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Sabbath School Lessons on Biblical Missionaries
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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 4: The Jonah Saga *
Introduction: Which would you rather do, predict military success for
your country or help the enemy of your country? Unless you don't like
your country, the answer is easy. Think about how popular you are
predicting success, and how unpopular you are helping the enemy.
These questions give us insight into our study this week about the
prophet Jonah. 2 Kings 14:25 tells us that Jonah predicted military
success for Israel. No doubt he was a national hero. Then God came to
him with a different missionary ministry. Let's plunge into our study
of the Bible and learn more!
- The Mission
- Read Jonah 1:1-2. This doesn't sound too bad from a
patriot's point of view, does it? Preach against the
enemies of your country!
- What is the small problem? (Jonah is told to go to
Nineveh to preach against it. Not stay home in
Israel and preach against Nineveh.)
- Read Jonah 1:3. Why do you think Jonah ran?
- The Storm
- Read Jonah 1:4-6. How can you explain such a deep sleep?
The storm is so violent that the ship might break, yet
Jonah is able to keep sleeping! (I think this reflects the
deep stress he experienced in making the decision to run.
He is just exhausted now.)
- Read Jonah 1:7-9. Are these religious sailors? (Yes. They
believe in divine lot and not chance.)
- What is the state of Jonah's faith? (He still
believes in God even though he is currently rebelling
- Read Jonah 1:10-12. What do you think is God's goal in
this? Kill Jonah? Stop Jonah?
- What happened to the free will that we discussed in
the first lesson? Recall the two trees, choice
architecture and channel factors? (This is a huge
- Read Jonah 1:13-14. What did the sailors think would
happen to Jonah if they threw him in the sea? (He would
- Are the sailors correct about who is morally
responsible for Jonah's death?
- Are they limiting God? Making assumptions about God?
- Would you have such a generous attitude towards Jonah
if you had just lost your cargo?
- Read Jonah 1:15-16. Is Jonah an unwitting missionary?
(Yes! He manages to convert the sailors on the boat.)
- The Fish
- Read Jonah 1:17 and Jonah 2:5. If Jonah ran because of
fear, imagine being tossed into the water and then
swallowed by a big fish? Would it help to have seaweed
wrapped around your head? (This has to be terrifying.)
- Read Jonah 2:1-2. How desperate is Jonah's situation? (He
thinks he is calling from hell, the "depths of the
- When I was young I was told that if I was not obeying
God, He would not listen to my prayers. What does
Jonah's situation teach us? (Even though Jonah is in
rebellion, God both listens and answers!)
- Jonah's prayer in Jonah 2:3-9 goes from thinking he will
die, to optimism, to making a new vow to follow God. If
you were Jonah, would you want God leaning on you this
hard to make the right choice?
- Read Jonah 2:10. What results from Jonah's prayer and his
change of heart? (He is delivered from the fish which had
delivered him from the storm.)
- Read Jonah 3:1-3. Is Nineveh a tourist attraction? It
takes three days to see all the museums and take all the
rides? (Several commentaries say Nineveh was 60 miles in
circumference. It took three days to walk around it.)
- Read Jonah 3:4. How would you feel if you were Jonah? You
are an alien in a huge city bringing the incredible
warning that it will be defeated!
- When I've studied this story before, I learned there
were reasons for Jonah to fear. The Assyrians (who
live in Nineveh) are mean people. They drop people on
sharpened posts. They put live people into walls and
seal them up. Which would you prefer, being swallowed
by a fish or dropped on a sharpened spike?
- Read Jonah 3:5-6. How do you explain this? (The power of
the Holy Spirit!)
- Recall the question about choosing between the fish
and the spike? What does this outcome teach us? (We
do not need to choose. We can trust God to be
- Read Jonah 3:7-9. What is the result of Jonah cooperating
with the fabulous God of Heaven? (The people of this great
city turn to God! Think not only about the spiritual
impact, think about the political impact. The Assyrians
were the super power of the time. They had an evil
reputation. They are now followers of God!)
- Read Jonah 3:10. What does this teach us about the
character of God?
- Unhappy Prophet
- Read Jonah 4:1-2. Is Jonah the ideal prophet? Are Jonah
and God on the same page when it comes to the love of God?
- Do you think Jonah is lying about his reason for
running to Tarshish?
- Why is God's love and compassion a reason to run?
(Jonah told them destruction would take place in
forty days. If it does not, it makes him look like a
- Assume you are Jonah and are telling the truth. Look
again at Jonah 3:4. How could you present this to
avoid the false prophet problem? (Forty days gave the
people an opportunity to repent - which they did.
Jonah could have added the obvious warning that they
needed to repent.)
- Read Jonah 4:3-4 and re-read Jonah 2:2. Do you think that
Jonah is telling the truth about wanting to die? He just
got through asking God to spare his life while in the
fish! (In the United States we would call Jonah a "drama
queen" - someone who is overly dramatic.)
- How does God react to the drama queen? (God is kind
and reasonable with him.)
- Read Jonah 4:5. What is Jonah expecting when he waits to
"see what would happen to the city?" (He is still hoping
God will destroy it!)
- Read Jonah 4:6-9. What do you think about Jonah's
- Read Jonah 4:10-11. What does this say about the
educational system in Nineveh? Does this mean that 120,000
people did not learn which hand was which? (This is a
reference to people who are so young that God does not
hold them accountable for sin. Nineveh had many young
- Does God care about animals? (Yes. I think God's
point is that an animal is more important than
- Why is Jonah so concerned about a plant, rather than
people and animals? (Because the plant was doing
Jonah some good. It provides shade for him. We see
that Jonah is selfish.)
- Would you choose Jonah for a friend?
- Why did God choose him to be His prophet?
- Why did God chase after Jonah?
- Why is God engaging with Jonah when Jonah is being
petulant? A selfish drama queen? An unloving
- Consider this a moment. Jonah lacks emotional
intelligence. He is selfish. He has character defects.
History records that the Assyrians in Nineveh were evil.
What does this tell us about our God? (He loves us and He
pursues us even when we do terrible things.)
- Friend, God wants you! God wants you despite your
defects! Why not, right now, choose to follow the God who
shows an incredible amount of patience and love?
- Next week: Exiles as Missionaries.
* Copr. 2015, 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.