Background: Jonah 1
Key Verses: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Jonah 1:2-4 ESV
Imagine God asking you to warn someone that their behavior will lead to trouble. Instead of telling them, you choose to withhold the information. Later, you find out the person was seriously hurt. Immediately, what God told you to do comes back to your mind. You ask yourself, “Could they have avoided being hurt if I had warned them?” Now, what will you do?
The people of Nineveh were headed to destruction because of their wicked and unrepentant behavior. However, before God executed punishment, He wanted to give the people an opportunity to repent. To make them aware of what was coming, God called the prophet Jonah to go to them.
God wanted Jonah to “call out the evil” the people had done. Afterward, they would have an opportunity to repent, but instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah chose the opposite direction. Nineveh had been an enemy of the children of Israel, and Jonah was an Israelite.
Jonah ran from the presence of God and bought a ticket to the city of Tarshish. After Jonah boarded the boat, he went to the lower part of the ship to sleep. After he was asleep, God sent a great wind to upset the sea. It was so bad that it appeared that the boat would break in half. Others on the ship started calling to their gods and throwing things overboard to save them. All the while Jonah remained asleep. Finally, another shipmate woke Jonah and demanded that he call out to his god. They could not figure out why they were facing this life-threatening situation, but they knew it was something supernatural happening. So, they drew lots to determine who among them had caused this situation. The lot fell to Jonah. The other shipmates demanded to know who Jonah was and why the situation was happening. Jonah admitted that it was his fault. He shared that he was a Hebrew and followed the God of heaven who made the land and sea, but he had fled from the presence of God. They were afraid.
Jonah knew the sea would not calm until he was off the ship. He asked the men to throw him overboard. Initially, they refused. Instead, they tried to row hard to land to save themselves, but it was to no avail. Only one solution remained. They prayed and asked for forgiveness for spilling innocent blood. Then, they threw Jonah overboard. As soon as they did, the sea calmed. The others immediately worshipped God, made sacrifices, and gave a vow. As far as Jonah, God had a big fish waiting to swallow him up. When it swallowed Jonah, he remained inside three days and three nights.
- Have you ever received a warning about not doing something? Were you happy to get the warning?
- Have you ever been in a position where you could warn someone not to do something wrong? Did you tell them? Why or why not?
- When God asks us to warn people, does it matter how we feel? Why or why not?
- Because Jonah did not want to obey, he ran from God’s presence. Can we really run from God’s presence?
- When the lot fell to Jonah, he took immediate responsibility. Why is it important for us to take responsibility for our actions?
- The other shipmates were heathens (unbelievers), but they did not want to throw Jonah overboard. Why was their attitude important?
- The sea calmed as soon as they threw Jonah overboard. What were the heathens’ responses? Why was this important?
- Because Jonah was disobedient, God had a punishment waiting for Jonah. What was it?
- Why do you think God allowed Jonah to stay in the fish for three days and three nights?
- Sometimes, we need time to think about our attitudes and actions. Going forward, what will you do if you do not want to take an action you know you need to take? What steps will you take to help you act obediently?
What does the bible say about disobedience?
- If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV
- For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 ESV
- So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17 ESV
- God is omnipresent, meaning he is always everywhere. When you need Him, you can call on Him.
- Our disobedience can put others in dangerous situations. Consider how you will affect others before taking a disobedient action.
- God is not without grace and mercy. He understands how we feel. Instead of running, go to Him. He will strengthen you for the task.