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Lesson 6: Eager to Forgive (Jonah) *

Introduction: Are you a loyal citizen of your country? Does your citizenship prejudice your thinking about other countries? Since I live in the United States, and many of our readers do not, insert the right answer for you in the following questions. Which country is the most dangerous enemy of your country? Have that country in mind? Now imagine that you are a prophet. For most of your life God sent you messages that were helpful to your country. Now God sends you a message that will threaten, but may help, the country which is your most dangerous enemy. You are supposed to personally deliver it. If you are a patriot, how would you like that assignment? You might like the threat part! But it might get you killed! What if it helps your enemy? Let's dive into our study of the book of Jonah to see what we can learn about God and His dealings with us!

  1. Patriot Prophet


    1. Read 2 Kings 14:23-25. What does Jonah predict? (Military success for Israel.)


      1. How do you think the people of Israel reacted to that prophecy? (They loved it. Especially, the text says that the King lead them into sin, so I imagine getting positive news from God's prophet is well-received.)


      2. Is Jonah a national hero?


    2. Read Jonah 1:1-2. What is the good and bad news here? (Nineveh is the capital of Assyria. Genesis 10:8-11 tells us that it was built by Nimrod. Nimrod is a "mighty warrior" who is thought to be opposed to God. The Assyrians are terrible people. Jonah brings bad news to bad people. The other bad news is that this is a dangerous mission.)


  2. Mission Gone Awry


    1. Read Jonah 1:3. Why would Jonah run?


    2. Read Jonah 1:4-10. Why would the sailors be terrified of Jonah's relationship to God? (Jonah tells them that his God created the sea, and the sea looks like it is about to kill them. Jonah has apparently offended the wrong God.)


    3. Read Jonah 1:11-13. What kind of attitude does Jonah have towards God? What kind of attitude does he have towards the sailors?


      1. How do you explain the sailors' reaction to Jonah's solution? (They seem to be good guys.)


    4. Read Jonah 1:14. How would you translate this? (God, you made us kill this guy.)


      1. Would you do what the sailors did? Would you consider it murder?


      2. Is Jonah truly an "innocent" man?


  3. God's Pursuit


    1. Read Jonah 1:15-17. The storm and the fish are a lot of work for one guy! Why didn't God just find another prophet?


      1. What about Jonah's free-will? (I love this picture of God. He is relentless in His pursuit of Jonah. Just as God pursued Jonah so He pursues you. Praise Him for His love and care!)


    2. Read Jonah 2:5-9. What different emotions do you find here? (Jonah goes from desperation, to prayer, to faith, to thankfulness, to renewed purpose in life.)


    3. Read Matthew 12:39-41. How are Jonah and Jesus similar?


      1. How is their three-day experience similar?


      2. Put yourself in the place of an evil Assyrian. To what lengths has God gone to bring Jonah to rescue you?


        1. Do both Jesus and Jonah involve a miracle? (Yes! Jonah and Jesus are alike - God has gone to great and miraculous lengths to rescue us evil people!)


  4. Mission on Track


    1. Read Jonah 3:1-5. Do you think Jonah expected this reaction?


      1. What does this teach us about witnessing to terrible people?


    2. Read Jonah 3:6-9. Is the King repenting because of fear? (The King does not know that God will relent - he is hoping God will. He repents even though he thinks he might still be destroyed.)


    3. Read Jonah 3:10. Review our God's actions so far. What kind of God is He? (He pursues Jonah. He pursues the Assyrians. He could have let Jonah drown and the people of Nineveh be destroyed. He intervened for both - and He intervenes for you!)


  5. God and Man


    1. Read Jonah 4:1-3 and re-read Jonah 2:1-2. What inconsistencies do you find in Jonah's life? (He wants mercy, but he does not want to show mercy.)


      1. Do you really think Jonah wants to die? If not, why does he say that? (We might say that Jonah is a "drama queen," but I fear that his real intent is to convince God to kill the people of Nineveh.)


        1. How does this compare to what Jesus did for us? (Perhaps I'm being too hard on Jonah, but he seems to say "God, please kill the people of Nineveh so I won't have to die." Jesus says, "God, let Me die so the people won't have to die.")


      2. Review again Jonah's message to God in Jonah 4:1-3. What did Jonah fear? (That evil people would turn to God and God would show mercy.)


        1. Have you ever thought that God could not do great things through you? What, exactly, are the job qualifications for doing great things for God? (Review for a moment Jonah's job qualifications and his attitude.)


    2. Read Jonah 4:4. Put yourself in God's place. Would this be your reaction? (How gracious God is to Jonah! God continues to show grace and compassion to a guy who shows no grace or compassion.)


    3. Read Jonah 4:5. Hope springs eternal! What would you think, if you were God, about the current activities of your prophet?


  6. Jonah and the Vine


    1. Read Jonah 4:6. I think we concluded that God should have been unhappy with Jonah who was hoping for fire to fall from heaven on Nineveh. What does God do instead? (Provides Jonah with protection from the heat while Jonah waits for fire to fall.)


    2. Read Jonah 4:7-8. Let's consider what God "provided": a mature vine, a hungry worm, and a scorching wind. What is God doing?


      1. What is Jonah's reaction? (He wants to die.)


    3. Read Jonah 4:9. What is the correct answer to God's question? Do you agree with Jonah?(The vine did not belong to Jonah. He invested nothing in it. However, it was a blessing to him. I don't think Jonah had a right to be angry. Perhaps God's point is that Jonah does have a right to be upset because God had given it to him.)


    4. Read Jonah 4:10-11. Consider Jonah's relationship to the vine: how does it compare to God's relationship to Nineveh? (Nineveh and its inhabitants are obviously more important than a day-old vine.)


      1. What about the fact that the vine gave Jonah comfort and shelter? (The people of Nineveh repented! Imagine the joy that gave God.)


      2. Consider the time and effort Jonah had in that vine, compared to the time and effort that God had invested in Jonah and Nineveh?


        1. Could Jonah argue that his reputation, which he had spent a lot of time on, was now ruined? (The text says he was angry about the vine.)


      3. What does God mean when He says the people of Nineveh "cannot tell their right hand from their left?" (Every commentary I consulted said this was a reference to children. There were 120,000 children in Nineveh who were not old enough to choose between good and evil. Notice also the interesting inclusion of animals. God also cares about the animals.)


    5. Let's focus for a moment on God's question in Jonah 4:11. What is the obvious answer? (Yes! Of course God should be concerned.)


      1. If you had to summarize the book of Jonah in one sentence, what would it be? ("God cares about me!" God cared about Jonah, the wayward prophet. Look at the tremendous effort to get Jonah on the right path and to help him have the right mental attitude. Look at the trouble God went to for the evil people of Nineveh - and their innocent children.)


    6. Friend, God loves you and is concerned about you! Will you determine, right now, to live your life in the confidence of God's love and care?


  7. God's Special People (Micah).
* Copr. 2013, 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.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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