Hi! 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?