The Book of Jonah – Bible Study
The book of Jonah is one of those stories that most people know something about, one of those great stories from Sunday School days of old. It a book worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster black comedy with that all American touch because everything in the story is huge, huge storm, huge waves, huge fish (yes, it is a fish and became a whale when originally translated from Hebrew to Greek, probably just because it fit the bill), huge city etc. Like any good comedy, things seem to be exaggerated to make the point obvious.
It is worthy of spiritual reflection but is essentially a funny story making a very serious point, something Jesus did, but perhaps with slightly more irony than humour. This study is better undertaken slowly, a bit every few days rather than day after day or week by week but at only four chapters you are not signing up to anything too long.
Read the first chapter of Jonah.
What place does humour have in your relationship with God?
Is God capable of laughter and should God even laugh?
Can you laugh with God?
Can God laugh, at least lovingly, at his creation, humanity?
Are there ways in which we could be less dour in our faith and let more humour in?
Where have you, like Jonah, experienced things unravelling in your life?
How was that for you?
How did you feel?
Have you ever tried to avoid God’s call on you?
What was the experience like?
Did you eventually capitulate or do you have any regrets?
How should God deal with our resistance to his will?
What do we do when the opportunity is missed as life has moved on?
How were your prayers as things unravelled?
Talk to God about those times, his a listening God and a God of forgiveness and new beginnings.
Read the second chapter of Jonah.
In your darkest moments or times when you have felt low where did you place God?
Was he close or did you push him away?
What was your prayer?
How did God respond to your prayers?
Jonah was able to express himself to God at his darkest moments. Be aware of your own longings and bring them to God.
In your life, what is the equivalent of Jonah’s fish?
Tell God about it.
Read the third chapter of Jonah.
Have you ever been upset with God when things turned out better than you expected?
Look at your expectations then. What sort of attitude lay behind them? (hopeful, cynical, defeatist…?)
Jonah foretold that Nineveh would be ‘overthrown’ or perhaps in another way, ‘turned upside down’. Where do you see things being turned upside down in the world today?
How might God be at work in these things?
Are things being turned upside down in your life right now?
Ask for help from God to see things as he might see them.
Jonah saw Nineveh turned upside down which is an interpretation of ‘overthrown’ (remember turning over tables) but repentance was not his idea of what ‘overthrown’ meant. He expected judgement rather than mercy. In what ways might you be more keen to se God’s judgement poured out rather than God’s mercy?
Read the fourth chapter of Jonah
In the light of Jonah’s second prayer, are there times in your life when you have made a similar prayer?
Can you look upon yourself in those moments with the compassion that God has on the people of Nineveh?
Are there ways in which God’s challenge to Jonah challenges you?
Are there ways in which you have been helped to move from self-centredness to focus on God’s concern for the world?
And finally, look back and ask yourself…
Who plays the role of the Assyrians in our lives (the nasty types who oppress or threaten or bully us)?
What plays the role of the fish in our lives? (the unexpected means by which God gets us back on track)?
What plays the role of the plant (shade) in our lives (the comfort that ends up meaning so much to us that we turn around and get angry with God when it is taken away)?
Who plays the role of Jonah’s God in our lives? Is it the same God as we worship in Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever?
Based on a work by Richard Briggs
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