Jonah | Day One
By: Taylor Flatt
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Welcome to our study of Jonah! Over the next two weeks together we are going to dive (quite literally) into this crazy, classic story and unpack all there is to learn from the four short chapters of this book.
But first, there are a few things you should know about the story of Jonah.
First, the story of Jonah isn’t really about Jonah. Just like every story in the Bible, the book of Jonah is actually a story about God; He’s the main character and that’s what makes it so important.
Second, Jonah’s story will show us some pretty specific character qualities of God. In fact, Jonah lays them out pretty clearly for us in the final chapter of the book. “You are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love...” (4:2) So that’s what this story is really about.
And guess what? Your story is all about that too. Your story is a lot like Jonah’s. (Well, not the giant fish part!) The main character of your story is God and the story of your life is about God’s graciousness, His mercy, and His faithful love towards you.
So as we begin reading through the book of Jonah today, start looking for places that you can see God’s graciousness, mercy, and steadfast love on display both in the story and in your own life.
You’ll see that God pursues Jonah with a relentless and faithful love throughout this story and I hope you’ll come to realize that God is pursuing you the very same way.
So let’s dive in together and find God in one of the craziest places to ever find God, the belly of a giant fish.
Read Jonah 1:1-3.
Okay, let’s set the stage and clear up a few things before we go on...
Who exactly is Jonah?
Read 2 Kings 14:25. You can push aside the beginning part of this verse about the border of Israel for now. The important part in our current study is about our friend Jonah. Who does it say that he is?
So Jonah was a prophet, a prophet from Gath-hepher to be exact, around the time that King Jeroboam II ruled Israel.
Let's head back to the book of Jonah.
What does God command Jonah to do? (1:1)
What does the passage tell us about Nineveh? (1:1)
So we know from the text that Nineveh was a city filled with evil, so much evil that God was ready to do something about it. The city of Nineveh was the capital of Assyria and the Assyrians were particularly known for their brutality, cruelty, and wickedness. Let’s just say it wasn’t a very welcoming place, particularly for someone coming to preach God’s wrath against them.
So what does Jonah do? (1:3)
Now for a short geography lesson (don’t be mad, I promise it’s easy). If you have a map in your Bible you can check it out. If not, I’ll give you the short version: Tarshish was the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. Jonah was running away.
Why do you think Jonah would do this?
Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction of God’s command.
It was complete rebellion.
And as is always the case with complete rebellion, it came at a high price. To run like this, Jonah would have had to leave everything he owned behind, buy an expensive ticket aboard a ship, and risk his life out on the sea. Jonah’s decision may have been rash but it certainly wasn’t casual or even easy. Jonah’s story is a perfect example of how disobedience is always more costly than obedience.
Put yourself in Jonah’s position. How do you think that you would respond?
You might not feel like Jonah because you aren’t running in the complete opposite direction of God’s commands, but that’s not the only way to live in disobedience and rebellion. Jonah would have been just as disobedient had he stayed right where he was in Jerusalem.
Had you or I been in the same position, maybe we wouldn’t have pulled a Jonah and run to the nearest ship to sail far away from God’s call on our lives, maybe we would have just stayed put. We might have told God, “I’ll go to Nineveh tomorrow, once I get some things worked out here.” It’s hard to imagine what we would have done in Jonah’s exact position.
But here’s the thing: just like the word of the Lord came to Jonah in the first sentence of this story, the word of the Lord has come to us too. In fact, we have the complete word of God, the Bible. And all of us have a choice about what we will do with it.
Will we get up and obey it immediately, will we stay where we are and put it off, or will we be like Jonah and run in the opposite direction? All of us fall into one of those categories. Take a moment to be honest with yourself and with God.
Read James 1:22-25.
What are you doing with His word? Are you just hearing it or are you doing it?
What are some ways in which you have been putting off obedience to God’s word? What has been the cost of disobedience for you?
Is God calling you to a particular step of obedience today?
Because of what I’ve learned in scripture today, I will ______________________________.