What is the first thing you think about when you hear the word “Jonah”? Most of us probably think about a man being swallowed by a fish and surviving three days in the stomach of a fish. Although this is a fantastic miracle, God’s message is not about His ability to control a fish.
The book of Jonah is different from the other prophets in that it does not contain prophecy for the nation of Israel. Jonah is the first prophet that God sent to a Gentile nation. The prophets Elijah and Elisha were sent by God to live among the Gentiles for a time, but Jonah is the first prophet sent to deliver a message of mercy and repentance to a Gentile city.
When speaking to Abraham, God stated that all people of the earth will be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3). This was God’s declaration that the nation of Israel was to be a missionary to all the other nations of the world. The people of Israel were God’s chosen people, but they were not to be the exclusive recipients of God’s love and forgiveness. Instead, they were to be the ones to pass it along to others. But Israel had forgotten about God’s directive. They considered themselves better than the other nations. God’s command to Jonah was a reminder of the duty Israel had to other nations. It is the same as the duty of believers today: to “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19a)
Last week we learned about God’s prophet, Hosea. God wanted to let Israel know that because of their sin, He no longer was going to call Israel “His people.” Israel had turned away from God, so now God was going to turn away from them. God used Hosea’s marriage as the example of how Israel was unfaithful to the one true God and went after other gods.
What did Hosea tell Israel they should do to once again receive God’s blessing?
“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God… Say to him, ‘Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously.’”
Scripture Reading Jonah 1-4.
Memory Verse: Jonah 4:2b: “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
- What command did God give the prophet Jonah?
- God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and tell the people in that city that they will be destroyed because of their wickedness.
- How did Jonah respond to God’s command?
- Jonah disobeyed God’s command and tried to run away from Him—he paid for passage to Joppa, which was in the opposite direction.
- In Jonah 4:2, Jonah explained why he disobeyed God. What did he say?
- Jonah said he did not want to preach to the Ninevites because he knew that God would forgive them if they heard his message and repented. Jonah had such a hatred for Ninevah that he did not want them to be spared.
- Have you ever felt such dislike for someone that you don’t care if that person knows about Jesus?
- 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”What does this verse teach us about what our attitude should be towards those who do not know Jesus as Savior?
- How did the Ninevites respond to Jonah’s message?
- The whole city, including the king, declared a fast and put on sackcloth as a sign of repentance and remorse for their sin. They cried out to God hoping that He would have compassion on them and not destroy them.
- God’s reaction to the Ninevites was the same as His reaction to the Israelites each time they truly repented. It is the same as God’s reaction to us every time we truly repent. What was God’s reaction?
- “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah 3:10)
Pray: Spend your prayer time thanking God for His gift of salvation. Ask God to give you a heart for those who need to know Jesus as their personal Savior, to give you opportunities to tell others about Jesus, and to be unafraid to speak to others about Jesus.
Do: Using the Prophets booklet you cut out last time, answer the following questions and write your answers in the space provided on the Jonah page:
- What message did God have for His people?
- What judgment did God say He would send upon His people?
- How did the people react?
- Was there any good news for the people?
Keep the booklet to answer the questions about each of the next prophets we’ll be studying.
(Vista Dublin lesson March 8th, Vista Worthington March 29th)