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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 13: A Picture of God *
Introduction: We have finally come to our last study of the book of
Jonah. What kind of a picture of God have we seen in the book of
Jonah? What have we learned about His involvement in our life, His
concern, His Love, His power and His judgment? The book of Jonah ends
with a question. Can we find the conclusion to Jonah somewhere else
in the Bible? Let's dive into our study of Jonah one last time to
remind ourselves of what we have learned about our God!
- The God of Power and Small Details
- Read Jonah 1:4,15&17. What kind of forces does God
control? (The forces of nature. The weather and large
- For what important purpose does God manipulate the
weather and the animals? (For the immediate purpose
of getting the attention of one rebellious prophet.
For the long-range purpose of warning the citizens of
- Read Jonah 4:6-7. What kind of forces does God control
here? (Plants and very small animals.)
- For what important purpose does God manipulate plants
and animals? (For the purpose of teaching a lesson to
a rebellious prophet.)
- Read Matthew 8:24-27. What kind of forces did Jesus
- For what purpose did Jesus control the weather?
- Read Matthew 21:19. What kind of forces does Jesus control
here? (A plant.)
- For what purpose did He control this plant?
- I have asked you a series of repetitive questions. What is
the overriding lesson for your life in these questions
about how God uses the forces of nature in both the Old
and New Testaments? (The lesson is that God is willing to
use the weather, animals and plants to help draw us closer
to Him. No element of nature is too powerful for Him to
control. No aspect of our life is too unimportant for a
lesson from nature. God is willing to use His power for
- The God of Forgiveness
- Read Matthew 18:23-25. Does the master's order seem fair?
(In the United States this is unheard of except in the
context of child support. We have a constitutional bar
against "involuntary servantude" and against debtor's
prison. The argument in favor of the fairness of this
action is that the servant realized the potential penalty
before he entered into the debt.)
- For a very unfortunate application of this rule to
the sons of a prophet read 2 Kings 4:1.
- Read Matthew 18:26. Is the servant being realistic? He is
being dishonest? (Verse 25 told us he could not repay.
Therefore we seem to have a guy who cannot pay what he
owes and is dishonest.)
- Read Matthew 18:27. What did the master give this servant?
(He gave him more than he asked for.)
- Does the master know this fellow cannot pay? (Yes.
That is no doubt why he canceled the debt.)
- Is there a lesson for us in this? Are we honest about
our ability to overcome sin on our own?
- Is God more generous to us than we ask?
- Read Jonah 2:4-6. As you know, this is Jonah speaking
from the belly of the great fish. What parallels do
you see between Jonah and the servant of our story in
- Read Matthew 18:28-29. Is the forgiven servant being fair
to his fellow servant? Let's have a show of hands. How
many vote that he is being fair? How many vote that he is
being unfair? (I vote he is being fair - except for the
choking part. The fellow servant owes a debt. Repaying a
debt is fair. Not repaying a debt is dishonest.)
- You who thought the forgiven servant was being unfair
to his fellow servant: tell me why you voted that
way? (It is the comparison with what just happened to
the forgiven servant. Since mercy was shown to the
forgiven servant, we think he should show mercy to
his fellow servant.)
- Let's look at verse 29 again. Is the fellow servant
being dishonest about his ability to repay? (Perhaps
not. The sum he owes is small. If the fellow servant
can repay his debt, then we need to look again at the
issue of whether the servant who was forgiven the
massive debt is being fair.)
- Read Matthew 18:30. Is the forgiven servant being fair
now? (Again, what really bothers us about the fairness of
this is the comparison. The NIV Study Bible notes say that
the forgiven servant owed his master millions of dollars
while the fellow servant owed only a few dollars. Being
required to pay your just debts is not unfair. However, we
believe that showing mercy is also required for those who
have been shown mercy.)
- Read Jonah 3:10-4:2. Is Jonah like the forgiven servant
who owed a huge sum?
- If you said, "yes," what do you say about the fact
that Jonah was a prominent prophet and the Assyrians
had a reputation for being violent and cruel?
- Read Jonah 4:4. Let's assume that Jonah read our
story of the two servants in Matthew 18. What
argument could he make to justify his anger based on
the principles of the Matthew 18 story? (He could say
that his factual situation is just the reverse. He
was the man who owed just a few dollars and the
Assyrians were the people who owed millions.)
- Would Jonah be right in his argument? Does the
extent of God's forgiveness matter?
- The God of Judgment
- Read Matthew 18:31-34. Obviously, both the fellow servants
and the master considered the servant who owed millions to
be acting unfairly. Is the master acting appropriately in
- Is Jesus' parable a correct portrayal of the attitude
of our Father in Heaven towards us? (Read Matthew
18:35. This is a sobering conclusion.)
- We always say that the Old Testament reveals a God of
judgment and the New Testament reveals a God of love.
Compare the levels of love, mercy and judgment that we
have studied in Jonah with the levels of love, mercy and
judgment shown in our Matthew 18 story?
- Can you reconcile the two pictures of God?
- What points in these stories are similar and what
points diverge? (I think the master in Matthew 18 and
God in Jonah act exactly the same way right up to
Matthew 18:33. We see a consistent picture of mercy
- Read Jonah 4:10-11. We have previously discussed the
fact that the book of Jonah ends with a question and
not an answer. Is the answer found in Matthew 18:34-35?
- If Jonah answers "no" to the question of Jonah
4:11, will the Lord say to him, "Then I will
- Friend, are you comfortable with the picture of a merciful
God in Jonah? Are you comfortable with the picture of God
when we add Matthew 18:34-35 as the conclusion to Jonah?
(I prefer judgment to be imposed on someone other than me.
But, I am impressed with the combination of love, mercy
and justice that we see in these two stories. Matthew 18
focuses on the injustice of the forgiven servant. Jonah
focuses on the love of God and His repeated efforts to
draw Jonah to Him and convince Jonah to be merciful. Like
with Jonah, God will over and over again go to heroic
efforts to draw us to Him. He will try to convert our
hearts to be merciful. But there comes a time when the
opportunity for mercy ends. If we reject Jesus' efforts
on our behalf, what awaits is a fearful judgment. The
time to choose is now. Will you give in to God's efforts
to change your heart? To change your attitude?
- Next Week: We begin a new study on the book of John. I am
excited about that study!
* 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.