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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!

  1. The God of Power and Small Details

    1. Read Jonah 1:4,15&17. What kind of forces does God control? (The forces of nature. The weather and large animals.)

      1. 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 Nineveh.)

    2. Read Jonah 4:6-7. What kind of forces does God control here? (Plants and very small animals.)

      1. For what important purpose does God manipulate plants and animals? (For the purpose of teaching a lesson to a rebellious prophet.)

    3. Read Matthew 8:24-27. What kind of forces did Jesus control here?

      1. For what purpose did Jesus control the weather?

    4. Read Matthew 21:19. What kind of forces does Jesus control here? (A plant.)

      1. For what purpose did He control this plant?

    5. 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 our benefit.)

  2. The God of Forgiveness

    1. 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.)

      1. For a very unfortunate application of this rule to the sons of a prophet read 2 Kings 4:1.

    2. 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.)

    3. Read Matthew 18:27. What did the master give this servant? (He gave him more than he asked for.)

      1. Does the master know this fellow cannot pay? (Yes. That is no doubt why he canceled the debt.)

      2. Is there a lesson for us in this? Are we honest about our ability to overcome sin on our own?

        1. Is God more generous to us than we ask?

      3. 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 Matthew 18?

    4. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

    5. 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.)

    6. Read Jonah 3:10-4:2. Is Jonah like the forgiven servant who owed a huge sum?

      1. 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?

      2. 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.)

        1. Would Jonah be right in his argument? Does the extent of God's forgiveness matter?

  3. The God of Judgment

    1. 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 your mind?

      1. 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.)

    2. 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?

      1. Can you reconcile the two pictures of God?

      2. 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 towards sinners.)

      3. 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?

        1. If Jonah answers "no" to the question of Jonah 4:11, will the Lord say to him, "Then I will destroy you?"

    3. 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?

  4. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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