Jonah Lesson 1

God Expects Us to Take Responsibility, Not Run from It

Icebreaker Question:  "Your mission, should you decide to accept it ...!  What is the TV source of that quote?  How does this statement relate to the mission of the church, and to every Christian today?

Q2:  Do you believe the account of Jonah is historical (literal), or figurative (as in a parable)?  Does the nature of this Jonah account make a difference in the way the church does, and should, fulfill its "Go into all the world" mission?

1. Background for the Jonah lessons:

a.  The Book of Jonah is in the Old Testament, and this book was one of the Minor Prophet writings.  Therefore, Jonah was considered to be a prophet.  (II Kings 14:25)  The autobiographical information revealed within this book clearly points to Jonah as being the author.  This, in itself, is a significant learning and discussion point.

(i)  It is refreshing indeed that someone can look introspectively at themselves and see their shortcomings and weaknesses, particularly as it pertains to the responsibility to "go into all the world and preach the gospel".  (Mark 16:15)

(ii)  Interestingly, Jonah (an Israelite) was chosen to share God's love to the Gentiles who lived in Nineveh, and were long-term enemies of the Israelites.

Q3:  Who has the responsibility to share the good news with the world?

(iii) Jonah was able to look at himself honestly as he later wrote the Book of Jonah.

Q4:  How does the ability to "see ourselves as others may see us", prepare us for God-honoring service?

b. Before we begin to dig deeper into the Jonah account, we can see that God asked Jonah (and may very well ask us) to go outside our comfort zone in serving Him.  The city of Nineveh was inhabited by Gentiles, and Israelites had nothing to do with Gentiles.  (Nineveh was located where the city of Mosul, in northern Iraq, is located today.)  Jonah's assignment required him to take the message of salvation to a heathen city, whom he considered unworthy of God's forgiveness.  The Lord may convict some of you to do the same thing. 

Q5.  Jonah was clearly reluctant to do what God had asked of him, and ran from the assignment.  Discuss whether his reluctance was based on prejudice, fear, or something else.  How do such emotions affect our God-honoring service today?

c.  The Jonah account raises a significant theological question that was debated among Jesus' apostles; that is, the need for sharing the good news to Gentiles, as well as Jews.  We can clearly get a glimpse of the mind of God in this account.  

2.  God's calling of various servants and leaders in the Bible:

a.  Some are reluctant to respond to God's will.

(i)   Consider Moses, who offered excuses to God when asked to lead the Israelites out of bondage.  (Exodus 3:11-4:17)

(ii)  Consider Gideon, when called to lead an attack on the Middianites, he argued with God's angel, explaining why he couldn't do what was asked.  (Judges 6:14-21)

(iii) Then there's Saul, who hid when Samuel came to anoint him as king.  (I Samuel 10:21, 22)

(iv) Or consider Jeremiah, when called by God to be a prophet, he debated with God.  (Jer. 1:4-8)

 b.  Some respond with great zeal or humility.

(i)   Recall the humility of Mary when the angel approached her as a teenage girl about becoming the mother of God's Son.  (Luke 1:38, 46-55)

(ii)  How about David, who volunteered to face the giant, Goliath, as a lad of about 15 or 16.  (I Samuel 17:32-37)

(iii) Note the role of the King of Nineveh in leading his people to respond to Jonah's message.  (Jonah 3:7-9)

c.  Some, like Jonah, try to ignore God's call.

(i)   Jonah didn't debate, argue, or hide.  Rather than going where God was leading him, he ran in the opposite direction.

(ii)  Jonah didn't object to the call of God because of his abilities or inabilities.  He incorrectly judged the wisdom of God's intent to witness to the Ninevites, whom Jonah saw as unworthy of God's grace.

3.  The Lord uses unlikely people to accomplish His will.

Q6.  Do we have the right to decide who should, or should not, be given the opportunity to respond to the gospel message?  Discuss.

4.  Significant Bible truths we see in Jonah:

a.  When God calls us, we should "trust and obey", not make excuses or run away.

b.  God is interested in all nations and all people.

c.  Hard-hearted people still hear the call of the gospel.

d.  Jonah's experience was a sign of the coming Messiah.

e.  Joppa, where Jonah fled, was the very place Peter was told to go and minister to other nations.  (Acts 10:5)

f.  Jesus quoted Jonah, as a sign of His own resurrection.  (Matt. 12:40)

g.  Jonah is the only Old Testament prophecy, that is mentioned by Jesus, as a sign of His rising on the third day.  (Matt.  16:4)

5.  The mission given to Jonah is similar to the mission given to the church today.

Q7.  Assess whether the church is running from, or fulfilling its Godly mission.

Q8.  Is there a drift away from (a) traditional Judeo-Christian values; (b) an emphasis on family values; (c) maintaining a God-focused perspective; (d) Christian child raising techniques; and (e) Christian responsibilities, etc.?

Q9.  Is drifting away from God the same as running from Him, as Jonah did?





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