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Lesson 11: The Last Word *

Introduction: Last week we left Jonah, as we have at previous points in the story, as an angry, unhappy man. Jonah tells God that the loss of his shade vine and the hot weather has left him "angry enough to die" ( Jonah 4:9). God provides a dose of logic to Jonah to calm him down and convert his heart. Let's dive into our story and see how God deals with angry saints.

  1. Jonah's Concern

    1. Read Jonah 4:10. God says that Jonah was concerned about the vine. Why was Jonah concerned? Was he a plant lover? (I doubt that Jonah had any regard for the vine itself. What Jonah was concerned about was himself - he had lost his excellent shade.)

      1. Is there any logical reason that you can think of why Jonah should be so angry that he wanted to die about the loss of his shade? (Last week we discussed Jonah's view of the shade vine. He no doubt thought it had a supernatural origin. Thus, God was showing him a favor. With the death of the vine, and his extreme discomfort, Jonah now believed that he no longer enjoyed God's favor. That seems the only logical explanation for Jonah's extreme anger.)

        1. Had Jonah actually lost the favor of God? (No. God was trying to teach Jonah a lesson.)

    2. In verse ten God says two things about Jonah and the vine: Jonah did not have anything to do with growing the vine and it only existed for a day. Does God have his facts right? (Yes.)

      1. What do you think is God's point in bringing these facts to Jonah's attention? (God is showing Jonah what a small loss this is. Jonah had nothing invested in the plant and Jonah did not enjoy the shade of the vine two days before. How is a death wish a reasonable reaction to such a small "hiccup" in life?)

        1. Have you ever found yourself unreasonably angry over a very small thing in life?

    3. Think back to the last time you were angry with someone you loved. Was it over something that could change the course of your life?

      1. What about the last time you were angry with God, was it over something that could change the course of your life?

    1. Do you really think that Jonah is angry about the vine? Or, is he angry about the entire course of events and the vine was the "last straw?" (Jonah has had a couple of previous "last straws" - for example, Jonah 1:12 and 4:3. However, God follows with a question that clarifies this issue. We turn to that question next.)

  1. God's Concern

    1. Read Jonah 4:11. Why does God compare Nineveh to the vine? (This shows that God realizes that Jonah is not just angry about the vine, Jonah is angry about the entire course of events. God wants Jonah to look at the big picture - which is to consider the lives of the citizens of Nineveh.)

    2. Why do you think God has to keep telling Jonah to think about the lives of the Ninevites? Isn't this something that should be obvious? (The only thing that makes sense is that Jonah considered these people to be inferior. They were not Jews, they did not enjoy the favor of God, and worse they were the enemy of Israel. Jonah probably does not like to hear that God is concerned about them. He probably does not like the not-so-subtle comparison between the Ninevites and his own rebellion.)

    3. Notice in verse 11 the reference to hands. Whenever I tell someone to turn or look right, and they look left, I say "Your other right." Was this a big problem in Nineveh?

      1. Was a substantial part of the population ambidextrous?

      2. Several weeks ago we discussed the fact that the Assyrian army had been losing battles. Have we pin-pointed the problem: when in battle they were told to march left or march right and they often went the wrong way?

      3. What is God talking about when He says these people cannot tell their left hand from their right hand? (Our lesson (Monday)suggests this means the Ninevites did not have the kind of moral direction that the Lord gave to the Israelites. Perhaps that is what is meant. A number of commentaries interpret this to mean this is the number of children in the city who are under the age of accountability. They place the total population of Nineveh at 600,000. Thus, about 20% are children. I like the children interpretation because the adults in Nineveh showed their ability to tell right from wrong when they repented. The Today's English Version of the Bible actually translates this "120,000 innocent children.")

        1. Why should God be especially concerned about the children? (They would be destroyed without having the opportunity to make a proper moral choice.)

        2. Why should Jonah be especially concerned about the children? (Remember our conclusion that Jonah did not care about the Ninevites because, in part, they were the enemy? This should remind him that not everyone in that great city was a danger to Israel.)

        3. What larger lesson does this teach us about the final judgment of God and whether or not we will have a fair chance? (This shows that God is very sensitive to the issue of whether those being judged clearly understood the issues that govern our future.)

    4. The end of verse 11 has God saying "Should I not be concerned about that great city?" Compare Jonah's concern about his vine with God's concern about Nineveh. (God created and cared for the people of Nineveh. He has a legitimate reason to be concerned about the people of this great city.)

    5. The last part of Jonah 4:11 mentions the animals of the city of Nineveh. Read Job 39:1-4. This is God speaking to Job. What point is God making to Job? (God is telling Job what God knows about the animals and Job does not.)

      1. Why does God think it is a sign of greatness that He knows these things about the animals? (This shows that God puts a premium on all of creation - including the animals. God cares about the animals so much that he knows these intimate details about them.)

    6. Read Matthew 8:30-32. How do you explain this in the context of God's concern for animals?

    7. Read 1 Samuel 15:2-3. How do you explain these instructions from God? (The book of Jonah gives us a closer, more intimate look at the thinking of God. The Jonah story convinces me that whatever God's knew when He commanded 1 Samuel 15, that it must have been just.)

  2. Jonah's Future

    1. Look again at Jonah 4:11. The book of Jonah ends with a question. What is your answer to God's question?

      1. What do you think was Jonah's answer?

    2. Since the book ends with a question, we do not know how Jonah ultimately responded. Do you think Jonah ended up agreeing with God?

      1. Why do you think that God did not tell us Jonah's final decision? (The reason why we are not told how this turns out for Jonah is that this information is not important (except to Jonah). When you watch a magician, the point is to watch the important moves! What Jonah is doing is not the important move to watch in this book. Instead, the important move is how God deals with an unhappy, selfish, angry and twisted prophet like Jonah. God constantly approaches Jonah with love and logic. He does not let Jonah go and He does not let the citizens of Nineveh go. Just as God pursued, engaged and tried to save Jonah and the Ninevites, so God pursues, engages and tries to save us.)

    3. Friend, God is pursuing you. Will you repent and give your heart to him?

  3. Next week: The Sign of the Prophet Jonah.
* 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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