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Jonah and Me

  • Dr. Lawrence O. Richards Writer and Editor
  • 2001 15 Jan
Jonah and Me
A Parent's Prayer
"Lord, help me and mine gladly choose your will each day, ever conscious of your wisdom and your love."

Jonah and Me
The first of four studies

Although Jonah lived in the eighth century B.C., he faced the same kinds of choices that we face today. When commissioned by God to go preach at Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian Empire, Jonah chose not to go. Instead Jonah determined to run away from the Lord.

Jonah chapter 1 describes the consequences of this choice. The ship Jonah boarded was caught in a violent storm. Convinced this was no ordinary storm, the pagan sailors cast lots to determine who was to blame. When Jonah was chosen, he confessed that he was a worshiper of the God who created land and sea. And Jonah admitted that he was running from God!

Jonah's disobedience had endangered himand the shipload of sailors as well!

But the storm was a sign of God's grace. It showed that the Lord was unwilling to abandon his prophet. Our troubles too are more often signs of God's commitment to us than they are signs of "punishment," as we sometimes assume. While God sent the storm, he also prepared a way of escape.

A fun family Bible study of Jonah 1

Starter: Play hide and seek. Give each family member a turn to look for the others. After the games determine who found the best hiding place.

Bible: Read Jonah 1 aloud. Then go back over the story with your family, raising the following questions. While the answers to some questions are in the text, others call for thought. Listen to your children's ideas and then share your own.
(Verses 1-2) Did Jonah know what God wanted?
(Verse 3) Was it possible for Jonah to really hide from God?
(Verses 4-6) Do you think the violent storm was a sign of God's love or his anger? Why?
(Verses 7-10) Who was responsible for making trouble for the sailors? Point out that when we disobey God we make trouble for others as well as for ourselves.
(Verses 11-15) How did Jonah take responsibility for his actions and their consequences? Why do you suppose the sailors didn't want to throw Jonah overboard even though he had put them in such danger?
(Verse 16) What did the sailors learn about God from having Jonah on their ship?
(Verse 17) Why do you suppose God didn't just let Jonah drown?

Close: Tell about a bad choice you once made and what happened afterward. Share what you learned from the experience, so your children might learn from you.

Follow-Up Fun
Dramatize Jonah 1. Script or spontaneously act out the story. This week you'll need a narrator, a Jonah, and several sailors. If you add a scene each week, at the end of the month you'll have a play you can put on for grandparents or neighbors. For extra fun, videotape your play.

Family Bulletin Board
Have one of your children create a poster showing Jonah's ship in a storm. Let him or her come up with a suitable slogan, such as "Jonah's way" or "Disobey? Storms ahead!"

Table Talk
Write the following questions on 3x5 cards. Place them blank side up. Have family members take turns drawing a card. The family member is to answer the question on the card he or she draws. (1) Did Jonah get on board the ship on purpose or by accident? (2) Why do you think Jonah decided to run away? (3) What's one wrong thing you've wanted to do, but didn't? (4) What's one wrong thing you wanted to do, and did? (5) How do you feel when you do something wrong on purpose? (6) How do you think Jonah felt when he got on the ship? (7) How do you think God feels about you when you choose to disobey him? (8) Do you think God sent the storm because he was mad at Jonah or because he loved him? Why?

The Last Word
Chapter 1 of Jonah conveys several lasting lessons to God's people. We may disobey God, but our heavenly Father does not give up on us. He loves us enough to pursue us, even though that pursuit may take the form of storms in our lives.

The storm caused Jonah to take his first hesitating steps toward a complete return to God. Jonah accepted responsibility for the storm. And Jonah accepted responsibility for the storm's consequences. Rather than endanger a shipload of innocent sailors, Jonah advised them to throw him over the side. When we've taken a wrong turn in life our first steps back toward God will also be accepting responsibility for what we've done and for what has happened as a consequence.

Perhaps the most comforting words in Jonah 1 are these: "God provided a great fish" (Jonah 1:17). Jonah was never in danger of drowning. Even before Jonah had made his choice to run from God, the Lord was preparing this most unlikely means to rescue his servant.

You and I may at times choose to run from God. But God loves us so much that he will pursue us until we are ready to return to him.

Read more about Jonah on pages 220-223 of Men of the BibleGods Word for the Biblically-Inept.