Jonah Lesson 1
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because their evil has come up before me.”
1. It always helps me to get the overview of a story before I start filling in the pieces. Who can overview the life of Jonah?
When God planned to call Nineveh to repentance, He asked Jonah to join Him.
Jonah refused because he was prejudiced against these “pagan enemies.”
Jonah would rather have seen God destroy the city.
Disobedience to God is extremely serious.
Jonah went through the trauma of being thrown into a raging sea and spending three days inside a big fish.
Jonah confessed and repented of his disobedience, and God gave him a second chance.
The second time Jonah did obey, though reluctantly.
On the first day, Jonah preached a one-sentence message, and God used it to bring one hundred twenty thousand people to repentance!
Jonah said, “I know that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster” (Jon. 4:2).
God’s response to Jonah and to the inhabitants of Nineveh speaks volumes about how deeply God cares for all people and wants them to come to repentance.—Experiencing God by Richard Blackaby
2. Anyone have a study Bible? Do you know anything about Nineveh?
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria.
In the seventh and eighth centuries BC, Assyria was the great world power.
It chewed up and spit out countries right and left.
It would put the populations of countries that it defeated on death marches.
It practiced genocide basically as state policy.
When Israel was split into two sections, some of you know about this, there was a northern kingdom, ten tribes up there, and the southern kingdom, just two tribes.
The northern kingdom, those ten tribes, was captured and basically vaporized, basically obliterated, by Assyria.
Assyria was hated so much … this is what a prophet named Nahum said about Nineveh, which is the capital, kind of embodied Assyria, “Woe to Nineveh” (this is in the Old Testament) “woe to the city of blood …” That is what it was called, that was its title. “… full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims, piles of dead.” Now you think about this, “… bodies without number, people stumbling over corpses … your injury is fatal.” Nahum here is predicting the fall of Nineveh. “… your injury is fatal.
Everyone who hears the news about you claps their hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?” Nineveh is so hated. Not just cruelty, but endless cruelty. When it is destroyed Nahum says, people are going clap; they are going to stand up and clap.
If you want to understand how an Israelite felt about Nineveh, this is not just any other city … think of Al Qaeda, think of Nazi Germany, think of a power that killed your children, enslaved your brother, brutalized your sister. Nahum said very, very strong condemning words about Nineveh, but where do you think Nahum was when he said those words? He was in Israel. He was a long ways away from Nineveh.
Then the Word of the Lord comes to Jonah, “Go to Nineveh.” Learn to speak Assyrian and tell them face to face that they’re facing judgment. Jonah says, “Lord, Nahum got to taunt them from a distance. Couldn’t we like send them a telegram or something?” “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah, ‘Go to Nineveh.’ ”
3. Based on what we know about Nineveh, how do you imagine Jonah might have felt about going to Nineveh?
Jonah experienced that kind of crisis of belief when God told him to “Go to Nineveh.”
Although he was a prophet of God, his prejudice and bigotry got in the way of God’s will for him.
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria.
Jonah despised the Ninevites because they were pagans, filled with idolatry and violence. “Go and proclaim my message there,” God told Jonah. His map was clearly marked; God had told him which way to go. But Jonah still had to make a decision-to obey God or not. Jonah thought, “No way,” and took the next ship to Tarshish, which was in the opposite direction, which is kind of like living in Texas and going to Berlin by way of Honolulu. (Tempting, isn’t it?).—Swindoll, The Mystery of God’s will.
4. Is following God normally scary?
God has an inextinguishable habit of asking people to do things that are scary to them. It may be a fear of inadequacy (“I am slow of speech and slow of tongue,” Moses said.) It may be a fear of failure (“The land we explored devours those who live in it,” cried the spies sent out to the Promised Land). It may even be a fear of God (“For I knew you were a hard man, seeking to reap where you did not sow,” claimed the servant in Jesus’ parable). But one way or another, there will be fear.—If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg
5. When we follow God and we feel fear, what should we do?
Comfort Zone Misconception #I: Since I feel fear, my Dream must not be from God.
EXPAND WITH THE GROUP.
6. How do we get over the fear when following God is scary?
There is only one way to increase your spiritual comfort zone, and acquiring more information alone will not do it.
You will have to follow the Path of God, which requires taking a leap of faith.
You need to get out of the boat a little every day.
Begin the day by asking God for wisdom about where you need to get your feet wet that day.
Call someone whom you have been avoiding out of fear.
Express your faith to a person who does not know about your beliefs.
Make a gesture of friendship toward someone when you are tempted to hold back. Risk speaking the truth to a spouse, parent, or friend when your normal course would be to hesitate. It does not matter whether all these steps turn out the way you hoped. Of course, things will end in failure sometimes, but you are giving your faith a chance to grow.
You have to get out of the boat a little every day. As you do, your faith will deepen and your spiritual comfort zone will widen.—If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg
7. Take a guess: how many times would you guess the Bible says to “fear not”?
What would you guess is the most common command in Scripture?
It is not for us to be more loving.
That may be the core to God’s desire for human life, but that is not his most frequent instruction.
Writers about spiritual life often speak of pride as being at the root of human fallenness, but the Bible’s most frequent imperative does not have to do with avoiding pride or gaining humility.
It is not a command to guard sexual purity or to walk with integrity, important as those qualities are.
The single command in Scripture that occurs more often than any other—God’s most frequently repeated instruction—is formulated in two words: Fear not. Do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous. You can trust me. Fear not. Why does God command us not to fear?
Fear does not seem like the most serious vice in the world.
It never made the list of the Seven Deadly Sins.
No one ever receives church discipline for being afraid. So why does God tell human beings to stop being afraid more often than he tells them anything else?
My hunch is that the reason God says “Fear not” so much is not that he wants us to be spared emotional discomfort.
In fact, usually he says it to get people to do something that is going to lead them into greater fear anyway. I think God says “fear not” so often because fear is the number one reason human beings are tempted to avoid doing what God asks them to do.
Fear is the number one reason why people refuse to get out of the boat. So we need this command all the time. Lloyd Ogilvie notes there are 366 “fear not” verses in the Bible—one for every day of the year, including one for leap year!.—If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg
8. When God interrupts … is it normally to call us inside or outside God’s comfort zone? When has God called you outside your comfort zone?
A Comfort Zone can become a barrier, too.
Why? Because our Big Dream always lies outside our Comfort Zone.
That means we will have to leave what feels comfortable if we want to achieve our Dream.
Ordinary faced a choice: He could either feel comfort but give up his Dream, or feel fear and pursue it.
You might think that if only you were braver or stronger, you wouldn’t have to struggle so much with that choice.
But every Dreamer does, no matter how talented or brave.—The Dream Giver: Following Your God-Given Destiny by Bruce Wilkinson, Heather Kopp
9. The theme for this week and for this book is that God interrupted Jonah. Can you think of other people that God interrupted?
Noah could not continue life as usual and build an ark at the same time. (see Gen. 6)
Abram could not stay in Ur or Haran and father a nation in Canaan. (see Gen. 12:1–8)
Moses could not stay on the back side of the desert herding sheep and stand before Pharaoh at the same time. (see Exod. 3)
Rahab could not obey the king and save the lives of the Israelite spies (see Josh. 2:1–24).
Ruth could not remain with her relatives and join the people of God in Israel (see Ruth 1:16–18).
David had to leave his sheep to become king. (see 1 Sam. 16:1–13)
Amos had to leave his sycamore orchard to preach in Israel. (see Amos 7:14–15)
Jonah had to leave his home and go against what he had been taught in order to preach in Nineveh. (see Jonah 1:1–2; 3:1–2; 4:1–11)
Esther could not remain silent before the king and save her people (see Esther 4:14)
Peter, Andrew, James, and John had to leave their fishing businesses in order to follow Jesus. (see Matt. 4:18–22)
Matthew had to leave his lucrative tax collecting job to follow Jesus. (see Matt. 9:9) Saul had to completely change direction in order for God to use him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. (see Acts 9:1–19)—Blackaby.
10. Can you think of times when Jesus was interrupted? What do we learn about being interrupted from Jesus’ example?
A minister once observed that sometimes “interruptions are the ministry.”
In the book, Before Burnout, the authors point out that Mark’s Gospel provides many examples of Jesus handling interruptions well.
After he healed a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21–26), Jesus was suddenly interrupted by an entire city who demanded his attention (1:33).
He was then interrupted in the midst of his teaching by four men carrying a paralyzed man (2:1–5).… Later Jesus was pursued and interrupted by a large multitude (3:7–9).
At one point, after being interrupted by Jairus, Christ was almost immediately interrupted again by a woman with a long-term illness. The Savior compassionately handled all of those interruptions well.
A study of the way Jesus handled these kinds of interruption can teach us several things:
1) Christ always responded graciously. He never conveyed the attitude that people did not have a right to interrupt Him.
2) He made people a priority. For the most part, those who interrupted Him were not prominent individuals, yet Christ treated them as important.
3) Although frequently interrupted, Christ did not allow those interruptions to deflect Him from His ultimate purpose. For example, after dealing with the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus immediately went on to raise Jairus’ daughter.
4) On occasion, the Savior actually initiated an interruption himself. He interrupted His teaching of the multitude to call Levi the tax collector to follow Him.
Fifth, when important priorities made it necessary, Christ isolated Himself from interruptions.
“Learning to handle interruptions in a Christlike fashion,” say the authors, “will take us a significant distance down the road of handling life’s circumstances.”—Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (474). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
11. What do we learn about following God from these stories?
GOD’S INVITATION FOR YOU TO WORK WITH HIM ALWAYS LEADS YOU TO A CRISIS OF BELIEF THAT REQUIRES FAITH AND ACTION.
God wants a watching world to come to know who He truly is.
He does not call you to get involved in His activity merely so people can see what you can do.
He will call you to an assignment that you cannot accomplish apart from His divine intervention.
God’s assignments have God-sized dimensions.
This does not mean God does not ask us to undertake mundane, seemingly ordinary tasks.
But when God is involved in anything, there are always eternal, divine dimensions, implications, and possibilities.
When God asks you to do something you cannot do, you will face a crisis of belief.
You’ll have to decide what you really believe about God.
Can He and will He do what He has said He wants to do through you?
Can God do the seemingly impossible through your ordinary life?
How you respond to His invitation reveals what you truly believe about God, regardless of what you say.
This major turning point is where many people miss out on experiencing God’s mighty power working through them.
If they cannot understand exactly how everything is going to happen, they won’t proceed.
They want to walk with God by sight, not faith. To follow God, you’ll have to walk by faith because without faith, it is impossible to please Him (see Heb. 11:6). Faith is more than just belief. Biblical faith always requires action (see James 2:14).
God does not want you merely to believe what He says. He wants you to obey what He commands (see Luke 6:4). All of God’s promises and invitations will be meaningless to you unless you believe Him and obey Him.—Blackaby.
13 Then God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to every creature, for the earth is filled with wickedness because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth. 14 “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside. 15 This is how you are to make it: The ark will be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. 16 You are to make a roof, finishing the sides of the ark to within eighteen inches of the roof. You are to put a door in the side of the ark. Make it with lower, middle, and upper decks. 17 “Understand that I am bringing a flood—floodwaters on the earth to destroy every creature under heaven with the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives. 19 You are also to bring into the ark two of all the living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of everything—from the birds according to their kinds, from the livestock according to their kinds, and from the animals that crawl on the ground according to their kinds—will come to you so that you can keep them alive. 21 Take with you every kind of food that is eaten; gather it as food for you and for them.” 22 And Noah did this. He did everything that God had commanded him.
12. Genesis 6:13–22. What do we learn about following God from Noah’s example?
When we read about the life of Noah in GENESIS 6–9, we see a clear picture of complete obedience.
When God called this man to do something extraordinary—a task that seemed both impossible and illogical—Noah complied without asking questions.
Noah obeyed God despite what other people thought of him. And when we choose the path of obedience, we must likewise be prepared for the negative responses we will undoubtedly receive from others.
Will it always be popular for you to obey God? No, it will not. Will people criticize you? Yes, they probably will.
Might they think some things that you do are ridiculous? Yes. Will they sometimes laugh at you? Yes.
Noah chose to walk with God in the midst of a corrupt society. In fact, it was so wicked that God chose to destroy every living human being on the face of the earth with the exception of one family. We can only imagine what those evil people must have said to Noah as they watched him day after day.
From the life of Noah, we can deduce an important key to obedience: when God tells us to do something, we must not focus on the circumstances or the persons who would deter us from carrying out God’s instructions.
If Noah had begun to listen to his critics, he would not have built the ark, and he would have been swept away with the rest of the earth. Instead, he chose to be absolutely obedient to God.—Stanley, C. F. (2005). Living the extraordinary life: Nine principles to discover it (94–95). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
13. When God interrupts, what happens to our plans?
Let’s look closer at the example of Noah.
What about all the plans he had made to serve God?
What if Noah had planned to conduct a door-to-door evangelistic survey of his neighborhood or start a ministry to homeless people?
These would have been noble intentions, but they would have been completely irrelevant in light of God’s imminent plans.
Noah did not call on God to help him accomplish what he was dreaming of doing for God. In Scripture, you never find God asking people to dream up what they want to do for Him. He never urges His people to set impressive goals and generate grand visions for Him and His kingdom.—Blackaby
14. Is following God usually about executing a well-laid out plan? What place does planning have in Christian living?
WORKJ OUT WOTH GROUP
15. How do you think Noah felt when God interrupted him in verse 13ff?
How-did-they-feel questions makes the truth come alive.
It connects us emotionally with the characters in the story. It bridges the two or three thousand year gap between us and the story and makes us feel the truth, not just know the truth.
The emotional connection is the human connection. How-did-they-feel questions makes the truth real. It makes the truth truth that matters.—Josh Hunt. Good Quesitons Have Groups Talking.
16. How long from the time Noah started building until it started raining?
It took Noah more than one hundred years to complete the ark and for all of the animals to be gathered.
And throughout those years, God provided. He gave Noah the strength and materials and know—how to gather the gopherwood, build the ark, and cover it with pitch. He gave Noah three sons, and each was married by the time the “fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Gen. 7:11).
Noah was given the provision and help necessary to get the job done.
If God calls you to do something—even to a goal you don’t understand fully—you can trust God to provide for you the knowledge you need, the provision you need, and the help you need. He calls you not to fail, but to succeed. He will provide for you everything you need to get the job done successfully.—Stanley, C. F. (2000). Success God’s Way. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
17. Just by the way. How big was the Ark? How big of a project was this?
God told Noah what his task was: to build a wooden vessel that would survive the waters of the Flood and keep Noah and his family safe.
If the cubit mentioned was the standard cubit of eighteen inches, then the vessel was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.
It had three decks, one door, and a series of small windows eighteen inches high right under the roof, providing light and ventilation.
The three decks were divided into compartments (Gen. 6:14) where the various animals would be kept and where Noah and his family would live.
This vessel was designed for flotation, not navigation.
It was a huge wooden box that could float on the water and keep the contents safe and dry.
Dr. Henry Morris calculated that the ark was large enough to hold the contents of over 500 livestock railroad cars, providing space for about 125,000 animals.
Of course, many of the animals would be very small and not need much space; and when it came to the large animals, Noah no doubt collected younger and smaller representatives.
There was plenty of room in the vessel for food for both humans and animals (v. 21), and the insects and creeping things would have no problem finding places to live on the ark.—Old Testament—The Bible Exposition Commentary—Pentateuch.
18. What price did Noah pay in following God?
Everyone in Scripture who said yes to their calling had to pay a high price. So will you and I.
Sometimes it will mean putting in hours of work and effort when you would rather not.
Will you do it? Maybe your calling will not involve the kind of recognition or wealth or influence you had always hoped for.
Can you let that go?
Sometimes you will devote yourself to a dream—like Jeremiah—and things will not turn out the way you wanted, and you will experience crushing disappointment and discouragement.
Can you persist?
Somewhere along the line, people will oppose you, disapprove of you, or block what you are trying to do.
Can you endure? Maybe it will take a long time to discern your calling.
Maybe it will involve much trial and error and many false starts. And we tend to be impatient people, wanting immediate results. Will you be patient?—If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg
1 The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord handed them over to Midian seven years, 2 and they oppressed Israel. Because of Midian, the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites, Amalekites, and the people of the east came and attacked them. 4 They encamped against them and destroyed the produce of the land, even as far as Gaza. They left nothing for Israel to eat, as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. 5 For the Midianites came with their cattle and their tents like a great swarm of locusts. They and their camels were without number, and they entered the land to lay waste to it. 6 So Israel became poverty-stricken because of Midian, and the Israelites cried out to the Lord. 7 When the Israelites cried out to him because of Midian, 8 the Lord sent a prophet to them. He said to them, “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I brought you out of Egypt and out of the place of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the power of Egypt and the power of all who oppressed you. I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you: I am the Lord your God. Do not fear the gods of the Amorites whose land you live in. But you did not obey me.’ ” 11 The angel of the Lord came, and he sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress in order to hide it from the Midianites.
19. Judges 6:11ff How do you imagine Gideon felt about God’s call on his life?
The Lord came to Gideon and told him he was to lead his people in victory over the Midianites.
That’s like God telling a housewife to stand up to her abusive husband or a high school student to take on drug peddlers or a preacher to preach the truth to a congregation of Pharisees.
“Y-y-you-b-b-better get somebody else,” we stammer.
But then God reminds us that he knows we can’t, but he can, and to prove it he gives a wonderful gift.
He brings a spirit of peace. A peace before the storm. A peace beyond logic.… He gave it to David after he showed him Goliath; he gave it to Saul after he showed him the gospel; he gave it to Jesus after he showed him the cross.
And he gave it to Gideon. So Gideon, in turn, gave the name to God. He built an altar and named it Jehovah-shalom, the Lord is peace (Judges 6:24).—The Great House of God / Lucado, M., & Gibbs, T. A. (2000). Grace for the moment: Inspirational thoughts for each day of the year (46). Nashville, TN: J. Countryman.
20. What do we learn about following God from Gideon’s story?
As a rule, the people whom we read about in Scripture who were called by God felt quite inadequate. When God called Abraham to leave home, or Gideon to lead an army, or Esther to defy the king, or Mary to give birth to the Messiah, their initial response was never: Yes, I’m up to that challenge. I think I can handle that. The first response to a God-sized calling is generally fear. Henry Blackaby writes,
Some people say, “God will never ask me to do something I can’t do.” I have come to the place in my life that, if the assignment I sense God is giving me is something that I know I can handle, I know it is probably not from God.
The kind of assignments God gives in the Bible are always God-sized. They are always beyond what people can do, because he wants to demonstrate his nature, his strength, his provision, and his kindness to his people and to a watching world. This is the only way the world will come to know him.
This doesn’t mean that God calls us in a way that violates our “raw material.” Where God calls, God gifts. It does mean, though, that natural talent alone is not enough to honor a calling from God. I will need ideas, strength, and creativity beyond my own resources to do what God asks of me. It will have to be God and me doing it together. We are not called just to work for God. We are called to work with God.—If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg
1 There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. 2 He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God. 3 About three in the afternoon he distinctly saw in a vision an angel of God who came in and said to him, “Cornelius.” 4 Staring at him in awe, he said, “What is it, Lord?” The angel told him, “Your prayers and your acts of charity have ascended as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa and call for Simon, who is also named Peter. 6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, he called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, who was one of those who attended him. 8 After explaining everything to them, he sent them to Joppa. 9 The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the roof about noon. 10 He became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. 13 A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything impure and ritually unclean.”
21. Acts 10:1–14. How did Peter respond to being interrupted by God?
These are words that should never go together: “No, Lord.” If He is Lord, there is no “No.” If He is Lord it is “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
22. Has God ever interrupted you? Who has a story?
A second suggestion is to trust and rely on God’s loving control over what happens in our lives. This includes seeing interruptions as opportunities.
Often when I am studying the Scriptures, thinking about ideas, or planning for my day, the telephone will ring. I am learning not to resent this as an intrusion but to recognize it as an opportunity to use what God has taught me as I talk with the caller. Hosea understood God’s sovereignty when he wrote,
The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.—HOSEA 14:9
After all that Hosea had been through in having his entire lifestyle interrupted for the Lord’s purposes, he was well qualified to articulate this trust in God.—Discipleship Journal.
Hunt, J. (2012). Jonah(pp. 2–17). Josh Hunt.