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Sunday School Lesson

May 28

Pervasive Love

 

Devotional Reading: Psalm 86:8-13

Background Scripture: Jonah 4

 

Jonah 4

1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

2 And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

3 Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

 

4 Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?

5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.

6 And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

10 Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

 

Key Verse

Should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?—

 

Jonah 4:11

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Summarize Jonah’s reactions to God’s sparing of Nineveh.

2. Explain why Jonah was not pleased at the success of his preaching.

3. Participate in a class project that reaches to a group having racial or cultural differences.

 

Introduction

 

A. The Fighting Deacon

He said that in his younger days he was known as “the fighting deacon.” This reputation was acquired by the fact that on two occasions in meetings of the church board he had “slugged” (his word) someone who disagreed with him. He no longer had such a violent temper, but he was almost proud of what he had done.

But anger can be a very toxic emotion. Mark Twain wrote that “anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Some have rationalized their outbursts of anger by saying that they lose their tempers quickly and then calm down almost immediately. Billy Sunday, a famous preacher of the past, once encountered a lady who said, “I blow up, and then it’s all over.” Sunday replied, “So does a shotgun, and look at the damage it leaves behind.”

The Bible has much to say about anger (Proverbs 29:22Ephesians 4:31Colossians 3:8James 1:19, 20; etc.). The words anger or angry occur several times in Jonah 4, the text for our lesson. Jonah had a problem with anger. As the Lord worked through him to bring the people of Nineveh to repentance, God also worked with Jonah to help him overcome this problem. Anger is not sinful in and of itself (note Jesus’ anger in Mark 3:5). But irrational anger needs corrective action, and that’s what God provides Jonah in today’s lesson.

 

B. Lesson Background

Since the background material noted in the three previous lessons applies here as well, that information need not be repeated. Much of that material is very weighty, so we shall close this series with some “lighter side” distinctive facts that help to make the book of Jonah memorable.

1. Jonah is the only prophet recorded to have traveled on the Mediterranean Sea.

2. Jonah is the only prophet recorded to have outright refused to undertake a mission from God. Other prophets revealed doubt from time to time (example: 1 Kings 19:314), but Jonah stands alone in his flagrant rebellion.

3. When Nicodemus attempted to defend Jesus during a discussion, he was rebuked with the observation that “out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (John 7:52). This overlooked the fact that Jonah was from Gathhepher (2 Kings 14:25), which was less than three miles northwest of Nazareth.

4. The book of Jonah, being primarily a narrative about the man, records just one predictive prophecy—a prophecy of only five words in Hebrew (Jonah 3:4, last week’s lesson).

5. The book of Jonah is the only prophetic book with miracles by God that involved the prophet personally—from the storm and the fish to the worm and the wind.

The traditional view of authorship for the book of Jonah is that Jonah himself wrote it. As he came to the end of it, he must have been greatly embarrassed about the prejudice and anger he had displayed so blatantly. Our lesson begins just after the point where God saw the repentance of the Ninevites and decided not to destroy the city (Jonah 3:10, last week’s lesson).

 

I. Jonah’s Pettiness

                                                                 (Jonah 4:1-4)

 

A. Reaction and Reminder (vv. 1, 2)

1. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

The compassionate decision of God in Jonah 3:10 is not what the prophet wants to hear! He is very angry that his preaching results in the city’s being spared God’s destructive wrath. This is not the way a preacher would normally react when his message brings repentance by the thousands! The Lesson Background of lesson 11 explains the possible basis of Jonah’s anger.

As a bit of speculation, Jonah may wonder whether God will treat the people of his own nation likewise, should they repent when under threat of similar judgment. Historically, however, the people of Israel do not repent, in spite of the preaching of prophets (see 2 Kings 17:13, 1423). The sparing of Nineveh will not be repeated for Samaria a few decades later. But neither will it be repeated for Nineveh itself, as the prophet Nahum and historical records make clear.

We may also wonder exactly when Jonah is informed of God’s decision to spare Nineveh. Is it before the 40-day period of Jonah 3:4 is up, thereby implying that Jonah is displeased ... exceedingly for the remainder of that period? Or do it and the other events of Jonah 4 happen at the end of the 40-day period? Scholars disagree, but the last phrase of Jonah 4:5 may indicate that the 40 days are not yet completed.

 

2. And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

Jonah turns his anger into prayer, but his motivation is not to become compliant with what God has done. Instead, he seems to be trying to make God feel guilty for sending him on the mission trip to Nineveh.

 

How to Say It

Assyria Uh-sear-ee-uh.

Assyrian Uh-sear-e-un.

Galilee Gal-uh-lee.

Gathhepher Gath-hee-fer.

Jonah Jo-nuh.

Mediterranean Med-uh-tuh-ray-nee-un.

Nazareth Naz-uh-reth.

Nicodemus Nick-uh-dee-mus.

Nineveh Nin-uh-vuh.

Ninevites Nin-uh-vites.

Tarshish Tar-shish.

 

Jonah’s prayer includes an eloquent description of the great attributes of God. In that regard, the prayer mirrors Exodus 34:6 as Jonah affirms that God is gracious ... and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness. These were Jonah’s conclusions before he fled before unto Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). Able to list God’s outstanding characteristics, Jonah wants to be the one to decide to whom they will and will not apply. He had wanted to be saved when he was in the fish (Jonah 2:2), but he does not want the Ninevites to be saved from the doom prophesied for them. He wants God to do things Jonah’s way, not God’s way. (Regarding God’s repentance, see commentary on Jonah 3:9 in lesson 12.)

 

A certain parallel can be seen in churches where people enjoy Christianity’s benefits but are unwilling to support missionaries adequately. The sad result is to deny people in other lands and cultures the blessing of everlasting life through Jesus. After realizing how much the Lord has forgiven us, we should want others to know that there is a God who is willing to forgive them as well.

 

What Do You Think?

How can we avoid feeling resentful when God extends His mercy to others?

 

Points for Your Discussion

When extended to backslidden Christians

When extended to those who have heard and rejected the gospel

When extended to those who have never heard the gospel

 

B. Request and Question (vv. 3, 4)

3. Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

Jonah’s frustration with the flow of events overwhelms him—so much so that he expresses his preference for death over life. This contrasts with his attitude when he was inside the fish, for there he wanted to live and see God’s temple again (Jonah 2:24lesson 11).

Jonah has been spared from death himself, but now he is despondent and disappointed that the people of Nineveh have been spared from prophesied destruction. His inconsistent reasoning serves as a marvelous set-up for the memorable lesson God is about to teach him.

 

4. Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?

As with Job, the Lord responds with a question (compare Job 38:2). The fact that God’s interrogation begins with the issue of anger implies that an adjustment is necessary in that regard, as Jonah is led to look at himself in a mirror. There are indeed legitimate reasons for being angry. Do any of these form the basis for Jonah’s own anger?

We note that the Lord does not ask His question because He needs information—the Lord already knows everything. The question is designed to get Jonah to think. The fact that we see no response from him may indicate that he is compelled to do just that. On the other hand, a lack of response may indicate that Jonah is so aggravated that he cannot process the question.

 

What Do You Think?

What are some steps to take for moving from anger to mercy?

 

Points for Your Discussion

Considering how God himself does so

Considering how God has treated us

Considering our motives

Other

 

II. Jonah’s Protection

                                                                   (Jonah 4:5-8)

 

A. Hut and Plant (vv. 5, 6)

5. So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.

The previous verses reveal the emotional responses of Jonah. In this verse, physical actions take the spotlight.

If circumstances work against a person’s desires in some way, he or she may not take it well! Physically, these reactions may cover the spectrum from becoming very active (from fear, as in 1 Kings 19:3; from anger, as in Acts 7:57, 58; etc.) to becoming completely inactive (1 Kings 19:4, 521:4). Jonah ends up in the latter as he seems to adopt an attitude of denial. Surely God did not mean it when He said He wouldn’t destroy Nineveh, did He? So Jonah takes the actions described here, a disposition we might call “watchful waiting.”

Jonah’s initial approach toward Nineveh would have been from the west. After crossing the Tigris River, he entered Nineveh to preach as he continued in an easterly direction. Today, some of the gates of ancient Nineveh have been restored in order to reflect the glory of the city’s past. Archaeology and terrain suggest that Jonah likely makes his exit through a gate at the southeastern part of a wall after he finishes his preaching tour on the east side of the city.

After he is out of the city, he probably finds a mound or high point that gives him a better view. There he builds a crude hut for shade where he can wait to see what will happen to the city. His food and water sources are not given. This waiting reflects disbelief of the Lord’s decision.

This sequence may confirm that the 40-day period (Jonah 3:4) is not over, for Jonah does not want to be in the city when time is up—just in case. Most people who want to pout seem to prefer solitude.

 

Ready and Acting

Benjamin Disraeli served Britain as prime minister from 1874-1880. He experienced many setbacks and once said, “I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.” The saying has been adapted to read “I am expecting the worst, but hoping for the best.” There seems to be no adaptation, however, for the saying to be “I am ready for the worst, but acting to bring about the best.”

What Jonah saw as the worst case—the repentance of the Ninevites—was actually the best case from God’s point of view. One would think that Jonah would have felt successful when his preaching brought about repentance. But his sinful attitudes blinded him to God’s desired end.

What is our own outlook regarding what we consider to be a worst-case scenario to be ready for and a best-case scenario to act to bring about? Jesus’ resurrection proved that God can take the worst the powers of this world can dish out and turn it into the best outcome possible. And Jesus described His forthcoming resurrection in terms of—of all things!—Jonah’s time inside the fish (Matthew 12:38-41).—C. R. B.

 

6. And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

Five events or special objects are mentioned in the book of Jonah as being prepared by God: a wind (Jonah 1:4), a fish (1:17), a gourd (4:6), a worm (4:7), and an east wind (4:8). We are now at the third of these five as the Lord God temporarily supplements Jonah’s protection from the sun by means of a rapidly growing gourd. One possibility is that this is a castor-oil plant. It grows rapidly to a height of about eight feet, and it has very large leaves (see also v. 10, below).

 

What Do You Think?

What can we do to improve our helping skills in preparing to be God’s instrument of comfort to others?

 

Points for Your Discussion

For counseling adults

For counseling teenagers

For counseling preteens

 

The double layer of shade (shadow) for Jonah is better. He is exceeding glad of this additional blessing, which appears so suddenly and adds to his comfort. Jonah is certainly concerned for himself! But love for perceived enemies is still lacking. The teaching about loving your enemies is given by Jesus in Matthew 5:44; but Jonah has no excuse, even though he lives over 700 years before Jesus. By Jonah’s day, the enemy-love principle has already been stated in Exodus 23:4, 5 and Proverbs 25:21.

 

 

B. Worm and Wind (vv. 7, 8)

7. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

“Jonah and the Worm” is the title of one preacher’s sermon on Jonah. This title is intended to pique curiosity, since sermons on Jonah are usually about “Jonah and the Whale.” The latter is based on Matthew 12:40, which refers to “the whale’s belly.”

God used a great sea creature to correct Jonah’s attitude about a trip to Nineveh. Now He uses a small worm to teach His prophet a further lesson. First, the worm does what God programmed it to do: it begins eating the stalk of the gourd. The interpretation of “gourd” to refer to a castor oil plant fits well, since this plant withers very quickly if the main stalk is injured.

 

8. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

With the plant now useless for shade, God increases Jonah’s discomfort further by means of a vehement east wind (compare Jeremiah 18:17). As the sun rises, all this works together to cause Jonah to become light-headed and dizzy. He temporarily forgets his anger, but remains self-centered as he expresses his wish to die. He is physically and spiritually miserable while far from home, in the foreign land of an enemy. Exhaustion from a preaching tour he had not desired is now multiplied by the possibility of heat stroke.

God has to this point used a storm and a great fish to encourage Jonah to go to Nineveh. Now God uses a worm and an east wind to move Jonah to where he should be in his attitudes toward those who are different.

 

What Do You Think?

What can we do to prepare for times that will be difficult to endure?

 

Points for Your Discussion

Regarding emotional preparations

Regarding spiritual preparations

Regarding physical preparations

Other

 

III. God’s Pronouncements

                                                                   (Jonah 4:9-11)

 

A. Question and Response (v. 9)

9a. And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?

God is not finished with his efforts to correct Jonah’s thinking. Jonah is being challenged to think correctly about the mind-set a true prophet should have. The first six words of God’s question here are identical to the six words of His initial question in Jonah 4:4. The added words for the gourd here indicate God is probing deeper as He requires Jonah to think about something specific, something that is not associated with the city of Nineveh.

 

9b. And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

Jonah’s answer is petty, defensive, and almost defiant. He attempts to bolster his position by asserting once again his preference for death.

Jonah’s peevishness indicates confidence that he has done nothing wrong. Further, he cannot comprehend why he has to suffer the loss of the gourd. Emotional people who learn to control their emotions can do well in telling others about the love of God. Jonah has not yet reached that point; he lacks any compassion for the Ninevites.

 

Flying Off the Handle

In America’s pioneer days, axheads were made in the industrialized East, then shipped to the frontier West for fitting with handles. The handles were often fashioned by unskilled handymen, yielding the deadly possibility that an axhead could fly off an ill-fitting handle when in use (compare Deuteronomy 19:5).

The suddenness of such an event became a metaphor for an outburst of anger: flying off the handle. Possibly the first such use of this figure of speech in print was in a satirical story by Thomas Haliburton in 1844. Haliburton was a Canadian who mocked human nature in general and American-Canadian relations in particular in essays in The Nova Scotian.

But the idea goes back much further than the year AD 1844! God’s directive for Jonah to preach in Nineveh seemed to strike a deep vein of resentment in that prophet; thus we see him “flying off the handle” at God. Do you deal with your anger any better than did Jonah? See James 1:1920.—C. R. B.

 

B. Rebuke and Reason (vv. 10, 11)

10. Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night.

God’s second question (v. 9a) is designed to soften Jonah’s attitude. But Job’s response (v. 9b) indicates further work is needed. God’s observations of fact challenge Jonah’s thinking by reminding the prophet that he had no ownership of the gourd, for he had neither planted nor tended it. These facts should compel the prophet to realize how absurd and small his defensive statements really are. But God has a bit more yet to say.

 

11. And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

The Lord’s final question demands that Jonah contrast his thoughts about the gourd with God’s thoughts regarding Nineveh. Jonah should feel embarrassed, for it is obvious that the population of a large city is more important than a single, solitary plant! Jonah’s self-centeredness is now so obvious that even he should see it.

The size and greatness of Nineveh is indicated by the number sixscore thousand, which is 120,000. There are two main lines of interpretation regarding this number. Some propose that it is the total population of the city. A city of this acreage (see commentary on Jonah 3:3 in lesson 12) can accommodate twice that number easily. Under this view, the declaration that they cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand has a spiritual dimension—that spiritually the Ninevites are somehow deficient in being able to distinguish good from evil. This viewpoint runs into trouble at Romans 1:20.

The other view is that the 120,000 refers to the number of children in Nineveh who are not yet old enough to tell right from left. That would boost the total population significantly when estimates of the number of older children and adults are added in. The grand total may be too much according to our analysis of Jonah 3:3, unless the villages in the immediate vicinity are included.

The reference to much cattle is a reminder that God is concerned for animals as well as people. The word translated cattle refers to livestock in general, given the word’s frequent translation “beast” elsewhere (Exodus 13:1522:19; etc.).

 

What Do You Think?

What Christian ministries can your church offer to those of the nearest “great city”?

 

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Considering demographic factors

In terms of priorities

In terms of defining ministry

Other

 

Conclusion

 

A. Running Ahead of God

In general, there are two mistakes we can make in our relationship with God. First, we can lag behind Him, failing to move as fast as He wants us to (example: Haggai 1:1-8). The other mistake is to run ahead of Him. This may involve making plans that are not His (example: 2 Samuel 7:1-13) or anticipating what we think He “must” do, as in today’s lesson.

It is so easy to run ahead of God and presume that He must do such and such! That presumption resulted in anger and pouting on Jonah’s part, and it can do the same to us.

Don’t run ahead of God!

 

B. Prayer

O God, may Your Word ever remind us of Your love for humanity! Enable us to do all we can to take the gospel to all, without bias or prejudice. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

When God loves, He loves the world!

 

 

Kid’s Corner

Repeated Refusals to Repent

May 28, 2017

Jonah 4:1-11

 

Jonah 4:1-11

(Jonah 4:1) But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.

Jonah believed that the Ninevites deserved punishment for their sins, the extreme punishment of destruction; the destruction of their city and military power that threatened Israel. He became angry because it appeared that when God forgave them that they would not suffer any punishment at all. He judged God; he said God was wrong not to destroy the city, and he became angry at God for what he considered injustice. He prayed and hoped that God would at least punish the people in some way, so he thought he would watch the city and hope for the worst punishment possible.

 

(Jonah 4:2) He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

Jonah blamed his anger on God and even blamed God for his rebellion against God that led to his fleeing to Tarshish. He wanted the enemies of Israel destroyed for their sins and their threat to his nation. Of course, the Kingdom of Israel would not be punished or destroyed if they listened to God’s prophets and repented as the Ninevites did. He described God accurately, but he wanted no part in God relenting from sending calamity on Nineveh. Jonah totally ignored the fact that because of God’s values, God saved him despite his rebellion against God and all the sailors despite their idolatry from calamity and death on the Mediterranean Sea. Surely selfish Jonah was happy when God relented and did not cast him off forever in the sea, but that happiness soon changed to anger at God and the desire to die.

 

(Jonah 4:3) “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.”

Jonah became so angry that he became totally unreasonable. He attacked God for being gracious and compassionate, patient and abounding in love, and he wanted to totally and finally sever his relationship with God by wanting God to end his life. Of course, dying would not separate him from God, because even in death he could not flee from God. He would rather die than watch God show compassion and save his enemies. By the grace of God, God did not answer his prayer, but continued His redeeming discipline of Jonah.

 

(Jonah 4:4) The LORD said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

God asks this question of all of us when we become angry. Jonah thought it was right for him to be angry with God, because he knew that God would not destroy his enemies if the Ninevites repented after he warned them of coming destruction. He did not want them warned; he did not want them to repent; he did not want God to forgive them. Furthermore, he was angry because he could not do anything to prevent God from saving them and giving them another opportunity to live – even though God gave him many opportunities to repent and return to obedience despite his attitude.

 

(Jonah 4:5) Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city.

In his anger and after his answer to God, Jonah hoped that God would reconsider and at least bring some type of punishment on Nineveh. We are not told, but we can imagine Jonah sitting in the shade of his shelter and angrily and urgently praying to God to punish and not forgive the Ninevites – even thinking of different ways God could punish them effectively.

 

(Jonah 4:6) So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.

After receiving an unsatisfactory answer or no answer at all from Jonah, because God is gracious and compassionate, once again God disciplined Jonah and began by showing him great undeserved kindness. God caused a plant to grow to shade and comfort Jonah as he watched to see what God would do. Jonah became happy about the plant, but God’s grace did not lead him to repent for his angry accusations against God and his hateful attitude toward the people of Nineveh. Jonah should have thanked God for His grace in giving him the shade, but he still refused to be on speaking terms with God.

 

(Jonah 4:7) But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered.

If Jonah had repented and had begun to see and accept God’s gracious concern for him and the Ninevites, God would not have needed to take another step of redeeming discipline. Overnight, God caused a worm to kill the plant so that it withered and could no longer bless Jonah.

 

(Jonah 4:8) When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”

In spite of the fact that God had shown Jonah redeeming grace, Jonah still refused to admit that God was right and he was wrong in his hateful attitude toward others. Therefore, God provided a scorching hot wind and blazing sun to discipline Jonah with increasing punishment and suffering. Rather than repent and turn from his evil thoughts, Jonah wanted to die and be done with God completely – such was Jonah’s bondage to his sin and such was Jonah’s irrational prayer when he spoke to God once again.

 

(Jonah 4:9) Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.”

To help Jonah understand what he needed to do, God spoke to Jonah again rather than do to him what Jonah wanted God to do to the Ninevites as well as to himself: kill them. God asked Jonah a question about right and wrong so Jonah would use his reason to arrive at the correct answer. God asked a reasonable question and Jonah gave an unreasonable answer. Jonah continued to selfishly focus on himself and the plant that made him happy. He had no concern for anyone but himself and whatever made him happy. Therefore, he told God that if God would not make him happy and do what he wanted that he wanted to die – be eternally separated from God. Such was the extent of Jonah’s foolish thinking!

 

(Jonah 4:10) Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight.

Jonah had nothing to do with the plant but enjoy God’s free gift to him of comfort, shade, and the happiness it brought him. God had given it to him and God had taken it away, and Jonah refused to say as Job did, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). His only concern for the plant was the benefit he derived from it: when the benefit was taken away, he became angry with God. Jonah was self-centered, not God-centered.

 

(Jonah 4:11) “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

God loved His creation. God said His creation was good (see Genesis 1). Even after Adam and Eve fell into sin God continued to love His creation, and He began the process of redeeming discipline – leading to His sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world that the world might be saved (John 3:16). God is not self-centered, God is God-centered; therefore, God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love: God is love. Jonah spoke with God; Jonah knew about God’s character and obeying God, but Jonah did not truly know God. The Apostle John wrote: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ... And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:8 & 16). Unlike Jonah, God loved and expressed His concern for the Ninevites, Jonah’s distant neighbors, and by sending Jonah to help them God planned to help all of them, including Jonah. Whether Jonah wanted to go or not, God would make sure that he went. All the Ninevites repented, and the people cared enough for their animals to have them fast too, perhaps in order to save them. The Ninevites were morally superior to Jonah in their repentance, and God chose to show His concern for all the people and animals alike. God also had compassion because the Ninevites did not know the law of God as Jonah certainly did. They did not know right from wrong, their right hand from their left hand, because morally speaking they were like little uneducated children. They did know enough to listen to Jonah’s preaching, to believe God, to pray, and to hope that God would have compassion, relent, and save them from destruction. The Book of Jonah tells us what God did with the Ninevites to save them, but the book does not tell us how God continued to discipline Jonah until he repented. God will fulfill all His plans and purposes, and God is gracious, compassionate, patient, and abounding in love.

 

 

Repeated Refusals to Repent

May 28, 2017

Jonah 4:1-11

 

“And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left— and also many animals?”

 

(Jonah 4:11). Because God had forgiven and saved the Ninevites after they had believed God and repented of their evil and violent ways, three times Jonah told God that he was so angry with God that he wanted to die. Bondage to sin leads to unreasonable thinking, strange behavior, and irrational prayers. Jonah accused God of wrongdoing because God did not do what he wanted God to do. He became so angry with God that he unreasonably wanted to be eternally separated from God through death. He even told God that he had fled from God to Tarshish because he knew God was gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love. He told God that he wanted to prevent God from forgiving the Ninevites. He wanted God to send calamity upon them. Perhaps we have never been as angry as Jonah, but perhaps we have come close to those feelings despite the truths we know about the character of God. God’s redeeming discipline of the Ninevites consisted of a simple warning of destruction that contained within it the seeds of hope, and the Ninevites believed God’s word and repented. In many ways throughout the Book of Jonah, God encouraged Jonah to repent of his sins: saving him from drowning, reasoning with him, and teaching him about right and wrong. Still, Jonah wanted nothing to do with God. We do not learn if Jonah ever repented from his self-centered and unforgiving attitude toward God and others; still, God used Jonah to save a great city.

 

 

Thinking Further

Repeated Refusals to Repent

May 28, 2017

Jonah 4:1-11

Name __________________________

 

1. When God chose to forgive the Ninevites for their sins, how did Jonah respond?

 

 

2. What kind of God is God according to Jonah?

 

 

3. Jonah was so angry that it made him unreasonable; therefore, what did Jonah tell God he wanted Him to do?

 

 

4. What did God do to Jonah after he complained to God and became angry?

 

 

5. Why was Jonah concerned about the plant? What concerned God?

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. When God chose to forgive the Ninevites for their sins, how did Jonah respond?

Jonah became angry with God and thought God had done wrong. He tried to justify his fleeing from God and traveling toward Tarshish because he wanted to prevent God from forgiving the Ninevites, knowing what kind of a Person God is, because he did not want God to do wrong and not punish them – the enemies of the Israelites.

 

2. What kind of God is God according to Jonah?

God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger (patient), and abounding in love; a God who relents from sending calamity when evil people repent, and a God who answers prayer.

 

3. Jonah was so angry that it made him unreasonable; therefore, what did Jonah tell God he wanted Him to do?

He wanted to die (see Jonah 4:3, 8, 9).

 

4. What did God do to Jonah after he complained to God and became angry?

God began to apply redeeming discipline to Jonah to lead him to repent. He first did something to bless Jonah, Jonah was happy did not repent. Therefore, God took away him the blessing and Jonah became angry again. God asked Jonah questions to help see that he was sinning, and it was wrong to be angry with God, but Jonah refused to repent.

 

5. Why was Jonah concerned about the plant? What concerned God?

Jonah was concerned about the plant because it made him happy. He was selfish and self-centered. God was concerned about the people and animals, because He had created them, loved them, and knew how they were suffering: because they did not know their right hand from their left (right from wrong), He wanted to help and save them.

 

 

 

Word Search

Repeated Refusals to Repent

May 28, 2017

Jonah 4:1-11

Name ___________________________

 

U B Z R H S T C O N C E R N G

R I N U E Z W N G F P A D H I

E O D K Y L I X O R H N O S O

T V R M H N E R J P G T G I K

A X O Z E A E N I Y K Y G H C

N M L V R S P F T W U N K S A

O W E K T I L P J S O T B R L

I H P A W U O K Y R H G D A A

S M L O S I V M W G K E Z T M

S L R B Y D E G I A Y J L X I

A M H A N O J R D W N R E A T

P D R S U O I C A R G G P O Y

M C G S H A D E Z U O I R J N

O V P K Z O Z C P A T J P Y H

C I H U P I V D G D L B O Q V

 

 

Jonah

Angry

Wrong

Nineveh

Tarshish

Lord

Forestall

Gracious

Compassionate

God

Love

Relents

Calamity

Right

Shade

Happy

Worm

Concern

 

 

 

 

True and False Test

Repeated Refusals to Repent

May 28, 2017

Jonah 4:1-11

Name _____________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. When God did not destroy Nineveh, Jonah thought it was wrong and he became angry. True or False

 

2. Jonah said that he had fled to Tarshish because he wanted to prevent God from being gracious and compassionate toward Nineveh. True or False

 

3. Jonah begged God to let him go to Tarshish now that his hateful job was done. True or False

 

4. God told Jonah that it was okay for people to be angry with Him as long as they obeyed Him. True or False

 

5. The reason God did not ask Jonah any questions was because God knew all the answers already. True or False

 

6. Jonah found a palm tree near a spring of fresh water to rest and relax while he waited to watch Nineveh burn. True or False

 

7. Jonah was very happy when the Lord gave him a plant. True or False

 

8. Jonah was very angry after a worm ate his plant and it withered. True or False

 

9. While Jonah was concerned about a plant dying, God was concerned about a whole city of 120,000 people and its animals. True or False

 

10. Like the Ninevites, Jonah repented; and he told God he was sorry for being so angry with Him, self-centered, and selfish. True or False

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Jonah 4:1-11

Sunday, May 28, 2017

 

1.    True

2.    True

3.    False

4.    False

5.    False

6.    False

7.    True

8.    True

9.    True

10.False

 

Prayer

O God, may Your Word ever remind us of Your love for humanity! Enable us to do all we can to take the gospel to all, without bias or prejudice. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.