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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 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!
- The Big Vow
- 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.)
- 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
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- The Big Spit
- Read Jonah 2:10. Would God have commanded the fish to
vomit out Jonah if he had not vowed to obey God?
- If you answered "no," is this a universal principle
which applies to our life?
- 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.)
- Again, put yourself in God's place. Of all of the ways
that God could have saved Jonah, why choose this one?
- Could Jonah have ever predicted this method for his
- 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?
- 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.)
- The Big Second Opportunity
- Read Jonah 3:1. When is the last time that God spoke to
Jonah? (The beginning of our story: Jonah 1:2)
- Why do you think God has not spoken to Jonah all this
- Why has God used events, rather than words, to
- 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.)
- 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.")
- Has God brought you around a second time on
requirements that you failed before?
- Have you noticed several opportunities to obey on the
same issue that troubles you?
- Do you think that God worked harder on bringing Jonah
back than he does for the "average guy?"
- If you say, "no," does anyone have an excuse for
- The Big Surrender
- Read Jonah 3:3. What is the result of God's pursuit of His
prophet? (Jonah finally obeys.)
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Do you find that those who have been given
second chances are more or less tolerant of
second chances for others?
- 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
- 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?
- Are they comparable experiences?
- 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.)
- Friend, God is pursuing you. Will you "get out of the
fish" and back into God's will?
- Next week: Jonah, the Amazing Evangelist.
* 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.