Today’s Scripture Focus: Jonah 4
Of all the minor prophets, Jonah is the one with which most people are familiar. Even people raised in the church couldn’t tell you much about Micah or Obadiah, but most non-churched folks are likely familiar with the “children’s church” version of “Jonah and the Whale”. Jonah is different than the rest of the prophetic literature. While the other books mostly focus on prophesies, Jonah focuses on the prophet himself. In fact, in the entire book Jonah only gives a single one-sentence prophesy— “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (3:4). The rest of the book is the story of Jonah and his reluctant obedience to God.
We know that Jonah was a prophet by profession. 2 Kings 14:25 refers to him as the “prophet from Gath Hepher” during Jeroboam II’s reign in Israel. It’s one thing to prophesy to your own people. However, God told Jonah to go preach in Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, Israel’s biggest threat. The Assyrians were known for being particularly brutal with their enemies, ensuring they died slow and painful deaths. It’s no wonder Jonah didn’t want to preach to them. He was so scared that he didn’t just refuse to go and stay home—he went in the opposite direction! He booked passage on a boat crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
Not only was Jonah scared for his own life; he was indifferent to the suffering of those around him. God sent a great storm, and while everyone on the boat was rowing and praying, Jonah was sleeping! It wasn’t until Jonah was reluctantly tossed overboard by the crew and swallowed by a fish that he turned to God. Jonah 2 is a prayer of repentance—Nineveh doesn’t sound so bad to Jonah compared to his current situation! God spared Jonah, had the fish spit him up on shore, and called him once again to go and preach. This time, Jonah obeyed immediately. He marched all the way into downtown Nineveh a preached his one sentence sermon.
It was short but effective. The entire city of Nineveh, including the king, fasted. Even the animals of Nineveh weren’t allowed to feed. God had a change of heart, and Nineveh was spared. Now, Jonah had camped out to the east of the city to watch it burn, and got angry with God for not sending down the fire! God sent a plant to shade Jonah which temporarily calmed him down, but when the plant died, Jonah got mad again—so mad he wanted to die. Three times in chapter 4 he had a death wish. Strangely, that’s how Jonah’s story ends. God, however, has the last word in Jonah. It is a word of compassion for a lost world. God is calling us to preach to a lost world today—will we obey?
Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
In the book of Jonah, God’s will was accomplished using a storm, a fish, a plant, a worm, and the wind. Do you think God uses nature to get our attention today? How?
Why was Jonah angry at God? Have you ever been angry at God? Describe your experience.
The world is a wicked and scary place today, yet God calls us to love even our enemies. As a class, pray for those in world who would do God’s people harm. Pray that God will get their attention, that they will repent, and that we might have “peace on earth; goodwill towards men” this Advent.