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Lesson 7: Jesus Desired Their Good *

Introduction: Christians going through difficult times often say that God is refining their character. If we make bad choices, we generally learn a lesson the hard way. None of us wants bad things to happen. The idea that God allows bad things to happen to make us better creates a general fear of God. Is that good? Is it possible that God could bless you after you make a bad choice, to deepen both your love for Him and your desire not to make that bad choice again? I recently read about the idea of a corrective blessing, and I had never considered it before - except I think that happened in my life. Let's dig into our study of the Bible and learn about behavior modification and what Jesus desires for us!

  1. Nineveh and Jonah

    1. Read Jonah 3:1-4. Why did God warn the people of Nineveh, instead of just destroying them?

    2. Read Jonah 3:5-8. What does this suggest about the reason why God warned the people of Nineveh? (They turned from evil.)

    3. Read Jonah 3:9-10. This text tells us that God had compassion on the people of Nineveh. He gave them a second chance rather than just destroying them. What does this story tell us about God allowing trouble to improve our character? Does this story prove the point that if we do not behave, God will allow trouble so that we will turn to Him? (It doesn't suggest that at all. God planned to destroy Nineveh. This was not a program for character improvement. God's plan for character improvement was to give them a second chance.)

    4. Read Jonah 4:1-3. What does Jonah say about the character of God and dealing with evil? (God is "gracious and compassionate" and "slow to anger and abounding in love.")

      1. Why is Jonah angry? Is his anger justified?

    5. If you are not familiar with the story, review the first two chapters of Jonah and read Jonah 1:12-17. What happens to Jonah when he disobeys God? Isn't this a story about God's discipline to help Jonah obey?

      1. What kind of life do you think Jonah would have lived if God had just let him run away?

    6. Whenever I have a general fear that something bad is on the horizon because of my need for character improvement, I think about my relationship to my children. If you were Jonah's parent, and you could control everything, would you just let him run away?

      1. If not, what would you have done?

      2. If we believe that God will only do to us what a loving parent would do (or that we would do), does that take away your fear?

  2. God and Love

    1. Read Jonah 4:4. What is the correct answer to God's question? Keep in mind how God treated Jonah. (Jonah was given a second chance. Perhaps he thinks he had a more difficult time because he went through the storm and through the fish experience. However, the sequence of events saved Jonah's life.)

    2. Read Jonah 4:5. Why is Jonah making himself comfortable to "see what would happen to the city?" Does Jonah think he has changed God's mind about destroying the city?

    3. Read Jonah 4:6-8. Why is Jonah still sitting out there? (He is still hoping God will destroy Nineveh!)

    4. Read Jonah 4:9. Do you agree with Jonah's answer? (Jonah is hoping for thousands of people to die. Instead, a plant dies - one that is giving Jonah shade - and he is angry about that. Jonah has a very odd attitude.)

    5. Read Jonah 4:10-11. What does God say is an important consideration regarding how He treats Nineveh? (God created the people of Nineveh. God has a personal interest in you because He is your Creator.)

      1. How does belief in evolution undermine our understanding of the love of God?

    6. Look again at Jonah 4:11. What does God mean when He says, "cannot tell their right hand from their left?" Does He mean they are directionally challenged? (God is most likely describing children. But, I think the greater point is that the people do not clearly understand the issues.)

      1. What does this teach us about God? (God wants everyone to have a fair chance to understand Him and make a decision about Him.)

      2. Why does God refer to "and many cattle as well?" (God cares about the animals. They are a factor in His consideration of the destruction of Nineveh.)

    7. Think again about how God treated Jonah - even when he was cheering for thousands to die - and how God treated Nineveh. What does this teach you about God's attitude towards you?

    8. Read Matthew 5:43-48. Do these verses seem to contain a conflict? God says to "love your enemies," but His example of this is to treat enemies just like everyone else - He sends the sun and the rain on everyone. Is that how love to enemies is defined?

      1. Let's assume that because of your actions you are an enemy of God. How would you want Him to treat you?

    9. Read Deuteronomy 28:1-6. Is this promise open to you today?

    10. Read Deuteronomy 28:15-20. Is this promise open to you today?

      1. How do you square these verses in Deuteronomy 28 with the statement in Matthew 5 that God shows love toward bad people by treating them the same as everyone else? (On the surface, there is a huge conflict. Let's see if we can resolve this apparent conflict.)

      2. When God promises to send sunshine and rain on bad people, what is He promising? (They have the equal benefit of the natural blessings God gives.)

      3. When God promises good things if we obey His commands and bad things if we disobey, is this also the natural order of things? (I think it is. God gave us His commandments to make our lives better and help us to avoid problems. It is God's love that inspires His commandments, and it is His love that gives us direction for living. When we suffer because we disobey, we suffer from the natural order of things - just like the sunshine and the rain are the natural order of things.)

    11. If you just said, "That sounds exactly right, what a great explanation!" How do you fit into this explanation Jonah and the fish? How do you explain the destruction coming to Nineveh?

      1. Consider again being a parent. Are your children subject to good and bad based on the rules of nature - say, for example gravity? (Of course! They fall out of trees and go too fast on their bicycles because of gravity.)

      2. Do you also intervene to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior in your children? (Of course! Do you think that God is less sophisticated in His actions than you?)

      3. Do you intervene to save your children from the natural consequences of their behavior? (Of course! But, not always.)

      4. Have you seen bad things happen to your children that has nothing to do with your behavior, or their behavior, but rather the behavior of others? (Of course! Satan and his allies are out to harm us.)

    12. When you consider all of these things, what conclusion do you reach about God? (He loves us by giving us directions for better living. He loves us by intervening to save us and to correct us. Everything is more complicated because we allowed Satan and his confederates to come in and create evil. Finally, God loves us by His promise to destroy sin and the enemies of good.)

  3. Humans and Love

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 13:8. What does "love never fails" mean?

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 13:9-12. What does this say about our understanding of God's love and the way He runs our universe? (I've shared my understanding of the Bible, but this text tells us that we are like children, we know in part, we see an imperfect reflection of God's character. In the future, it will all become clear. What we can be sure of now is that love "never fails!")

    3. Friend, will you trust God? Will you trust God's love so that you will always know that He wants the best for you?

  4. Next week: Jesus Showed Sympathy.
* Copr. 2016, 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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