A Study of Jonah: The Uncomfortable Love of God
In the summer 2020 message series “For the Love,” the Clear Creek Community Church Teaching Team will examine one of the least known sections of the Bible, the books known as the Minor Prophets, to better understand the great love of God and our faithful response to that love. Join with us in reading each book along the way! Each Sunday afternoon we will post an introductory video by The Bible Project and a 5-day reading plan with reflection questions to prepare you to hear the following Sunday’s message.
DAY 1—Read Jonah 1:1-6
The book of Jonah begins almost identically to many of the other prophetic books—Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah—but what follows is a stark contrast. What does the Lord call Jonah to do? What does Jonah do in response?
APPLY—Think of a time when you responded to God’s commands like Jonah, taking off in the opposite direction of the way that he called you to go. What did it take to bring you back to the path of obedience? What lessons did you learn through this experience about the benefits of following God? What did you learn about God’s love for you?
Jonah isn’t the only person in the Bible to fall asleep on a stormy sea. Read Luke 8:22-25. How do both stories demonstrate God’s sovereignty over not only the weather, but over all our lives?
DAY 2—Read Jonah 1:7-17
In Jonah’s day, many cultures used the casting of lots to discern the leading of their gods, including the people of Israel (see Joshua 7). When this method demonstrated Jonah’s guilt, what does Jonah ask the sailors to do? What does this reveal about Jonah’s state of mind? What does the sailors’ initial refusal to follow his suggestion tell us about their character?
When the story begins, the original Israelite audience would have expected to identify with Jonah, the man of God from their own culture. However, as the story has progressed, the pagan soldiers have shown more faith and obedience than the prophet himself. Compare verses 9 and 16. Who is truly fearing the Lord in this story? By what actions is this reverence demonstrated?
APPLY—The Israelites of Jonah’s day had taken the distinction of being God’s people and construed from that a mindset of superiority to the surrounding nations. Jonah’s story would have turned their worldview upside down as they saw his righteousness be surpassed by the pagan sailors. To what people or groups are you sometimes tempted to see yourself as superior: other races or nationalities, those with a different religion or socio-economic status, people who have made bad choices or are less gifted? Why is it difficult for us to even admit these feelings? How are these inclinations dangerous to our relationships with God and others?
DAY 3—Read Jonah 2
Many interpreters use the fish swallowing Jonah as a reason to disregard this book or to assume that it is merely a parable, finding it too fantastic to be believed. Do miraculous stories from Scripture tend to strengthen your faith or challenge it? How can we work through difficult texts like this in a way that leads to encouragement and growth?
After three days within the sea creature, Jonah turns to God in repentance and gratitude. Why do you think it took him so long to pray? How do his words demonstrate both a renewed faith and a greater desire for obedience?
APPLY—Amazingly, Jonah praises God with this beautiful hymn in celebration of God’s goodness while he is still in the belly of the fish. Can you remember a time when God gave you the grace to trust him in the midst of your pain and difficulty? How can our suffering lead us into a new awareness of his goodness and intimacy in his presence?
DAY 4—Read Jonah 3
Compare Jonah 3:1-3 with 1:1-3. How are these passages similar? What is different? What do you think is behind the change in Jonah’s response?
Jonah travels to Ninevah and preaches the Lord’s message of coming judgment. How do the people of Ninevah respond? Think back over our study of the Minor Prophets. How does Jonah’s message compare to the themes we’ve seen throughout these books? How does the people’s response compare to the response of the people of Israel when the prophets preached against their corruption and idolatry?
APPLY—When the king of Ninevah hears the word of the Lord, he responds with repentance and leads his people to do so as well. What specific commands does he give? In what ways is the king’s decree a model for our own repentance? What aspects of repentance do you tend to neglect: mourning, prayer, turning away from disobedience, etc.?
DAY 5—Read Jonah 4
In today’s passage, we finally hear why Jonah was initially resistant to God’s message. What did Jonah believe about God’s character (v. 2)? Read Exodus 34:5-7. Did Jonah have a good understanding of who God is?
Though Jonah responds to God’s forgiveness of the Ninevites with unseemly anger, God patiently teaches him a lesson using unexpected tools: a plant, a worm, and a wind. What is Jonah’s emotional response to this lesson? Emotions are powerful heart indicators. What makes you mad or sad or glad? What does that demonstrate about your values, priorities, and affections?
APPLY—The book of Jonah ends ambiguously with a question. Though seemingly directed at Jonah himself, the open-ended structure puts this question into the hands of the reader. As we’ve seen throughout, the book’s original audience would have been dismayed to see the Israelite prophet repeatedly demonstrate a lack of faith, while the pagans around him respond to God with repentance, humility, and trust. Like Jonah, do you have a hardness in your heart toward those in need of God’s mercy? To whom are you hesitant to reach out? What would it look like for your heart to reflect the grace and compassion that overflows from the heart of God?
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