JONAH – NOT ON THE SAME PAGE WITH GOD!
Bible Background: Jonah is a short story (You can read it in 5 minutes!) It’s got a ‘comic’ quality to it, as in “What a silly prophet!” “What a whopper of a tale!” The story was likely written to be appreciated as a story that makes a point, and not as a story to be taken literally. Note that the ‘big fish’ is really a minor part of the story; something God uses (just like the shade tree in chapter 3) to protect Jonah. God, and God’s mercy, and people’s sinfulness, and the possibility for repentance are the main themes of this great story!
Digging Deeper: 1. Nineveh represents one of Israel’s main enemies, the Assyrians (8th century BC). They will conquer Israel and much of the Middle East. It is easy to understand why Jonah might not want to go and preach to them, or see them being forgiven/accepted by God! Who do you hate/fear as much as Jonah hated the Ninevites? How does deep-rooted hatred still show itself in our culture? Or even among people of faith?
2. Its crazy/comic for Jonah to think he can run from God! And he doesn’t get far! He gets a second chance to obey and do what God needs him to do. His brief announcement in Nineveh changes the course of an entire city! God gives them a second chance too! When have you depended on a second chance from God? Who is it hard for us to extend a second chance to? Why do you think that is?
3. Jonah gets very angry with God! He knows that God is gracious and merciful. He’s not happy to see how that grace and mercy get spread around, to such unworthy recipients! By definition, isn’t God’s grace something none of us are worthy of? How does that nudge us to extend God’s grace to others? Who are some of the ‘unworthy’ ones who might be especially blessed by grace?
4. The story of Jonah ends with a pointed question from God. (Jonah has had a little hissy-fit about a shade plant that died….he wants to die!) The question is: “Should I not have had mercy on all those people and all those animals?” Do we believe God’s love and mercy really changes people? Really rescues people? Do we allow it to really change and take hold of us? Do we dare limit God’s reach?
5. One thing the story of Jonah reveals is that even our archenemies have a lot in common with us! Since this week’s election is likely to leave many folks unhappy, and even angry, what can we do as people who know God’s mercy (and Jesus’ teachings) to steer the conversation in America towards what we have in common instead of mainly the issues or grievances that divide us?