Jonah 1: When Running From God Backfires

Jonah 1: When Running From God Backfires

The plan is simple. 

  • Read through the book of Jonah, ONE CHAPTER A DAY.
  • Restate 5 things you learned (that you previously didn't know).
  • Ask 5 questions about the chapter that you'll ponder all week.
  • As the Holy Spirit gives you wisdom and insight, ACT ON IT. 

JONAH 1:1-17

INSIGHT 1: Nineveh was a city in Assyria (north of present-day Baghdad, Iraq). The Assyrian army was notorious for its brutality (Even modern day military tacticians recognize their methods as some of the worst forms of torture the world has ever seen). In other words, they are terrible people.

INSIGHT 2: The prophet Nahum also thinks they’re awful, “What sorrow awaits Nineveh, the city of murder and lies! She is crammed with wealth and is never without victims. 3b…There are countless casualties, heaps of bodies— so many bodies that people stumble over them. 4 All this because Nineveh, the beautiful and faithless city, mistress of deadly charms, enticed the nations with her beauty. She taught them all her magic, enchanting people everywhere.” (Nahum 3:1-4)

INSIGHT 3: Naturally, Jonah resents the Ninevites. Jonah fled from God’s instruction because he understood that God’s judgment in verse 2 was conditional; as in, if the Ninveites heeded his preaching and turned from their sins, God would forgive them and extend His compassion to them. Jonah is also very likely convinced that the Jews alone have a monopoly on God’s compassion and cannot stomach the idea that God might love a pagan nation. He’s forgotten, however, that God’s loving compassion runs deep (Psalm 103:8-14) and that God is the God of the nations, not just Israel. (Psalm 47:8).

INSIGHT 4: Jonah actually endangers the life of the sailors by fleeing from God, for it was God Himself who “hurled a great wind to the sea that threatened to break the ship.” (Jonah 1:4). There is a stark contrast between the compassion the pagan sailors demonstrate to Jonah and the lack of compassion Jonah is showing towards the Ninevites.

INSIGHT 5: Although Jonah got on the ship in disobedience, God used the opportunity to bring saving faith to pagan sailors.  Verse 16, “At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.” Charles Spurgeon once said, “Charles Spurgeon once said, “God’s mercy is so great that you may sooner drain the sea of its water, or deprive the sun of its light, or make space too narrow, than diminish the great mercy of God.”

INSIGHT 6: After Jonah is tossed overboard, he sinks and begins to drown, but right before the breath of life leaves him, verse 17 says, “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” This fish was not an act of judgment from God, it was a rescue operation! Had God not sent the fish, Jonah would very likely have died. The very thing about God that was eating away at Jonah (love with no ethnic boundaries) is the very thing about God that saved His life at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.

+ + +

QUESTION 1: Jonah had to have known it was impossible to run from God’s presence? So what in the world was going through his mind as he boarded the ship to try to get away from God? Why does Jonah have such an extreme reaction to God’s instruction?

QUESTION 2: Was there a time when you tried to run away from God? How did that work out for you? What areas of your life might you still be trying to hide from God? Is Hebrews 4:13 and Psalm 33:13 scary or encouraging for you? Why?   

QUESTION 3: Why do you think God sent a storm that threatened to break up the ship? (Dig deeper than the most obvious answer). What is the most dramatic way God has tried to get your attention? Did you “snap out of it” and heed His warning?

QUESTION 4: Why did Jonah ask the sailors to throw him overboard? (Wouldn’t it have been much easier if he simply offered to jump over? Why lay the guilt of his life on them? Perhaps he didn’t really wanna do it?)

QUESTION 5: What or who is a “Nineveh” in your life? (Someone or something you would rather avoid than engage?) How might God be calling you to engage your “Nineveh”?

Jonah 1 -  When Running From God Backfires.jpg

Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.