Introduction: One of the strongest arguments for believing
the Bible is the way it describes its heroes. My experience
as a lawyer is that people (including me) like to tell a
story in a way that makes the storyteller look good. With
time we might even forget the uncomfortable details. The
story of Jonah is filled with details that make him look
bad. And not just bad, he looks like a terrible human being!
The goal of our study is to put away excuses to avoid
engaging in our mission. A problem with using Jonah as our
teaching subject is that we don’t want to believe that we
are that bad. As we plunge into our study of the Bible,
consider why God used a flawed man to reach even worse people!

I. National Hero

A. Read Jonah 1:1. What positive message do we see
about Jonah? (God speaks directly to him.)

B. Read 2 Kings 14:25. Is this the same Jonah as in
Jonah 1:1? (Yes. This is Jonah the son of Amittai
from Gath-hepher.)

1. What is Jonah’s job as revealed in
2 Kings 14:25? (Again, God is speaking through Jonah.
Jonah is the prophet who predicts that Israel
will win battles that will restore its former

a. How do you think the citizens of Israel
viewed Jonah? (He was a great national
hero! He revealed that God was on their
side. He predicted that Israel would
defeat its enemies. It was great to be

II. New Job Assignment

A. Read Jonah 1:2. What is God’s new assignment for
Jonah? (To call out the evil done in the city of

1. Is that much different than Jonah’s prior
work? He is still speaking out against the bad
guys. (Jonah is no longer speaking from the
relative safety of Israel, where he is a home
town hero. Instead, he is going into the heart
of the enemy nation to tell them face to face
that God is calling out their evil.)

2. Is calling sin by its correct name a common
virtue today?

B. Read Jonah 1:3. Does Jonah like his new
assignment? (Obviously not. The phrase he “rose to
flee” suggests that Jonah is afraid. Nineveh was
the capital city of the Assyrians. I’ve previously
studied them and they were very brutal and cruel.
It would be natural to fear calling them out.)

C. Read Jonah 4:2. Jonah provides an additional
reason why he ran away. What is it? (We read in
Jonah 3:10 that after Jonah condemned the
Ninevites they repented of their sins and God
decided not to destroy them. This distressed Jonah
because he thought he would be considered a false
prophet. Jonah was not only fearful, but even if
he gathered up his courage and went, he figured
that God would not destroy the evil people after
all – and that would cause Jonah to look bad.)

1. If you had to identify Jonah’s core sin, what
would it be? (He was most concerned about
himself – his safety, his reputation. Plus, he
did not trust God.)

a. Had God previously tested Jonah on those
issues? (We don’t know enough about Jonah
to say for sure, but his prior assignment
was the popular and relatively safe job
of predicting doom for the enemies of
Israel from the safety of his home.)

III. The Boat, the Fish, and Free Choice

A. What happens next is that a terrible storm arises
that makes the sailors of Jonah’s boat believe
they are going to die. The storm is so bad they
conclude only the gods can save them. Read
Jonah 1:6-9. What does Jonah say about his God and the
sea? (God made the sea.)

1. Let’s re-read Jonah 1:3. What does this
suggest is Jonah’s views of God’s territorial
influence? (Back then it was popular to
believe that a god was in charge of certain
territories or natural elements. Jonah says he
is going to flee to a place where God does not
have authority. Now we see Jonah admitting
that God is in charge of heaven, sea, and the
dry land.)

B. Read Jonah 1:11-12 and Jonah 1:14-16. The sailors
were converted. How would you describe Jonah and
the sailors view of God? (This is a God of
judgment. The love of God does not seem to be the
point made here.)

C. Read Jonah 1:17 and Jonah 2:1-10. Let’s focus on
Jonah 2:9-10. Jonah thinks that he is going to
die, but he does not deny the power of God, rather
he embraces it. What attitude of Jonah is
reflected in Jonah 2:9-10? (Jonah submits to God’s
authority. Jonah says that he will do “what I have

1. What does this say about God and human free-

2. Have you made bad decisions in the past and
God saved you from them? (One way to look at
this is that God is coercing Jonah’s choice –
although Jonah still has free choice with
consequences. The better way to look at this
is based in part on my experience. There are
times when I’ve rejected evil, and other times
when God saved me from evil when I was weak.
God is a force for good in Jonah’s life.)

3. What lesson should we learn from this when it
comes to God’s mission for us? (God wants
willing volunteers! Jonah should have feared
God more than the Assyrians. But God did not
give up on Jonah.)

IV. The Miracle

A. Read Jonah 3:1-3. Could Jonah have rejected this

B. Read Jonah 3:4-6. What miracle takes place?
(Jonah, through the power of God, converts the
city. All the people repent.)

C. Read Jonah 3:7-9. Is this one of the greatest mass
conversions in history?

1. Let’s stand back and consider a few questions.
Is this outcome worth the recent
unpleasantness in Jonah’s life? (Absolutely.
These were terrible people.)

2. What is the message that caused the Ninevites
to turn to God? (Look again at Jonah 3:9.This
conversion takes place because of a fear of
the anger of God. Jesus came to earth to show
God’s unfathomable love for us. The church
must be balanced in our representation of God.
Right now some think that plain sin should be
honored because of the force of love. That is
unbalanced. Jesus paid the penalty for sin.
That does not make sin acceptable. It makes it
more terrible because it cost Jesus so much.)

D. Read Jonah 3:10. What does God show to the people
of Nineveh? And why does He show it? (They turned
away from evil and God showed them mercy.)

V. The Angry Prophet

A. Read Jonah 4:1. What kind of agent of God is
Jonah? (Not a very good one. He is angry that more
than 120,000 people(Jonah 4:11)were not killed.)

B. Read Jonah 4:5-6. Why is Jonah sitting down to
watch Nineveh? (He is hoping to see it destroyed
by God.)

C. Read Jonah 4:7-9. How mature is Jonah? (He is
acting like a little child.)

1. Are you encouraged by that? (I am! Consider
this picture of God’s love for Jonah. Jonah is
being idiotic and God stays with him.)

D. Read Jonah 4:10-11. In last week’s lesson we saw
God destroy some very wicked people. The point of
concern for Sodom, according to the Biblical
account, were the righteous people. Who is God
concerned about in Nineveh? (The wicked who

1. Aside from the odd statement about not knowing
right from left, what other odd statement do
you find in these verses? (The right from left
statement probably refers to children. It
might refer to the fact that the people of
Nineveh did not have a knowledge of God. For
me, the oddest statement is that God’s concern
and love extends even to the cattle.)

E. Friend, the story of Jonah is one of love and
judgment for flawed people. First, the flawed
Jonah, and second the flawed citizens of Nineveh.
God is willing to execute judgment, but He goes to
extraordinary steps to save sinners. God wants to
save you? Will you decide, right now, to make Him
your Lord and Savior?

VI. Next week: Motivation and Preparation for Mission.

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are
from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard
Version ), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing
ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All
rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within
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Holy Spirit as you study.