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.
INSIGHT 1: This story has the worst ending ever. I would have preferred it ended in Jonah 3:10 where it says, “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.” But it doesn’t. It ends on a sour note that hints of racism/prejudice? Jonah’s response to the greatest revival history has ever seen is resentment and deep anger! He would rather die than see the Ninevites embraced by God. “Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
INSIGHT 2: Even when God graciously tries to reason with Jonah, “…the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”, like a 5-year-old, he stomps to his corner to mope. By making a shade outside the city walls “to see what would happen to the city”, Jonah was hoping that God would still hold up his end of the deal by destroying Nineveh in 40 days. He’s more than likely waiting for God to do to Nineveh what he did to Sodom and Gomorra in Genesis 19:24. Jonah wins the award for worst prophet ever!
INSIGHT 3: Though the Ninevites are not without fault (Nahum 3:1-4), Jonah chose to ignore the truth that “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;..” (Psalm 103:8-14). Jonah preferred a god of his own making, a god who judged all evil instantaneously. What Jonah didn’t consider however is that if God were to judge ALL evil (including potential evil), Jonah, along with Israel would be swept away in judgment also, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. Even our best efforts still fall short. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6
INSIGHT 4: To reveal the ugliness of his heart, God gives Jonah three illustrations to demonstrate how compassion works, a plant, a worm, and scorching heat. God at first provides shade (a leafy plant) for Jonah where he can rest his head. Interestingly, verse 6 is the only time in the whole book where we see Jonah “very happy”. It were as if God was trying to point out to Jonah, “Ok, so you do get it Jonah, when good things happen to people, the natural reaction is rejoicing, right? Great! I’m glad you got that lesson.” But when God sends a worm to destroy the plant the next morning, and follows it up by sending a dry hot wind so Jonah became faint, Jonah emotions turn mercurial. Once again, like a bratty little kid, Jonah would rather die than live in a world where God takes away his comforts and Ninevites are forgiven.
INSIGHT 5: God’s illustrations were intended to convey a profound truth to Jonah – “My loving compassion is to be extended to the PEOPLE in our lives, not the THINGS in our lives. God explains to Jonah that there were over 120,000 children in Nineveh who would have been swept away in judgment had He not relented from His judgment, yet Jonah showed more compassion towards the temporary “stuff” in his life than towards, those lost souls.
INSIGHT 6: Though this story ends in the worst of ways and Jonah seemingly still doesn’t get it, I’m inclined to think his attitude may have changed years later. Though the author of the book never identifies himself/herself, the foundational source for the book was more than likely Jonah’s own telling of the story after his experience in Nineveh. Only he would have had such intimate detail about his running, his sinking, his time in the belly of the fish, and his preaching in Nineveh. Therefore, there’s reason to believe that if Jonah had humbled himself enough to write this story (laying out his prejudice for all to see), then perhaps he recognized the hypocrisy in his actions and wrote it so others may learn from him. This is of course, is my hope. At the end of the day, God’s word about himself triumphs, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:8-14)
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QUESTION 1: What do you think is really bothering Jonah? Why did he want so badly to see the Ninevites destroyed?
QUESTION 2: Do you think Jonah lacked understanding about the way God’s grace and mercy works or was he just seriously a prejudiced man? (verse 2).
QUESTION 3: Do you think Jonah was serious in verse 3 when he asked God to take his life away? Or was he just being a drama queen?
QUESTION 4: Has there ever been a time when you became angry with God because He didn’t respond in the way that you wanted?
QUESTION 5:Who do you have the hardest time forgiving? If you dug deeper, what about their actions most bothered you?
QUESTION 6: Do you believe your sins have been completely forgiven? Look up Colossians 2:13-14. Why and how might your answer to this question speak to the previous question?
QUESTION 7: By relocating to “a place east of the city [of Nineveh], what do you think Jonah was really hoping for? Genesis 19:1-19 may be telling.
QUESTION 8: What was God trying to convey through the illustration of the leafy plant, the worm, and the scorching east wind? Do you think Jonah got the lesson?
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.