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Lesson 7: Second Chances *

Introduction: Will God let us run away from obedience to Him? If you say, "yes," then how easy is it to run away? The book of Jonah suggests it is not an easy thing to run away from God. If we equate obedience to God with eternal salvation, God's persistence shows His attitude toward our salvation. Do you think God works as hard to bring us back to Him as He worked to bring back Jonah to his assignment? Let's jump back into our study of how God reeled Jonah back to Him!

  1. The Big Vow

    1. Read Jonah 2:9. Remember that Jonah is presently in the big fish. What is Jonah promising God? (Jonah has made a vow (a promise) to God.)

      1. What do you think Jonah promised? (At some point in the storm/fish experience, Jonah must have promised God that if he got out of this alive, he would serve God again.)

      2. In the law we have something called "duress." You can get out of an agreement if you are subject to duress. Here is an example: a fellow sues me because I refused to sell him my car for $50.00. When we get to court the judge asks me if I promised to sell the car for that amount. I saw, "Yes, Judge, I did agree to that. However, at the moment the "buyer" was car-jacking my car and had a gun to my head." The gun to the head part of the explanation is technically known as "duress" and it allows you to get out of the promise because it was not freely made. Does Jonah have a duress defense to his promise?

        1. What effect does the first part of verse 9 have on Jonah's duress defense? (Jonah says that he gives thanks to God for his situation. This doesn't sound like duress to me.)

      3. Consider your life. Are all of your decisions about good and evil made under duress? (Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, we are all destined for death. God offers us a way out. That seems like a rescue mission to me rather than duress.)

      4. The "duress defense" is a claim that you never willingly agreed. Will God save anyone who just goes through the motions, but does not willingly agree to follow Him? (God is willing to reel us back, but duress is ultimately not part of the program because God only accepts willing obedience. See Luke 10:27-28.)

  2. The Big Spit

    1. Read Jonah 2:10. Would God have commanded the fish to vomit out Jonah if he had not vowed to obey God?

      1. If you answered "no," is this a universal principle which applies to our life?

    2. Put yourself in God's place. Why does God choose this moment to put Jonah back on dry land? (The rescue has been completed, the lesson has been taught, it has apparently had the proper effect, and so it is time to release Jonah to go on his way.)

    3. Again, put yourself in God's place. Of all of the ways that God could have saved Jonah, why choose this one?

      1. Could Jonah have ever predicted this method for his salvation?

        1. No doubt Jonah originally asked himself, "If I do not obey God, what will happen to me?" What do you think was his answer at the moment he decided to run away?

      2. Was the fact that the "storm/fish-method" involved no human assistance an important factor in God's thinking? (I think this is God's point. God gave Jonah unmistakable evidence that He is behind both the problem and the rescue. Jonah cannot credit any of this to simple chance or human effort. What are the odds of this just happening? God's name is written all over this big adventure.)

  3. The Big Second Opportunity

    1. Read Jonah 3:1. When is the last time that God spoke to Jonah? (The beginning of our story: Jonah 1:2)

      1. Why do you think God has not spoken to Jonah all this time?

      2. Why has God used events, rather than words, to influence Jonah?

      3. I have heard Christians say that they were waiting for God to direct them, but He never did. What does Jonah's story teach us about that? (As long as Jonah was pulling away from God, God did not speak directly to him. God used nature to bring Jonah to his senses. When Jonah was ready to be obedient, God spoke to him. Consider this from God's point of view. If Jonah is not doing what God told him to do, why speak to Jonah again? God already said what needed to be said to give direction to Jonah's life.)

    2. Read Jonah 3:2. What assignment did God give to Jonah? (The same one as before. God brought Jonah back to the same place and said, "Let's try this again.")

      1. Has God brought you around a second time on requirements that you failed before?

      2. Have you noticed several opportunities to obey on the same issue that troubles you?

      3. Do you think that God worked harder on bringing Jonah back than he does for the "average guy?"

        1. If you say, "no," does anyone have an excuse for missing salvation?

  4. The Big Surrender

    1. Read Jonah 3:3. What is the result of God's pursuit of His prophet? (Jonah finally obeys.)

    2. In the early lessons of this study we discussed the reasons why Jonah would not want to go to Nineveh. These included witnessing to the enemy (when Jonah was a patriot), fear of physical harm from the Assyrians, and Jonah's worry ( Jonah 4:2) that God might not do what He said. If you were Jonah, how would your storm/fish experience alter your views on these potential problems?

      1. How is your view of witnessing to the enemy affected? (The sailors were pagans, yet they were very concerned about Jonah. This might have given him more sympathy for non-Jews.)

      2. How is your concern about physical harm affected? (God has clearly shown Jonah that He is in charge and can rescue him from the most serious problems.)

      3. How is your concern about God relenting affected? (On the one hand, God did not relent in pursuing Jonah. On the other hand, God did not kill Jonah. It seems that, on balance, since Jonah got a second chance, he should be more willing to give the residents of Nineveh a second chance.)

        1. Do you find that those who have been given second chances are more or less tolerant of second chances for others?

    3. What is your reaction to the fact that God seems to only request three days of Jonah's time for this message? (I thought Jonah was being asked to spend months in Nineveh. This seems a quick get in, leave the message, and get out assignment.)

      1. Notice that the amount of time to be spent in Nineveh is the same as the amount of time that Jonah spent inside the big fish. Would you rather be in the big fish or in Nineveh?

        1. Are they comparable experiences?

        2. Is there a spiritual or practical life lesson you can find in this? (What we have is time and ability. If we refuse to spend our time following God's will, we will spend our time pursuing things that are no more pleasant. It is beginning to dawn on me that giving our time to God is like giving our tithe. When we give God our money and time He stretches the rest so that we seem to have more.)

    4. Friend, God is pursuing you. Will you "get out of the fish" and back into God's will?

  5. Next week: Jonah, the Amazing Evangelist.
  6. OL>
    * 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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