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Introduction to the Books of the Bible

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BOOK : Jonah

Description : A short story of Jonah being sent to Nineveh to take God's word and the struggles he had with obedience

Author: traditionally ascribed to Jonah but uncertain.

Date written : possibly about 750BC

Chapters : 4


Brief Synopsis:


•  God sends Jonah to Nineveh with His word.
•  Jonah takes off for Tarshish, ends up in a big fish and spat out on beach
•  Goes to Nineveh with God's word. Nineveh repents. Jonah is upset.

Outline :


Ch.1-2 Jonah Flees His Mission
1:1-3 Jonah's Commission and Flight
1:4-6 The Endangered Sailors' Cry to Their Gods
1:7-10 Jonah's Disobedience Exposed
1:11-2:1; 2:10 Jonah's Punishment and Deliverance
2:2-9 His Prayer of Thanksgiving
Ch.3-4 Jonah Reluctantly Fulfills His Mission
3:1-4 Jonah's Renewed Commission and Obedience
3:5-9 The Endangered Ninevites' Repentant Appeal to the Lord
3:10-4:4 The Ninevites' Repentance Acknowledged
4:5-11 Jonah's Deliverance and Rebuke


Key Verses :


Obedience isn't always easy

1:1-3 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish.


The truth is faced in a tough situation

1:8-12 So they asked him, "Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? ….He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land." So they asked him, "What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?" "Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you."


Miraculous provision is not always comfortable

1:17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights


Faith in strange places

2:4,9,10 I said, `I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.'…. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD." ……. And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land


Obedience, repentance and salvation

3:4,5,10 On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth……. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened


An upset prophet

4:1,2 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.


Now read God's answer.



Concluding Comments


•  The delight of this story, which is probably known by anyone who has ever been to Sunday School, is the shear humanity of Jonah, who hears God, runs from God, faces death honourably, eventually preaches the message and sees its fruit – but is then annoyed that he had to go through what he went through for something that he considered would have happened anyway. (The truth is, of course, that it wouldn't unless someone had come with the message. Isn't it amazing that God condescends to use imperfect human beings!)
•  On God's side of this little story consider:

•  The fact that He must have known how Jonah would respond but chose him anyway,

•  His mercy in not letting Jonah drown and start again with someone else,

•  His grace which always responds to repentance with salvation,

•  His patience in persevering with this angry little prophet who sits in high dudgeon outside Nineveh , muttering and complaining in prayer. (At least he prayed!)

•  This is probably one of the best stories in the Bible that can be imagined in cartoon form for it has much action and even more humour within it, as well as some interesting lessons!



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