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Welcome to the book of Jonah. God’s loving concern for the Gentiles is not a truth disclosed only in the New Testament. More than seven centuries before Christ, God commissioned the Hebrew prophet Jonah to proclaim a message of repentance to the Assyrians. Israel had just restored its northern borders under King Jeroboam II (793 – 753 BC) as Jonah had prophesied (2 Kings 14:25). At this time, Israel was politically secure, spiritually smug and morally corrupt. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, a ruthless empire which threatened tiny Israel.
Nineveh was 500 miles east of Joppa, but Jonah boarded a ship heading 2,000 miles west, revealing how far and fast he wanted to get away from a people he dreaded. The third chapter of Jonah records perhaps the greatest revival of all time as the entire city of Nineveh believes God, proclaims a fast and cries out to God. Israel had never responded to a prophet like these Assyrians did.
1. If you had a chance to go on a cruise anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
2. What role has “distance from mom and dad” played in your choice of school? Career? Mate? Residence? Faith?
3. Have you ever been caught in a terrible storm while traveling? Describe it.
4. What seems both fitting and surprising about God’s command (verse 2)? About Jonah’s evasive effort?
5. Tarshish was 2,000 miles in the opposite direction of Nineveh. What was Jonah thinking?
- God can get another prophet
- God will never find me
- I’m due for a vacation about now
- Nineveh doesn’t deserve anything
6. How did you think Jonah felt when he found out about the storm?
7. Why did Jonah tell the sailors to throw him into the sea?
- he still hadn’t “hit bottom”
- he still thought he could get away
- he felt guilty about causing the sailors to perish
- he regarded going to Nineveh as worse than death
8. What effect did God stirring and stilling the storm have on the sailors? In what sense are they saved (compare verses 5 and 16)? Likewise, how is Jonah saved?
9. In your spiritual life, which direction are you running?
- away from God
- back to God
- with God
- behind God
10. Where do you go that is the opposite direction from where God is calling you?
- nowhere, I avoid the message
- I bury myself in work and other commitments
- my personality changes
- I slip away from Christian fellowship
11. What keeps you from doing something you believe God is calling you to do?
- I’m comfortable where I am
- I don’t want to make waves
- I’m not qualified
- I care too much about what others think
- I’m afraid I might not be hearing God correctly
12. God’s pursuit of Jonah is quite revealing. What does it reveal about (a) the justice and mercy of God? (b) the gifts and call of God? (c) human fear and faith? (d) God’s claim to judge all the earth?
13. Could God intervene in the world in a miraculous way more often? Why doesn’t He? What kind of Christians would that create?
14. What’s the meaning of Jonah’s entombment for Jesus (Matthew 12:40, 41)? For you?