Bible study #2 – Jonah and the whale…the whole story!

whaleHi!  It’s Susan and Jules has given me the honor to write the next study for everyone.  Yikes!  I’d like to say that I’m not as great of a writer as Jules and am still “new” to the Bible and studying it.  So, please, be kind and patient with me!

The text for this story is Jonah 1-4.

I know that most of us know the story of Jonah and the whale.  Right?  But, do we really know the story?  I didn’t, until I thought about this blog and the lesson I was going to work on.

In the beginning, God asks Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against their wicked ways. Jonah ran away. He boarded a boat to Tarshish to feel from the Lord. The Lord saw Jonah and sent a great wind and storm into the sea. All the sailors were terrified but not Jonah, he had gone below deck and fell into a deep sleep. The sailors went to Jonah because they knew he was running from the Lord. They asked him what to do about the rough waters and Jonah instructed them to throw him overboard.  At first, they balked but eventually, they did. Immediately, the seas and wind calmed. Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish (whale) and spend the next 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of that giant fish. While inside the whale, Jonah (who knew of his disobedience) prayed and cried out to God to spare him. God ordered the fish to “vomit” (ew) Jonah onto dry land. Growing up, this is where the story seemed to stop (for most of us) but the story doesn’t end there!

God then asked Jonah to go to Nineveh and give the people there, a message from the Lord. Jonah obeyed (can ya really blame him?) and went into Nineveh. He proclaimed that Nineveh would be overthrown by God. The people of Nineveh believed in God and Jonah’s message and fasted (putting on sack clothes) and turned from their evil ways. God saw what they did and relented, not bringing on the destruction he’d threatened.

Jonah got MAD at God! The compassion that God showed Nineveh angered Jonah. Jonah then asked God to end his life. God asked him if he had a right to be angry. Jonah sat outside of the city and God provided a tree to shade Jonah. Jonah was happy. The next day, God provided a worm which ate the tree and the sun rose and sent blazing heat. Jonah asked God to kill him again.

But the Lord answered:  (Jonah 4:10) – 10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 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?”

I remember as a child thinking about this and being desperately afraid of being in a dark, slimy belly of a whale for disobeying God but I don’t know that I really got this (and maybe I still don’t) until I read it now. You see, in my opinion, God was teaching Jonah several lessons here. The one that stands out to me the most is what God says to Jonah at the end. Jonah was pouting. He went to the edge of the city where he could pout and be mad at God in peace. So, God, in his own way, showed Jonah by using the tree. When God first created the tree, it please Jonah. It provided shade from the hot sun so he had a cool place to hang out while he pouted. Along came the worm. The worm ate at the tree and ultimately destroyed it. God created Nineveh. Along came sin. Sin ultimately ate at the people of Nineveh and it was wicked in the sight of God. God almost destroyed Nineveh, but instead, he used Jonah to go into the town and preach to them about their wickedness and to turn away from their sin or destruction was coming.

Nineveh repented!  They turned away from their wicked ways and went back to God.

Aren’t our lives much like that? God creates us (like he created the tree). He loves us, with all kinds of crazy, unfathomable love. Our lives ROCK. Then…sin (the worm) comes along. And sin is like “Oh hey…come do this…” And we do. Or sin is all “Hey, that’s not true…you really aren’t awesome like God wants you to believe…” And we believe it.

God sighs heavily, shakes his head (this is how I picture it) and he sends various things/people/a whale – into our lives to give us a chance to come back to his grace, love and mercy. Because in the end, God doesn’t want us to be destroyed. He wants us to be with him forever, worshipping him, loving him, caring about him because he does the same for us.

God punished Jonah but when Jonah saw the error of his ways, God forgave him. It didn’t stop God’s purpose or request from Jonah but he forgave him. Just as he did for Nineveh.

Follow up questions for “discussion.”You may choose to answer any or all of them. In your comment, either refer to the question number or refer specifically to the question.

1.  Do you feel like God has ever called you to do something that you’ve not wanted to do?

2 .  Have you ever been mad at God for his compassion/love/forgiveness towards others?

3.  In what ways can you identify with Jonah?

4.  Has God ever sent a whale into your life to teach you a lesson?

5. Is anyone else deathly afraid of being swallowed up by a whale?  Or is it just me?

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16 comments on “Bible study #2 – Jonah and the whale…the whole story!

  1. Roxann says:

    Hey, Susan …. I think “the worm” told you that you weren’t mature in Christ after I told you that you seemed that way to me!!! Sorry, couldn’t resist : )

    Can’t wait to dive into Jonah…..PUN INTENDED!

  2. Michele Hoskins says:

    This is hard. I think God was trying to show Jonah not only that forgiveness is for everyone but also that our grace is given freely but we have to continually nurture ourselves in order to grow in Christ.
    1. God called me to be a leader of CR. I really tried to deny it but God always gave me the words to say and healed a large hurt in me along the way. I guess he showed me…lol
    2. Being a CR leader I saw many ladies who were given grace and forgiveness but God also provided a way for them to move forward in their lives. I find myself at times wondering what I am doing wrong that I keep getting knocked down. I know its wrong. Just being real and honest
    3. I find myself wanting to hide rather than face my adversity. God drags me back every time. I think we all at one time or another envy someone or something instead of appreciating the blessings we have.
    4.I know you might think this is hysterical…but…I do believe that John was my whale….lol…stop laughing Susan. I believe God brought me back to John so that he could lead me back to him. I said stop laughing Susan. Moving on…..
    5. Im sorry but I do not fear being swallowed by a whale …..lol. However I feel like my troubles are going to swallow me up like a whale. I pray that God will keep the devil (whale)….stop laughing Susan….from swallowing me up.
    3.

    • juliesuman says:

      Michelle…thanks for you honesty and openness in your responses. I do not believe for a minute that your troubles are going to swallow you up. You are a beloved, beautiful daughter of God…he will not let you go.

  3. susanmkopp says:

    Michele! I promise you that I’m not laughing. I do believe that God uses anything possible to bring us back to him. When I first started back in college, I was upset that in every lesson, there was a Bible verse or some sort of lesson we had to reflect on. I had resigned myself that I was alone in this world and that God had given up on me. Then, I started my New Testament class…..which led me to Gracepointe….which led me to seeing things differently….which led me to recommitting my life to Christ….which led me to where I am right now. God may have used John to bring you back to him, just like he used my schooling to bring me back to him.

    There are times when I would sit in CR as well and wonder why God was (or seemed to be) helping these ladies but I was not exactly getting the same treatment. It may be wrong but it’s also human. Like we used to tell the “girls” Michele, we don’t always know why God does the things he does or when he’s going to do them. God does everything for a reason and in his own time. We may not see how he’s working in our lives at the moment but that doesn’t mean he’s not. (At least, that’s what I tell MYSELF!)

    I don’t think what you’re going through is going to swallow you. It may feel that way but you’re right where you are supposed to be, for whatever reason. Just remember what YOU used to tell the girls in CR – your situations do not define who you are. God does.

  4. susanmkopp says:

    Michele! I promise you that I’m not laughing. I do believe that God uses anything possible to bring us back to him. When I first started back in college, I was upset that in every lesson, there was a Bible verse or some sort of lesson we had to reflect on. I had resigned myself that I was alone in this world and that God had given up on me. Then, I started my New Testament class…..which led me to Gracepointe….which led me to seeing things differently….which led me to recommitting my life to Christ….which led me to where I am right now. God may have used John to bring you back to him, just like he used my schooling to bring me back to him.

    There are times when I would sit in CR as well and wonder why God was (or seemed to be) helping these ladies but I was not exactly getting the same treatment. It may be wrong but it’s also human. Like we used to tell the “girls” Michele, we don’t always know why God does the things he does or when he’s going to do them. God does everything for a reason and in his own time. We may not see how he’s working in our lives at the moment but that doesn’t mean he’s not. (At least, that’s what I tell MYSELF!)

    I don’t think what you’re going through is going to swallow you. It may feel that way but you’re right where you are supposed to be, for whatever reason. Just remember what YOU used to tell the girls in CR – your situations do not define who you are. God does.

  5. Roxann says:

    Great insight, Miss Michelle! Isn’t it amazing that God’s word fits each one of our life’s situations in such different & perfect ways??

    I have been using my iPad’s online Bible a lot lately, but for some reason, I pulled out my actual Bible to read Susan’s chosen passages in Jonah. I’m glad I did, as I have always been a note taker during sermons, and the things I had previously jotted down on the pages’ margins were eye opening all over again!

    Things like…..”Nineveh was the second largest city in the known world”. No wonder Jonah ran from this seemingly impossible task, but on the other hand, how could he run away knowing how many lives were at stake?

    And “the God of the second chance” …… How many chances has He already given ( and is still giving) me to get it right? I’ve lost count.

    Under the last chapter, I wrote 2 thoughts ….”God always knows about the places He sends us”, which reminds me that He goes before and prepares the way before he sends me! So why do I hesitate to go??

    “Sometimes my feet obey when my heart does not” was my last note. This one made me think about my most recent “but, I really don’t want to do that, God” experience. While watching a video about the water crisis in Sapalau one Sunday morning, I began to cry. God was telling me to step out and do something. So after the service, I offered to “help” with this project. In the following days, God continued to speak about this at the oddest moments and I passed on His ideas to the church. Long story short….one Sunday morning Pastor Paul announced to the entire sanctuary that I was heading up the 5k walk/run fundraiser. What??!! Wait a minute….I’ve never done anything even remotely like this in my life! I’m a helper …. Not a leader! My heart sank when I realized that I was in for it now…..I had to do it. He had announced it to the whole congregation….they were counting on it. Even more, the people of the village were counting on it. And ultimately, God was counting on me to follow his command.

    The very best part for me was the people God brought alongside me to make it all happen!! The very worst part for me was the day our little group went door to door to the businesses in Trenton, asking for donations for our project (I hate asking anyone for anything). I had texted several people that morning asking them to cover us with prayer. My favorite reply was from Sandy Vancleve, who reminded me that God can use us the best when we are out of our comfort zones. I was so far out of my comfort zone that day and many times throughout that entire experience….so everything that was accomplished through our efforts was totally because of Him!!!!! Whenever I wear my H20 5k t-shirt, I feel blessed all over again to have been a part of it all. Guess my heart finally caught up to my feet. : )

    Good grief….sorry for being so chatty.

    • juliesuman says:

      I love these thoughts Roxann! There have been times in my life when my feet moved but my heart didn’t…I guess I didn’t think about it like that at all! I so appreciate your wisdom and words. I also love the fact that God goes ahead and prepares the way. He won’t send us to where he won’t protect us.

  6. juliesuman says:

    Susan, thank you for choosing this lesson from the Bible. I had read it and sang about it and heard it many times growing up – but studying again now has remind me and shown me a lot of things I had not picked up on before. When God says “Get up and go…” there is not much more to it. He doesn’t always explain or make promises or give guarantees about how things will turn out. I just want to know if Jonah’s heart changes?!? He obviously was hard-hearted toward God (and definitely toward the Assyrians)…and God gave him a second great object lesson…but then the book ends?!?!

    1. I feel like God calls me to do things I don’t want to do (or maybe its more that I’m uncomfortable doing them) all the time. I know there are times He puts people directly in my path so I that I can share his message with them and I get nervous or worried about what they will think. Isn’t that ridiculous?!?

    2. Love this question! I don’t know if I can say I have been specifically mad at someone when I’ve shown compassion given…but I have struggled with the fact that God loves even those whom I don’t – does that make sense? I believe in a God who loves everyone of his creations – including me! But that also means that he loves those people who have hurt me deeply in my life. As a selfish person, I don’t want him to love them – they hurt me!!! It was only after I came to accept this reality that I was able to truly forgive others…knowing that they were loved by the creator just as I was.

    3. I can identify with Jonah in that I tend to want to run away from things that I really just need to face and deal with. I also can be a bit hard-headed, especially when I think that things are not “fair” or that people are not “getting what they deserve” (stop judging – I’m human).

    4. I do think that things happened in my life and those situations brought me back to God. After my divorce I was unemployed, raising two kids, and completely alone (probably in a state as bad or worse than in the belly of a large fish). I was at rock bottom. I thought I had nothing left…but God showed me that I had everything in Him if I would surrender to him and live completely for him.

    5. Deathly afraid of clowns…not whales.

    Final thoughts…I love studying the Bible. I’m a bit of a nerd…but I just love words and language and stories that tie together so beautifully that they could only be inspired by God. I love the relationship between Jonah and Jesus. Jonah was swallowed by a fish for three days. Jesus was swallowed by the earth (buried) for three days. I have heard people say that this “story” is just a metaphor and that it “couldn’t” really happen!??! While it seems so hard for us to imagine being swallowed by a living thing, living in its belly, and then being puked up. Some critics say that it is “impossible” But I have to say, nothing is possible for MY God. If we believe that God created the earth and performed many miracles – then why could he not cause this to happen! Rant over.

  7. susanmkopp says:

    I’m sitting here with the goofiest smile on my face. I’m so excited by this, it’s not funny. I was soooooooooooo nervous about this blog because let’s face it, I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m not a Bible scholar. I’ve just recently picked up my Bible again and I’m so happy Jules asked me to join this little group. You guys rock and I’m learning so much from all of you, just in the two posts we’ve had so far.

  8. Roxann says:

    My first time, too, Susan!! I was so caught up in this morning’s reply that I almost ran out of time to get ready to go to breakfast with two of my dearest friends!!! What’s happening to me??!! Love u all!

  9. Roxann says:

    Jonah 1:16 in the NLT translation says this about the crew on Jonah’s boat …
    “The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered Him a sacrifice and vowed to serve Him”. God used Jonah, even in his disobedience, to show Himself to others and caused them to follow Him! How cool is that??!!

  10. julessuman says:

    Ok ladies…I was so intrigued by this story that I thought I knew (guy runs from God, gets eaten by a giant fish, gets puked up, obeys God, but then becomes a knot head again…) that I went to another source to spend some time studying today and what I learned was some really interesting stuff! (I am a book nerd – sorry). So the first thing that just blew me away was the fact that long-standing Jewish tradition says that Jonah was the son of the Widow of Zarephath! I find it so crazy that the first two topics we take on are so strongly related. (Mind blown). The second take-away from today’s time studying was a parallel drawn by the author of the commentary I’m using. Jonah has most definitely received God’s mercy and a pardon from God. He had gotten a second chance. But when it came to God giving the people of Ninevah the same mercy, Jonah was displeased. The author compares Jonah’s attitude to that of the Pharisees in the New Testament. They accepted God’s love but did not think “others” should be accepted by Jesus.

    Just some thoughts…thanks for reading!

  11. susanmkopp says:

    Hi guys. I just wanted to tell you three that you all mean so much to me! These past two days have been a real “whale” (bahahahaha) for me but I know you guys are praying and are very supportive/loving.

    I love all of you!

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