Again, these 3 posts are *my notes* from when I taught an adult Sunday school class.
This is our 3rd and final week with the book of Jonah. Today we will look at chapters 3 and 4. I’ve been trying to encourage us to see ourselves in this book. Just a little review from the last 2 weeks.
- We may think it is shocking how Jonah did not want God’s message of salvation to be taken to the Ninevites because he saw them as undeserving and he disliked the Assyrian people. But are we any different? If we are honest, there are people or groups that we are exclusionary towards or prejudiced against. We fail to love them, or we fail to see their potential to receive God’s salvation through Christ.
- We may think we have never run from God in the outright way that Jonah did. But don’t we run from God in subtle and indirect ways? Maybe a period of your life where you didn’t run from God but avoided him. With hectic schedules, it is easy to avoid doing things that faithful Christians should be doing.
We will listen to a dramatized reading of Jonah chapter 3, like we did a chapter last week. Remember at the end of chapter 2 Jonah was spit up by the great fish onto dry land, and the story continues… LISTEN.
Chapter 1:1 said that the word of the Lord came to Jonah.
Chapter 3:1 says that the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. I think we can see both humor and seriousness here.
Put yourself in Jonah’s place. How might you feel about God giving you the same command again?
(humbled, relief – appreciation for another chance, I’ll obey now)
I see hope here. If we have detoured in God’s plan for our life, we can get back on the route.
The Ninevites repented as a result of Jonah’s message. What evidence do we see that they were sincere in their repentance?
(they fasted, put on sackcloth…What did the King additionally urge them to do? pray and give up their evil ways and violence.)
John the Baptist when he was out baptizing in Matthew 3 said to the Pharisees and Sadducees in an abrupt way to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
How would you define repentance? How is it different from confession?
(Confessing is to admit what we’ve done. Repentance is a sincere turning away. It is a change of mind that leads to action.)
How and why does the Lord respond to the Ninevites repentance in vs 10?
This demonstrates that the Lord honors repentance, whoever the person is.
*Have someone read 2 Peter 3:9.
God is patient and wants everyone to come to repentance – no matter who they are, or what they have done. And that is the theme of Jonah. For people of every nation to receive salvation through Christ, but also that even very sinful people can be redeemed.
Note the king of Nineveh told his people to put away their evil ways and violence. Jonah knew what these people were like. They were particularly sinful.
Let’s see how Jonah responds to the Ninevite’s repentance as we move into chapter 4. Would someone read 4:1-4.
Chapter 1 didn’t really tell us why Jonah fled to avoid going to Nineveh, but here Jonah makes it clear. Why did he flee? How would you summarize his complaint?
(God is too nice!)
Verse 2 says that God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love.
Jonah is quoting from Exodus 34:6-7. (I taught a lesson on this a couple years ago.) It involved God and Moses, and these verses can be referred to as God’s self-declaration. God proclaims his name, and then lists some of his attributes. It is a unique passage because it is the only place in the Bible where God lists his own attributes in this way.
The Exodus passage is quoted, in full or in part, 12 other times in the OT – such as here in Jonah. Its repetition indicates it was considered a foundational passage on God. Which makes sense. If God decides to declare himself, and focus on certain attributes, humanity should pay attention.
What do you think of God’s reply to Jonah in verse 4?
(It is a gentle reproof. If I was God, I think I would have gotten angry and pointed out Jonah’s hypocrisy.)
Someone read verse 5.
“waiting to see what would become of the city”
It appears that some time passed between the end of chapter 3 and 4. There is a time gap. Remember Jonah preached that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days if they did not repent. It looks like Jonah was still hoping that God would destroy the city anyways, and he wants a front row to seat to watch it.
Again, let’s not get too pious or judgmental. Haven’t we hoped someone would get what was coming to them? Or we got to see someone get their comeuppance and we enjoyed it? A nasty boss? Someone who betrayed us? Someone who picked on us in school?
Let’s read verses 6-11.
God has been patient and merciful with Jonah, and continues to be. In verse 6, God has a leafy plant grow to shade Jonah from the hot sun – even though Jonah is there hoping to watch the city be destroyed.
As a quick review. How has God been merciful to Jonah in the previous chapters?
(God brought a great fish to swallow him. Jonah could have drowned otherwise – esp since the Jews were not an ocean people. Jonah was not likely a good swimmer, if he could swim at all. The great fish was certainly an unconventional way to help Jonah, but it is how God intervened. God heard Jonah’s prayer from inside the great fish, and had the fish spit him out, not in the water, but onto dry land it said. God gives Jonah a second chance to obey God.)
And here in chapter 4 we have God’s gentle reproof, and this plant.
It is mercy and kindness at every turn. Yet Jonah can’t extend mercy to the Ninevites. Shouldn’t the way God treats us motivate us to treat others the same?
Yet we often fail here. Any thoughts?
Note it says “Jonah was very happy about the plant” – that strikes me funny. He’s also a bit melodramatic – wanting to die.
In the final verses, how does God use the plant to make a point to Jonah?
In what ways do you think we are we sometimes concerned with petty things, rather than being concerned with what really matters in life?
What do you think of how the book ends? Consider the last verse.
(It doesn’t really bring resolution. It leaves us hanging. Did Jonah finally get it or not?)
In closing, Jonah had a hard time seeing things from God’s perspective. And we should consider what areas of our own life we are failing to see things from God’s perspective. We can be blind to it. We need to pray for spiritual sight.
Besides prayer, what can we do to start seeing things more from God’s perspective? Or another way of wording it might be: how should the way God treats us motivate us to treat others – or change our perspective about others?
Cultivate gratitude and thankfulness. Focus on Jesus.
If we are thankful, that can be transformative. If we are truly thankful for Jesus and all that Jesus did for us – that should change our perspectives in life.
And we just did a series on the Bible. Someone read Hebrews 4:12. The Bible cuts to the heart of things and reveals our true motives. But it can’t do that if we are not in the Bible – reading it and contemplating it regularly.