Jonah and Jesus 17.10.20
Matthew 12 v 38-42
Real faith is about trusting Jesus ......the One who died,was buried and then rose again.....rather than any impressive signs.
Read Matthew 12 v 38-42.
In what two ways does Jesus respond to the demand for a miraculous sign ? (v 39)
. Only a wicked and adulterous generation would seek a miraculous sign.
. Only one sign would be given ....... "the sign of the prophet Jonah".
Jesus calls His generation "wicked" because their demand for a miraculous sign shows that they trust in signs rather than in Christ Himself. The Lord's generation is "adulterous": they are more attracted to impressive displays of power than to the One through whom God has chosen to work.
Jesus says that He will give his generation just one sign: "the sign of the prophet Jonah". He wants people to understand what will happen to Him as being similar to what happened to Jonah.
What are the key similarities between the experiences of Jonah and Jesus?
. The fish and the tomb. Both places of desperation and death.
. The Timings. Both of them were in the places of death for three days and three nights. ( Jesus was dead from Friday to Sunday ,and in the way Jews counted part days and nights as whole days and nights, this was three days and nights).
. God's action for Jonah and Jesus. God didn't leave either man in the depths, but brought them back to where living people dwell.
.The effect on others. Jonah's deliverance led to Nineveh hearing his preaching, and repenting. Jesus' resurrection leads to us being able to know that He is God's Christ and being able to know Him as our Saviour.
What are the important differences?
. Jonah didn't literally die; Jesus did.
. Jonah's near -death experience was because of his sin. Christ's real-death experience was because of other's sin.
. Jonah didn't choose the fish,but the Lord chose the cross!
. Jesus' experience had a better ending than Jonah's......He was raised to life; Jonah was vomited out!
. Jonah's obedience came about as a result of his fishy experience, while Jesus' experience resulted in the cross (Romans 5.19)
. Jonah's preaching had a huge effect on the whole of Nineveh; Jesus' preaching (and that of His people) was massively opposed after His resurrection (though Acts records episodes where thousands of people did repent).
The only "sign" Jesus gives people is His death, burial and resurrection.
How should His example here shape our approach to witnessing?
We, like Jesus, should keep the focus on the events of His death, burial and resurrection. That's where we need to point people and where we want to head to in any conversation about our faith.
Jesus suggests that the Ninevites knew about Jonah's near-death, near-resurrection experience in the sea and the fish (Luke 11.30)
What does verse 41 remind us that Jonah did next, after the fish vomited him out?
Jonah answered God's call to go and preach in Nineveh.
How did the Ninevites respond to this?
They "repented at Jonah's preaching".
Christ's point is :if they did this when Jonah preached to them, you should do the same when I preach to you!
What is Jesus' warning in verse 41 ? Why will it be fair for the "men of Nineveh " to do this?
The "men of Nineveh" will condemn Jesus' generation, because Nineveh responded better to Jonah than Jesus' listeners had to Him. This is despite the fact that Jesus is "greater than Jonah and that Nineveh was a pagan city which never heard such preaching before, whereas the Jews are supposed to be God's people, so those listening to Jesus really have no excuse!
Look up Matthew 25 v31-33. How does this passage underline the warning of 12 v 41?
"Judgement" refers to the final judgement which will happen when Jesus returns and separates His people from those he doesn't know. This is when our eternal
destinies will be determined.
In verse 42 Jesus says the Queen of the South (also known as the Queen of Sheba) will condemn His generation at the final judgement.
Read 1 Kings 10 v 1-10
Why did the Queen of the South go to meet Solomon?
Because she had heard of his relationship with God.
How did she respond to Solomon's wisdom?
She was overwhelmed (v 5),recognised that it was God who had given Solomon all he had (v 9),and praised the Lord herself.(v 9)
So why, according to Jesus ,will the Queen of the South condemn Jesus' generation? (Matthew 12 v 42) ?
The Queen responded better to Solomon than Jesus' generation had responded to Jesus. The contrast is all the greater because Jesus' wisdom is greater than Solomon's. (see Colossians 2 v2-3),and she, unlike Jesus' listeners, but like the Ninevites ,was a pagan.
How have we seen this truth in Jonah (compare the pagan sailors and Ninevites with the prophet Jonah)?
Jesus' point ,that the Gentile Ninevites and Queen of the South responded better to God than His Jewish contemporaries, is very similar to the point made by the author of Jonah. In Jonah 4,the pagan Ninevites repented and were saved from God's judgement, whereas Jonah was left sulking and angry, opposed to the merciful character of God.
To think about........
What is the right response to seeing "the sign of Jonah" in Jesus' life, and hearing His preaching (in our generation as well as His)?
Listen to His preaching and so "repent and believe His good news (Mark 1 v15).
Looking back over our time in Jonah, what has Jonah's experience taught us about our evangelism?
. To look at our hearts......are we grudging evangelists like Jonah, or are our hearts compassionate like God's ?
. To expect God to do wonderful things......as He did in the boat for the sailors and in the city for the Ninevites.
. To be encouraged that our best can be good enough......God used a single sentence of Jonah's to convert a shipload of pagan sailors.
. Not to think that we deserve God's grace more than others.
Both the Lord Jesus Christ and the author of Jonah want their hearers not to have false confidence for finding favour with God, but instead to rely wholly and only on God's grace......His undeserved kindness and compassion.
Next week there will be no new study and our Zoom session on Weds. Oct. 21 will be a catch up and discussion of our overall response to the book of Job. Why not join us to share what God has taught you through this series....or questions (if you have any). As always the meeting ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password in 3NZjXF.
The following week on Oct. 31 there will be the introduction to a new study ......"Revelation.....Heaven's Perspective". Do not be put off this challenging book which will take us up to Advent. Tim Chester, the author of the "Good Book Guide" we will be using, writes.........
" Imagine looking up close at an impressionist painting . All you can see are strokes of paint and dabs of colour. It's hard to make sense of it. However, take a step back and the picture becomes clear. What emerges is not just a scene but the mood it evokes......and that's how we should approach Revelation. Look at the detail and it's all a bit perplexing, but step back and look at the big picture and Revelation not only becomes clearer ,but can grip our imaginations."
Lesson learned? 10.10.20
Jonah 4. 5-11
We are getting near to the end of this prophetic oracle which highlights the sickness that blights humanity.......sin. Here we see Jonah's utter selfishness that he cares far more about a bit of shade than he does about the destiny of 120,000 people! Be prepared; the book finishes with a question ,and we are left hanging...........
Read Jonah 4.5-11.
Jonah leaves Nineveh and waits at a safe distance "to see what would happen to the city" (v5). What might Jonah be hoping for?
He seems to be still hoping for God's judgement to fall upon Nineveh, anticipating another Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19.24-25). So he wants to be well away from the city when God's judgement falls.....but he wants to gloat and be there to watch.
What is surprising about Jonah's hope, in the light of 3 v 10?
God has already "relented and did not bring about the destruction on Nineveh that he had threatened". Jonah knows this from 4 v1. He hopes that God will repent of His compassion and destroy Nineveh anyway!
So what makes Jonah very angry in this last chapter and what makes him very happy?
. Jonah is very angry when God's mercy is extended to non-Israelites in a big matter, them not being destroyed (v 1-4)
. He is very angry when God's mercy is withdrawn from him in a small matter: the plant (v 5-9)
Note that in both these cases Jonah is angry enough to want to die.
. Jonah is very happy when God's mercy is extended to him in a small matter (v 6). He wants a God who is merciful to him in giving him what he would like (a bit of shade) as well as what he needs (rescue from drowning);but he also wants a God who does not give mercy to others, even in what they most need (saving from judgement).
What does this show us about Jonah?
His utter selfishness and his sense that he deserves God's help while others do not.
His priorities are directly opposed to God's.
If you would like to explore more.......
Read Mark 11 v 15-17.
What made Jesus very angry? What does tell us about Jesus?
How were Jesus' priorities and the cause of His anger, the opposite of Jonah's priorities and what made him angry?
To think about......
The things that make us most angry and most happy offer insight into what we REALLY care about.
Jonah was hoping chapter 4 would be about Nineveh learning their lesson through being judged. However, it turns out that God wants chapter 4 to be all about Jonah learning a lesson, through the events of v 6-8.
Have a look at Jonah's response in v8.What do you make of it?
Jonah wants to die again! He is so self-absorbed and petulant.....and incredibly rude when God withdraws what He gave in the first place.
What do verses 9 and 11 have in common?
They both contain a question from God to Jonah.
What is the right answer to God's first question (v9)? Why?
"No!" .It's God's plan,not Jonah's (v 10). Jonah should have been thankful when he had it and accepting when he didn't......
What is the right answer to God's second question (v 11)?
What reason does God give why this is the right answer?
. v 11.More than one hundred and twenty thousand people (+ cattle!) live in this great city.
. The people who live there are spiritually ignorant and God cares about people who are spiritually clueless.
Why do you think the book of Jonah ends with this unanswered question left hanging?
. The question leaves the ball in Jonah's court. Pagan sailors have come to fear God; pagan Ninevites have repented; but will Jonah come round to seeing God's way of things?
. God's question is probably meant not just for Jonah......but for the reader to ask him or herself. Will we be persuaded of the rightness of God's character and compassion for unlikely recipients of mercy? Are we concerned that people, even those who have wronged us, hear of God's mercy?
(I am reminded of the US army chaplain who was given the task of taking the Gospel to convicted Nazi war criminals, prior to their executions and following the Nuremburg trials.
At least one repented.)
If you would like to explore more........
There are striking similarities between the book of Jonah and the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. 11-32
Pick out the similarities.
What's the cliff-hanger at the end of both stories?
Thank God for His compassion, mercy and love.
Ask God to help you with the challenges of Jonah 4.
THE CLIFFHANGER QUESTION.........
Did Jonah come to share God's heart of compassion for pagan's? We'll never know.
So the real cliffhanger is ........Will we?!
There will be our usual Zoom session on Weds October 14 to discuss this study .......to which all are welcome.
The Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF.
Next week we complete our study with a session on "Jonah and Jesus".
How are the two related?Check out the study to find out.
Repent, relent, Rage 3.10.20
Jonah 3 v 1- 4 - v 4
There are three mini-sections in this passage; and it's worth noticing before we begin that they're closely linked to the first three sections of the book, which we have already looked at.
So, as we study 3 v 1 - 4 v 4, we'll compare each section with the section from earlier in the book to which it is linked.
1 v 1-3: God commissions Jonah: Jonah flees God. 3 v 1-3a: God commissions Jonah again: Jonah obeys.
1 v 4-17: Jonah talks to pagan sailors: Jonah is saved. 3 v 3b-10: Jonah talks to pagan Ninevites: Ninevates saved.
2 v 1-10: Jonah's grateful prayer about his salvation. 4 v 1-4: Jonah's angry prayer about Nineveh's salvation.
Read Jonah 3. 1-3a.
What is going on in 3 . 1-2?
These verses describe Jonah's re-commissioning. The phrase "a second time" reminds us
that there is always a second chance.
What is the difference between here and 1 v 2. Why the change?
The two are very similar ,but in chapter 3 Jonah is given no content for his message, the focus being on the need for him to simply obey God. Has Jonah learned to get on with doing what God says?
What is the difference between Jonah's response in 1 v 3 and 3 v 3a?
In 1 v 3 Jonah disobeyed the word of the Lord; in 3 v 3a he immediately obeys the word of the Lord. In 1 v 3 Jonah headed towards Tarshish, in the opposite direction to Nineveh; in 3 v 3a he finally goes where God wants him to.
To think about........
When God gives us a second chance it's a sign of His mercy, giving us another opportunity to be a part of His plans. Are there areas in your life where you feel that God is giving you a "second (or third or fourth!) chance?" Will you obey Him this time?
Are you the kind of person who gives others a second (or third or fourth!) chance?
Read Jonah 3 v 3b-10.
The summary of Jonah's preaching in verse 4 is short; only five words in Hebrew! However it is clear that judgement is coming within forty days. (it is worth noting here that the number forty in scripture signifies the time it takes by God to teach someone something.....as in the forty days and nights that Jesus was in the wilderness and the forty days that Noah and his family spent in the ark on the waters)
How did the Ninevites view Jonah's words in verse 5a?
They recognise Jonah as a true prophet,who is speaking not his own words ,but the word of the Lord.
How does the narrator summarise the Ninevites' response to Jonah's message at the beginning of verse ten?
God saw that the Ninevites had turned from their evil ways; he knew that their repentance was heartfelt and genuine.
What external signs do the Ninevites show that they have repented? (v 5-8)
. "A fast was proclaimed"
. All of them put on sackcloth (v 5)
. Everyone repents....even the king. (v 5-6 )and the beasts (v 7-8)
. It is a "complete fast"....from both food and water.
. The king makes the fast official. (v7-9)
. The fast is not just "religious" and a ritual, but is accompanied by a change in behaviour.(v 8 )
Note on fasting.......
This is a much neglected spiritual practice among Christians today, but it is a spiritual discipline which Jesus himself practised.( Matt 4 v2)and one he expected his followers to observe. (Matt 6 v 16-18; Mark 2 v 20).Fasting helps us not to be ruled and dominated by the demands of our bodies and reminds us that our deepest hunger should be for God.
Compare Nineveh's response to the word of the Lord with Jonah's response in 1 v 3. Whose response is better and why?
There is no contest! Nineveh's response is a lot better. Jonah does not respond in obedience, whereas everyone in Nineveh,from the king to the cattle repents fully and immediately.
The structure of the book of Jonah encourages us to compare his time in pagan Nineveh (3 v 3b-10 )with the earlier section about his sea voyage with the pagan sailors (1 v 4-16).
What are the similarities between these two sections? For what purpose has God used both Jonah's disobedience (in running away) and obedience (in going to Nineveh)?
The big similarity between chapter 1 and chapter 3 is that in both Jonah has been used by God to extend mercy to non-Israelite pagans.
God uses Jonah's disobedience to show mercy to the pagan sailors and he uses Jonah's (grudging) obedience to show mercy to the pagan Ninevites.
Read Jonah 4 v1-4.
How does Jonah respond to God's mercy on Nineveh?
. He is furious (4 v1).
. He's so upset that he says that he would rather die than live. (4 v3)
How does this compare to his response to God's mercy to him in chapter 2?
There's a striking contrast between Jonah's thanks for himself being saved and his fury that others are saved.
What does this show about Jonah's heart?
Jonah still does not share God's desire to show compassion. He wants God to be only the God of Israel and not the God of pagans.
.........Does Jonah not understand who God is, or does he not like who God is?
Jonah really does understand God's gracious and compassionate character, but he doesn't like this compassion when it is flowing to non-Israelites.
Read Exodus 34. 6-7 to discover why Jonah's sin is so serious. God's mercy to the Ninevites is an expression of His character. Jonah, in hating God's compassion, is hating God himself.......that's serious.
Jonah asks God to take away his life (v 3) . How might we expect God to respond?
In judgement. Jonah might find himself back at the bottom of the sea!
How does God respond? (v 4 )
He talks to Jonah and asks him a question.
How does this show us what God is like?
He is hugely patient! He's not only being compassionate to Nineveh, but also to his angry, unloving........and very rude prophet!
To think about.........
Are there areas where you, like Jonah, want God to be different? Remind yourself that God is God and he doesn't change. When we are out of step with God, we are the ones who need to change.
. For what this passage has shown you about who he is.
. For what this passage has shown you about what he's done for people.
. To help you to see where you need to repent and enable you to do so.....
. To help you to confront any other challenges this passage has posed to you.
THE CLIFFHANGER QUESTION.......
Will Jonah listen to God? Will God run out of patience with Jonah?
We will finish our reading of the book of Jonah next week......but not our study. The next session is entitled "Lesson Learned" and we will be reading Jonah 4. 5-11. As always there will be a Zoom session to discuss the passage on Weds October 7 at 10.30 to which everyone is welcome.....why not give it a try? The Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF.
Jonah's Fishy Faith 26.9.20
Read Jonah 1.17-2.1
1 v17 and 2 v10 bracket this section. What happens to Jonah in these two verses?
Jonah is rescued from Death by a fish. He's swallowed and then vomited out onto dry land.
Look at 1v17;4 v 6 and v 8. Which word is repeated and who does it ?
The word is "provided" and it is God who does it.
Now look at 1 v 4,v 7 and 2 v 10. What are all these verses teaching us about God?
in 1v 4 the Lord sends a great wind on the sea . In 1 v 7,God controls the casting of lots (see Proverbs 16 v 33). In 2 v 10, God commands the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry land. The Maker of the sea and land (1 v 9) is clearly in continuous, comprehensive control of His entire creation, down to the smallest detail.
What does Jonah's prayer in 2 v 1-9 teach us about the purpose to which God put his power in this situation?
2 v1-9 is Jonah's prayer of thanksgiving for God's mercy in rescuing him. Jonah knows that God's actions in 1 v17 and 2 v 10 ,bracketing this prayer, are done in order to have mercy on him . God uses His great power to have great mercy.
To think about .....
Is it sometimes difficult for you to give God the credit for situations in which He has helped or delivered you? What work in your life do you need to thank Him for today?
How does Jonah's prayer in 2 v 1-9 emphasise how desperate was his situation?
. He was "deep in the realm of the dead" (v 2). As good as dead.
. The waters were surrounding him (v 5).
. He was trapped and held fast by seaweed. (v 5)
. He sank as low as possible. (v 6)
What does Jonah know about why this happened to him?
. Jonah knows "you (God) hurled me" (v 3).....they were "your waves".
. He knows he was far from God (v 4)
. The sailors threw him in, but his near-drowning was God's purpose and God's judgement. (1 v 12,15)
What was Jonah's response?
He "called to the Lord" and "called for help" (v 2).He prayed for mercy from God who was judging him.
What was the turning point in Jonah's life-threatening plunge?
Verse 6b. Note the use of the word "but "at the beginning of the sentence....it signals a contrast with the previous thought. Jonah's direction (literally) changes here. He has been going down, down, down (v 3,6a) but now God hears Jonah and brings him "up' from the pit.
Remember where Jonah is as he says this prayer. What is strange about the plans he is making in v 4 and v 9?
Jonah is confident that he'll look at God's temple again while he's still drowning (v 4) and while he is lying inside the fish, deep underwater (v 9)
What does this tell us about Jonah's faith?
It is a remarkable picture of trust in God's, pre-deliverance. Jonah believes in God while he's drowning. His prayer of thanksgiving for deliverance is prayed to God from inside the fish, certainly not a place of safety, comfort, and total deliverance! He trusts and thanks God during his rescue, rather than only after it is completed.
..........At this point, what does Jonah rightly understand about God's salvation?
Jonah "gets" that God can and has saved him and that only God can do this; he possesses remarkable faith in God to save him from drowning in the sea.
Look at v 8-9. What does he still not understand?
In v 8, Jonah is looking down on pagans who don't know God: those who "cling to worthless idols". He doesn't realise that God's mercy extends to pagans. There's great irony here, because as Jonah is being narrow-minded, the pagan sailors he's just met,have given up their "gods" and are worshipping God for saving them from the storm (1 v16),which is exactly what Jonah himself is planning to do (v 9).God has been working not only to save Jonah ,but also to save pagans, but Jonah's so caught up in his own rescue that he doesn't think about this.
If you want to explore more.......
Read Ephesians 2. 1-10
Now compare what God did for Jonah with what He has done for Christians through Jesus. What are the similarities?
Look at Jonah's response to God's deliverance in v 9. What does this show us about how we should respond to God's deliverance in our lives?
We should acknowledge that salvation is all about what God has done (v 9),and we should trust in and thank God for rescuing us while he's doing it, not only after. He might use uncomfortable circumstances to bring us to eternity and we should praise Him during tough times, or while He's helping us, rather than when those times are over. That's hard!
. For the way He has encouraged you in the past.
. To help you to trust Him before He saves you from a difficulty ,not only after.
. To see that you are every bit as much in need of God's mercy as anyone else.
. To help you with any other specific challenges which have come up as you have studied this section.
The cliff-hanger question.......
The "wicked" people of Nineveh have been facing destruction since 1 v 2. Will Jonah now go and warn them? And what will they do to Him if he does?
Next week's study is entitled "Repent, Relent, Rage" and we shall be looking at Jonah 3 v 1-4 v 4. As always there will be a Zoom session on Wednesday Sep. 30 to discuss any issues or insights. Do join us! . The Zoom ID 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF. We look forward to seeing you ......we are a friendly bunch��
Judgement and Mercy 19.9.20
Jonah 1 v 4-16
To understand and imagine this passage properly, we should feel the violent rocking and swaying of the ship ,hear the fury of the crashing waves and the ship's timbers about to break apart ......and taste the salty seawater which is overwhelming the ship...........
Read Jonah 1.4-16
What happens on board the ship? How does God deal with Jonah's rebellion?
God sends a storm that causes the pagan sailors to learn from Jonah about the one true Lord, the God of Heaven, the Creator of the land and sea (1 v 9). The pagan sailors come to fear and worship this Lord ( v16).God deals with Jonah in judgement . He is thrown into the raging sea.
Jonah realises that the storm is from God and has been caused by his own rebellion (v 12). Jonah seems to think that he'll die in the sea if he is thrown overboard. The sailors don't want to do this (v 13),believing ,like Jonah, that he'll die if thrown into the waves, so they ask the Lord not to hold Jonah's death against them.(v 14). Jonah's suggestion works. ( v.15)
How does v 4-6 emphasise the ship's desperate situation ?
. There is a great wind upon the sea (v.4)
. The sea is so rough that the ship is threatening to break apart. (v.4)
. Even the experienced sailors are so afraid that each cries out to his own god.(v.5)
. The sailors try to lighten the ship by throwing cargo overboard.( v.5 )
. The ship's captain comes down to the hold to wake up Jonah ( v.6 )
What are we told about the religious views of the sailors ?
They are pagans who worship various gods ( v.5 ) Jonah boarded the ship at Joppa, a Philistine (pagan ) city.
How do you think Jonah feels about these sailors?
They're pagans and we've already seen that Jonah will go to great lengths to escape God's plan to show mercy on them ( 4 v 2-3 ). These are the kind of people Jonah despises ( 2 v 8);OK as travelling companions, but not as recipients of God's mercy.
In the light of this, what is surprising about the way they treat Jonah?
They are remarkably good to a man who despises them! They continue to try to row to the shore, putting their own lives at risk, even after Jonah tells them to throw him into the sea (v 13-14 ). And they're willing to listen to Jonah when he (rather grudgingly) tells them about Israel's God.
To think about .........
Jonah's behaviour looks even worse when we compare it with the actions of the pagan sailors. Sometimes our behaviour doesn't match up to the standards of those around us who are not Christians. Does this challenge you? Are there any areas of your life where this is happening? If so, what are you going to do about it ?
Fear is a significant theme in this passage; note each of the three times fear or terror is mentioned in verses 4-16.
. v 5: The sailors are afraid of the storm.
. v 10: The sailors are terrified of God.
. v 16: They "greatly feared the lord"
What progression do you see? And what does this tell us?
They move from being scared of the circumstances beyond their control ( the storm) ,to fearful of the God who sent the storm, to respecting and praising that God. Their fear is turning to worship.
By what names is God referred to in this section?
. v 9.Jonah refers to God as "the Lord". This is the Hebrew name "Yahweh “or "I AM", God's covenant name (Exodus 3.13-15)
. v 6. The captain thinks of the God Jonah worships simply as "your god”, one among many.
. v. 14. The sailors pray to God using the covenant name twice....and by v. 16 they're worshipping the Lord.
What is surprising about the way the pagan sailors come to know and fear the Lord?
God uses His unwilling ,rebellious prophet to bring these pagans to know and respect Him!. Jonah does for the Pagan sailors exactly what he's trying to avoid doing for the Ninevites. God can use anything to bring people to see who He is and to worship Him.
Think about where we leave the main characters, Where is :
. Jonah, God's prophet? Drowning in the sea having run from God.
. The pagan sailors? Safe on land instead of dying at sea.(It's likely that they would have been on land to make their sacrifice.) v 16)
. God? Right where we'd expect Him to be ruling over everything from His heavenly throne room ,controlling and using events.
Read Mark 2. 13-17 and Luke 15.1-2,11-32.
God is eager to reach the "unreachable ": Jonah is the opposite.
Think about how God's character is displayed in this section. What hope does it give us as we try to share our faith with those who don't know Jesus?
There's no one who God cannot reach with the truth about himself and no one He cannot use to do so.
Our attempts at talking about Christianity can often feel halting and inadequate. How does Jonah's answer in v 9 encourage us?
Jonah's answer isn't persuasive or detailed.....and his motivations are all wrong! However it tells the truth about God and God uses it.
Is there someone you're not talking to about Jesus because you just don't think they'll ever respond? Why not pray about it and look for an opportunity to talk about your Christian faith.
......ways in which this passage has challenged you and pray that God would change you to become more like Him.
The cliff-hanger question.....
Is there any hope for the drowning Jonah?
(You probably know the answer to this ,but at the time he and the sailors didn't!)
Next week's study is entitled "Jonah's Fishy Faith" and we will be looking at Jonah 1.17-2.10.The Zoom session to discuss the session will be on Weds Sep 23.Do please join this session which is open to everyone ,with the opportunity to discuss any thoughts raised by the study. The meeting ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF.
Running Away 12.9.20
This opening passage is meant to shock us! Jonah, God's prophet , refuses God's call ; and what's worse ,it's because he doesn't want his enemies to be forgiven. These three opening verses chart Jonah's disobedience and external fleeing as he tries to go in the direct opposition to God's call.....West to Tarshish instead of East to Nineveh.
What do we know about Jonah? (......actually very little)
Read 2 Kings 14.23-27
Jonah was a prophet the son of Amittai (see Jonah 1.1).He prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam II, of Israel (782-753 BC).and his prophecies about Israel's expansion were correct.
Why is it significant that Jonah's prophecy about Israel's expansion was fulfilled?
The test of a true prophet is that his words always come true (Deuteronomy 18.21-22) Jonah was a true prophet.
What would we expect Jonah to do if God gives him another command?
We would expect him to obediently proclaim that word, as the task of a true prophet is to speak forth the words that God commands him (Deuteronomy 18.18).
Read Jonah 1.1-2
What does God command Jonah to do?
Preach against Nineveh (1.2) This means that Jonah is to make known Nineveh's sins and proclaim God's coming judgement upon them (see 3 v4).The inhabitants of Nineveh have behaved sinfully and have offended God. In chapter 3 v 8,10 the "evil ways" are emphasised; it is the same Hebrew word translated "wickedness" in 1 v 2 of Nineveh with the urgent need for them to turn from their wickedness.
Let's look at the background........
Nineveh was an important city in the Assyrian Empire, an ancient superpower that had subdued Israel in the past and would eventually conquer Israel a few decades after Jonah's day. The Assyrian kings used various forms of grisly torture to subdue and frighten enemy nations and also required regular payments from conquered peoples. In 841BC,50 years before Jonah's time Assyria demanded payment from the king of Israel and in Jonah's day was its most feared enemy.
In the light of all this, how do you imagine Jonah might have felt about God's command to "preach against Nineveh" ?
. Jonah might well have been afraid for his life, venturing 500miles away from home and
into enemy territory.
. Jonah might be eager to "preach against" an enemy of his country....he had already correctly prophesied ill tidings for Syria (2 Kings 14.25). Perhaps he'd relish the opportunity to do the same for Nineveh.
To think about........
Who are the people or groups who we easily think of as enemies?
Are there any groups or types of people who might think the church sees them as enemies?
How do we react when God prompts us to do something quite inconvenient or difficult?
Do we tend to obey God joyfully; or follow him grudgingly; or simply ignore Him? What excuses do YOU make?
Read Jonah 1.3
How does Jonah respond to God's command?
Jonah sails to Tarshish in the Western Mediterranean.....in the opposite direction to Nineveh, which was 500 miles NE of Nineveh.
What do you think of Jonah's actions here?
We're obviously meant to be shocked! It's like the beginning of a symphony with a jarring, discordant ,disturbing burst of instrumental sound .We are on the edge of our seats right at the beginning of this story....aghast and appalled......Jonah refuses and runs?! It leaves us asking:" "What could possibly be leading God's prophet into such disobedience? How will God respond?
If you want to explore more........
Read Exodus 3.1- 4 v17; Isaiah 6 v1-13; Jeremiah 1 v 4-19.
How do these prophets respond to being called to do something hard?
The big question now is: What could possibly account for such wilful disobedience on the part of God's prophet?
Read Jonah 4. 1-2
Why does Jonah want to escape from his commission to "preach against "Nineveh? How does he understand the ultimate purpose of his task?
4 .1-2 shows that Jonah flees from God not from a fear of losing his own life, but from a fear of saving the lives of the pagan Ninevites! He is opposed to God's gracious and merciful character. He wants the Ninevites to be judged by God, not repent and be forgiven. If he doesn't go they'll not be warned and they'll definitely be judged! Assyria is Israel's enemy and Jonah clearly does not love his enemies. From the beginning of the book we see that God's prophet hates God's plan. Jonah was happy to prophesy God's blessing for Israel (2 Kings 14.25) ,but he can't stand the idea that God wants to forgive and bless Israel's enemies.
Are there any ways in your life in which you are currently resisting God's direction and living at cross-purposes with the Lord? Think about why you're not getting on with obeying him; what it would be like to live His way ,and what exactly you need to ask Him to help you with so that you can get on board (pun intended!) with His plans.
. That His word is so frank ,showing us what God's people are really like.
. That His plan is to bless all peoples, even those like Nineveh, who despise Him and His people.
. That He uses people to fulfil His purposes.
. To help you repent over the areas of your life in which you are currently resisting Him.
. For a heart like His that yearns for all peoples to know life with Him.
. To give you confidence that there is no one you know that His grace can't reach and change.
THE CLIFFHANGER QUESTION...
Will Jonah get away with defying God ?
The study next week is entitled "Judgement and Mercy" when we will be looking at Jonah 1.4-16. The follow-up Zoom session, to which everyone is invited ,is on Weds. Sep 16 at 10.30. The Zoom ID is 737 2295 965 and the password is 3NZjXF. Do join us!
The Depths of Grace 5.9.20
Introduction to the book of Jonah
We shall be using another of the "good book guides" in our studies, written by Stephen Witmer.
How about sitting down and reading this short book in its entirety.......there are only 4 chapters!
Why study Jonah?
This book is one of the most famous in the whole bible: but the message of Jonah is one of the most ignored. It is an odd book....we have a great fish (the bible doesn't say a whale), a rebellious, mean and nasty prophet, a "vine" which grows big enough to provide shade for Jonah in a day, a "worm" which rapidly eats the "vine" and "beasts" who are commanded to fast and repent. If you find all this pretty unbelievable (of course all things are possible with God) it might be easier for you to think of the book, as was once suggested to me as "a prophetic oracle in parable form".
Let's look at Jonah in the historical context in which it is set......
.785 - 760 BC (approx)
. Jonah son of Amittai
To whom written
. Israel....and all God's people everywhere.
. Jonah preceded Amos and ministered under Jeroboam II, Israel's most powerful king. (2 Kings 14. 23-25). Assyria was Israel's great enemy and Israel was conquered by them in 722 BC.
This is a story about one man, the prophet Jonah, and of his experiences of living among and speaking to pagans who knew next to nothing about the God he worshipped. Unlike the other prophetic books the focus is not on Jonah's words but on Jonah the man. It is a story of storms and sailors, rebellion and rescue, preaching and protest; a story full of cliff-hanger endings. It's the story of the most reluctant evangelist in the bible.
Falls easily into 2 parts....
. Jonah forsakes his mission (1.1 - 2. 10)
. Jonah fulfills his mission (3.1 - 4.11)
Chapter 1 is about the sailors and chapter 3 about the Ninevites.
Chapters 2 & 4 revolve around Jonah's prayers.
The narrative of the book is based around opposite reactions and humour and irony are used to critique character flaws. Everything is "upside down". Today we would call this style of writing "satire”.(Don't say that the bible doesn't have any humour.....)
The book's relevance for today......
Local churches increasingly find themselves existing in pagan cultures, where the truth about God is not much more than a distant memory. In the workplace, amongst friends ,and even within the family, many believers feel alone, isolated and ill-equipped to survive as Christians, let alone speak out about God.
This short book encourages us as we see the effect of Jonah's preaching on pagan sailors and city-dwellers, but at the end challenges us about how we view those who don't know God and about our own attitudes to evangelism.
Most of all though, this is a story about God himself. We meet the God of great grace towards "outsiders" and of great patience with the "insiders". We discover that God is the most committed evangelist of all. We meet the God who, as Jesus, lived as a man and who pointed to the experiences of Jonah to explain the gospel significance of his own death and resurrection.
These 6 studies hardly mention the "big fish" at all ! However they will help you open up the book of Jonah, discover more of the amazing character of God ,and to be encouraged to share the heart of the greatest evangelist......the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
We begin the first study next week reading Jonah 1. 1-3. which is entitled "Running Away". There will be a Zoom session on Wednesday Sep. 9 at 10.30 to share and discuss. The meeting ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password in 3NZjFX. As always everyone is very welcome, whether you are a member of All Saints or not. The session lasts around 40 mins, but you can come and go at any time.
No Bible study this week.......but we will be starting studies on the book of Jonah next week. Why not use this week to catch up on the studies in Ephesians which you may have missed........
There will be a zoom session as usual on Wednesday Sep 2 at 10.30 to chat about/discuss any issues raised in our studies on Ephesians. This session is open to everyone whether or not you are a member of All Saints ,Walton on the Naze. The Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF (many apologies as the password was wrongly printed last week).
The Introduction to Jonah will now begin on Sat Sep 12...............