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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 40 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 8: Jonah, the Amazing Evangelist *
Introduction: At long last Jonah is back on track. God has asked him
once again to go and share God's word with the people of Nineveh.
This time Jonah obeys. Think back to the lesson when we discussed all
the reasons why Jonah would not want to go to Nineveh. Remember them?
Will those worries and fears come true? Let's dive into our study
this week and find out what happens as Jonah enters Nineveh!
- The Message
- Read Jonah 3:3-4. What do you think about the tone of
Jonah's message? Is it attractive, upbeat and designed
for the modern man and woman?
- Does this message appeal to the vanity of the
- Does this message appeal to the curiosity of the
- Is it possible the message was condensed for us for
the purpose of brevity?
- What reasons would the citizens of Nineveh have to not
- What would you say if you owned a financially strong
company and one of your competitor's employees came
to you and said, "In 40 days you will be out of
- What reasons would you have to not believe this
- What if Saddam Hussein came to the United States and
said "In 40 days the great mother of all winds will
come and sink your entire navy?" Would he be
believed? (Jonah came from a country that was hostile
to the Assyrians. They could dismiss him as a hostile
lunatic. They could simply dismiss him as no one
they knew or should trust.)
- What reasons would the citizens of Nineveh have to believe
- Is there a convincing case either way? (Everything so
far in this story has been illogical when viewed in
human terms. God's hand has been on everything. My
belief is that this is no different. The reason the
Ninevites should believe is that the Holy Spirit is
acting on their hearts and minds. The message itself
does not seem to be attractive.)
- Read Luke 11:30. This New Testament comment sugggests
additional insight into the evidence before the Ninevites.
What reason does it suggest that the Ninevites believed
Jonah? (It calls Jonah a "sign." This suggests that Jonah
told his story to the citizens of Nineveh and they
- What are the similarities between the Ninevites and
- What hope does Jonah's experience give to the
Ninevites? (That God will show mercy to them like He
showed mercy to Jonah.)
- If you were a citizen of Nineveh, how would you interpret
God's intentions in a message that said you had 40 days
before destruction - as opposed to God just destroying you
without a word? (This would give me some hope that God was
allowing me the opportunity to repent. A deadline seems to
clearly indicate an opportunity exists while time still
lasts. The Ninevite might think,"Perhaps destruction will
not come in 40 days if I do the right thing." Certainly,
hearing Jonah's story would strengthen that hope.)
- The Reaction
- Read Jonah 3:5. How did the citizens of Nineveh react?
- Was it only the poorer, less educated, classes who
- Did Jonah have a "traction" problem with his message
in certain segments of the Ninevite community? (No.
All segments of society got the message and
- This verse highlights the fact that the citizens believed
God. What does that statement reveal about the
understanding of the citizens of Nineveh? (It was not just
Jonah they believed. They believed that God was behind
- What does this teach us about the supernatural
component of Jonah's work? (This is further evidence
that God's Spirit was actively at work in Jonah's
- The New Bible Commentary on these verses gives us
some interesting insight into other factors that God
may have brought to bear to get the attention of the
citizens of Nineveh. Historical records show that the
Assyrians were suffering military defeats during this
time frame. There is a report of a major earthquake
in Assyria during the reign of one of the kings names
Ashurdan. A total eclipse of the sun over Assyria
occurred on June 15, 763 BC, which was during the
reign of Ashurdan III. Although we cannot be sure
that all of these correlate with the approximate time
of Jonah's visit, it is possible. God may well have
used nature to prepare the hearts of these people for
Jonah's message just as He used nature in Jonah's
- What does the fast and the sackcloth tell us? (These were
outward symbols of submission and contrition. See 1 Kings
- Read Jonah 3:6-9. Verse 6 starts out, "When news reached
the king." Tell me what you think the King heard? (He
heard that something unique was going on in the kingdom. A
foreign prophet had come with a message of doom and all
the people believed him.)
- Is the reaction of the King of Assyria what you would
expect? (How many important people do not like to
accept an idea that "comes from below?" I would
think the King was used to leading the nation - not
just following the people.)
- How does the King interpret the 40 day deadline?
(This explicitly reveals to us the Assyrian
interpretation of the deadline - perhaps it is a sign
of the opportunity to repent and avoid destruction.)
- Notice that the animals are fasting and covered with
sackcloth. Why is this?
- The next time you fast, should your pet be
- For those who fast, notice the rigorous nature
of this fast: nothing touches your lips!
- What instruction, other than fasting and sackcloth,
does the King give? (To turn from evil and violence.)
- The church/state separationists tell us that you
cannot change a person's heart from the outside in.
Is this true? (Yes. See generally, Matthew 15:16-20.)
- If this is true, how do you explain the King's
command to turn from evil and violence? More
importantly, how do you explain God's reaction
( Jonah 3:10)? God decided not to destroy the
city based on the reaction of the people. (There
are two answers. First, the people seem to have
already had a changed heart based on Jonah's
message. Second, I think the King's reaction and
God's response teach us a very important lesson
which the radical church/state separationists do
not understand. While you cannot change a
person's heart from the outside, you certainly
can influence behavior and attitudes by national
standards. A nation which passes and enforces
laws which promote right living has a positive
influence on its citizens.)
- So far we have discussed the King's command for
fasting and sackcloth, and his command to turn away
from evil and violence. What have we left out? What
else does the King command? (He commands prayer!
Church/state separationists should now be clutching
- Notice the four components of the message of the
(formerly wicked) King of Assyria: fasting and
sackcloth, prayer, giving up evil, and relying on God
for mercy. Is this pretty much the gospel in a
nutshell? (It sounds pretty good to me. Repent, call
on God, walk in God's ways and rely on God's mercy.
From the New Testament perspective you would add the
central factor that we need not hope for God's mercy,
Jesus is proof of God's mercy and forgiveness.)
- I want to end where we started. Jonah's central message
was judgment and destruction. This is generally not the
way we approach evangelistic efforts these days. Are we
missing something very important? Are we "wimping out" in
our duties to the pagan world?
- Friend, Jonah's experience in Nineveh shows God's power to
accomplish the most remarkable and difficult tasks. If God
has a mission for you that you have refused to accept,
will you reconsider in light of the unbelievable talent
and power of your "Partner?"
- Next week: Conversing With God.
* 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.