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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 37 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 6: Salvation Is of the Lord! *
Introduction: Have you ever thought you were in the wrong place at
the wrong time? The sailors on Jonah's ship thought they had been
caught between an angry God and a disobedient prophet. However much
they wished they had skipped this voyage, it turned out to be the
blessing of their lives. Let's dive into our watery story and learn
- Blind Obedience
- Read Jonah 1:11-14. Jonah gives the sailors instructions
on how to end the storm and save their lives. Did they
- Did they believe in Jonah's God? (Yes, see verse 14.)
- If they believed Jonah and believed in Jonah's God,
why did they avoid the solution Jonah gave them?
(They did not like the idea of killing Jonah by
throwing him overboard.)
- What was wrong with the idea of throwing Jonah
overboard? (They were afraid they would get into
trouble by doing this.)
- The sailors were caught in a dilemma. They did not
want to die by NOT throwing Jonah in the water. On
the other hand, they didn't want to kill Jonah by
throwing him overboard. They feared they would be
punished for throwing a man overboard to his death.
Why would they think that obedience to God would get
them punished? (They were already close to death.
They feared dying in the storm. Since they were
already close to death, there was no need to create
any more danger for themselves.)
- Why did they call Jonah an "innocent man?"
- Do you think Jonah was innocent?
- Did Jonah think he was innocent?
- Let's look at verse 14 more carefully. What do you
think about the sailors telling God the whole thing
is His fault? (The sailors believed in the power of
God. But, they did not trust Him. This is the key to
them calling Jonah an innocent man. They did not
trust the judgment made by God.)
- Is that like us? Because we do not know God well
enough we do not understand or trust Him?
- Let's look at verse 13 more carefully. The sailors
decide to ignore the instructions from Jonah's God
and do their best to save the boat. What is the
result? (The sea gets wilder.)
- Why do you think that happened? (God was trying
to teach them not to depend upon themselves.)
- Has this ever happened to you? You have a
problem in your life, but instead of turning to
God you try to work it out yourself. The problem
then gets much worse. How do you react? (These
sailors were new acquaintances to the Great God
of Heaven. You would think that we would do
better than they did. But we often find
ourselves trying to solve our problems on our
own instead of turning to God.)
- Put yourself in Jonah's place. He is no longer
sleeping below deck. He is fully aware of the danger
and has instructed the sailors to throw him overboard
to fix the problem. Instead of doing what Jonah
thought was right, the sailors try rowing back to
land and the storm gets much worse. Why didn't Jonah
throw himself overboard? Why wait for someone else
to do it? (Jonah knows what is right, but he is
hoping that the sailors can work this out without him
suffering the consequences of his sin.)
- Is this another way in which you can identify
- Read Jonah 1:15-16. What do the sailors finally do? (Obey
God and throw Jonah overboard.)
- How has the sailors' situation changed as a result of
their "blind" obedience? (They go from being dead men
to followers of the true God.)
- What do you think about this formula for your life -
obey God even though you are uncertain? (In this
story there was nothing like obedience to convert
these sailors. Once they obeyed, it became clear to
them that they had chosen the right course. Their
lives were not only saved for now, but if they
continue to fear God and obey Him, their lives will
be saved eternally.)
- Jonah Food
- Read Jonah 1:17-2:1. 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 the people.)
- Why are storms and fish "fair game," but people are
- Last week I was visiting a church in California. The
teacher praised the faith of Jonah - that he prayed even
while in a fish. What do you think about Jonah's faith at
this point? (The NIV does not begin Jonah 2:1 with the
word "then." All of the other translations that I
consulted start verse 1 with "then." "Then" 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.
My brother, who was with me at the church, said to me,
"What other option did Jonah have?" )
- Why did Jonah wait to pray?
- Read Jonah 2:2. What clue does this give us as to Jonah's
state of mind and the reason why he prayed after three
days and three nights? (He was absolutely desperate. He
thought he was dead. He called to God "from the depths of
the grave." The New Living Translation says that Jonah
called "from the world of the dead.")
- Jonah's Version
- 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?
- Do you agree that it was God who "hurled [Jonah] into
the deep?" (I thought it was the reluctant soldiers
who acted at Jonah's suggestion.)
- Do you agree that Jonah has been "banished [by God]
from [God's] sight?"(My recollection of the story is
that Jonah was the one running away, not God!)
- Read Jonah 2:5-10. Verse 10 makes clear that Jonah's
prayer (vv.1-9) takes place while he is still in the belly
of the fish. How would you characterize this prayer?
- What do you find remarkable about Jonah's "in-fish"
prayer? (He prays as if God had already saved him.
For example, verse 6 says, "But you brought my life
up from the pit." It seems to me he is still in "the
- Is Jonah showing faith or presumption? (Probably
it is neither. Jonah figured that since he had
not died yet, God must be in the middle of a
- Prior to the vomit, was God already answering
Jonah's prayer? (Yes. He had sent the fish at
just the right time and place. The fish saved
Jonah from drowning.)
- Being swallowed by a fish must have been very scary.
As you review verses 5-10, what do you think was the
most frightening part for Jonah? (In verse 5 he says
that seaweed got wound around his head. Think about
that for a minute. You are inside a fish - it is dark
and wet. Then soggy seaweed gets wrapped around your
eyes and your nose. You can't see anything and you
- God brings Jonah back to dry land! However, Jonah is
covered with vomit. Does Jonah have any reason for
- Would it be fair for Jonah to say, "God, why not a
- Sometimes when we sin, God saves us but the
experience leaves us a little "smelly." Should we be
- Friend, is simple obedience looking better all the time?
Obeying saved the sailors. Obeying would have saved Jonah
a lot of grief. Why not determine today to obey God the
- Next Week: Second Chances.
* 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.