the problem?
- What does that say about honest, heartfelt
pursuit of the spiritual journey that is best
for you? (The idea that there are many paths to
ultimate truth is contrary to the teachings of
the Bible. Calling on Molech could get you
- Read Jonah 1:6. How serious was the storm? (The captain
thought they were going down.)
- Is there another explanation, other than religiosity,
for every one of the crew seeking help from
- Since the captain is not fussy about which god gives
them a hand, what does that tell you about his
theology? What does that tell you about his view of
the storm? (They are undoubtedly an experienced crew.
I believe that one reason they are all calling out to
the gods, any and every god, is that this storm is so
violent they are certain it has a supernatural
source. This is no ordinary storm. This storm is
something very special.)
- Do you think Jonah called upon God?
- Would it be okay for Jonah to call on God? (I
think that is God's goal. Unfortunately, Jonah
- Has that ever happened to you? You are in big
trouble because of disobedience - yet you are
"sleeping" when it comes to the danger and the
possibility of God's help?
- Read Jonah 1:7. Sailors have a reputation for being able
to accurately predict the weather. Why would this group of
meteorologists think casting lots would be an accurate way
of diagnosing the source of the storm? (Once again, this
shows they turned to supernatural methods when they
thought they had a supernatural problem.)
- Let's say things are not going well at home. Your
cars need expensive repairs. The dishwasher is
broken. The refrigerator is sounding funny. Should
you cast lots to determine which family member is the
cause of these problems?
- If you said, "No," then why did the lot casting
idea work for the sailors? (God intervened to
make the lot casting accurate.)
- What does this teach us? (Imagine the story that
would be told up to this point. "I was working
this boat on a trip to Spain. A terrible storm
arose. It was no normal storm, so I knew Molech
was unhappy with someone on the ship. We cast
lots and Molech directed us to the guilty guy."
Just because someone tells you something worked
does not mean it is truth.)
- The Unruly Witness.
- Read Jonah 1:8. Consider the first question the sailors
ask of Jonah. Does that question seem appropriate to you?
(The lot was supposed to (v.7) identify the culprit.
Instead of saying "confess what you did," the sailors ask
Jonah to identify who is responsible. They are not
automatically pinning the responsibility on Jonah. They
want to hear what he has to say.)
- Read Jonah 1:9. Is this answer true?
- Remember last week we discussed the idea that gods
had limited "jurisdiction" and Jonah must have
thought he could escape God's area of influence. What
does this answer suggest about the "limited
jurisdiction" thinking? (Jonah now admits his God
made everything - including the sea. Obviously, Jonah
is within God's jurisdiction.)
- When do you think Jonah decided he had made a
- Read Jonah 1:10-11. Capture this picture in your mind: You
find out you have an outlaw on your ship. His sins are
about to get you drowned. Why would you ask the outlaw
what to do?
- Why not turn to your own god for an answer? (At this
point we see that the crew is coming to the point of
believing in the true God of heaven.)
- Read Jonah 1:12. We started out our lesson saying that
Jonah ended up being a witness for God against his will.
What kind of a witness is this?
- How do we normally get people to consider their
relationship to God? (This is actually a common path
to God. Some terrible problem in life gets our
thoughts to turn to supernatural matters. Someone
introduces us to the true God of Heaven and we want
to know what we need to do to please God (and cure
the problem, of course).)
- Is the proper answer that someone must die? That is
Jonah's answer. Is Jonah's theology correct?
(Remember that in Matthew 12:40 Jesus compares
Himself to Jonah. The parallel is certainly here. By
being willing to give up his life, Jonah saves the
- Read Jonah 1:13. Is this how you react to the offer of
- Friend, unwittingly Jonah continued his work as a witness
for the Great God of Heaven. Would you like to be a
witness following in the footsteps of Jonah? Or, would
you rather just follow God's original plan for you?
- Next week: Salvation Is of the Lord!
* 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.