First I am so excited to be digging deep into the word with you! I pray this will be an amazing experience for all of us to be challenged and drawn closer to God. To get started, you can leave a comment below on the bottom of this post. Just click on comments to do so. I would love for each of you to introduce yourself and tell us what you would like to get out of this study. We can keep this in mind as we fellowship and pray for one another.
Because of the problem of spam comments your comments will not show up until I approve them. So a better place to post answers and thoughts would be on our Facebook page. Find it here. I have linked you to the place where you can just type your answers. Easiest spot. You may have to like the page to do this I am not certain of this. Hope this all makes sense.
Now I think this may go beyond 4 - 5 weeks after contemplating what treasure is in this book of the Bible. Hope that is okay with you all. This week we will contemplate just the first three verses because there is a lot of history to discuss to get us into the setting. Read this entire book through and come with your questions or thoughts as we study along. Please feel free to make this as interactive as you like. Unless noted otherwise all Scripture is from the ESV Bible.
The book of Jonah is formed from only 4 chapter breaks and 48 verses. It is an easy quick read. However as we dig deeper into this word we will learn a lot about God. The truth is God had salvation available for all nations beyond Israel in the works from the beginning but it did not really open up like this for the majority of people until Jesus hit the scene. When Jesus left He told the disciples to, "Go forth and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Before this the Israel nation alone were considered the chosen people of God.
The setting of Jonah is during the period when the kings of Israel ruled. The Israelite nation is split into northern and southern kingdoms. Sadly Jeroboam II was ruling the northern kingdom and Israel was in a sinful state. We often see this pattern in their history. The ruler of the nation often sets the tone for the people. This was a time of great sin when people did what seemed right to them. It reminds me of today. It probably would have been very similar. Many today do what is right in their own eyes as well. The period of Jonah was also during a time of prosperity for Israel.
Who was Jonah? He is mentioned in two places besides this book in the Bible. Once in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament. We will look at the mention in the Old Testament today.
2 Kings 14:25 states, "He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher."
The "He" mentioned in this verse is the king Jeroboam II. Jonah prophesied that Israels borders would be restored. He is a true prophet because what he spoke came true. This word Jonah was given to speak was a popular word. Prosperity is something everyone wants to speak. You know the saying, "Don't kill the messenger." Jonah probably had a good life. He was probably well liked and wealthy. Also do not forget that the only people who heard from God were the prophets. This was a position of privilege.
Now this is where we will begin with the book of Jonah.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me." But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. ~Jonah 1:1-3
I really want you to pay attention to word repetitions. They are important. Here we see that God has given Jonah, His chosen prophet an assignment. God tells Jonah to ARISE and go to Ninevah. But Jonah ROSE to flee. Arise and rose are the same word in the Hebrew. They mean "to rise,to be fixed." God tells Jonah to go one way but he goes another. It is like our minds needing to be fixed on God yet at times we fix them on other unimportant things. Jonah's mind had caused him to flee! Now I am going to post a map of what is going on with this flight.
Joppa was the port city where Jonah was going to get on a boat headed for Tarshish. During this time, this was considered the furthest spot you could go. Tarshish is about 2000 miles away from Joppa. Nineveh would have been only about 500 miles away.
Jonah's thought was to run away from the presence of the Lord. Which we all know we really cannot do. Jonah would have probably known the Psalm that states, "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me,and your right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139:7-10). But Jonah was trying to get away from the place God dwelled, the sanctuary.
Why did Jonah run?
Honestly we need to let the word answer this for us. No speculation needed. Jonah 4:2-3 tells us, "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."
1- What does Jonah know about God from these passages? So what do we learn about God from them?
Jonah did not want God to extend mercy to this enemy. Have you ever felt this way? I mentioned that Assyria was a cruel enemy. Perhaps they had hurt some of Jonah's relatives in the past? Maybe Jonah was struggling to forgive them for something? He really wanted nothing to do with seeing these bad people come to repentance. How have you been like this? Can you relate?
2- Jonah was probably comfortable in his life when God gave him the assignment to go to this enemy. Have you ever been given an assignment from God like this? Something you did not want to do? How did you respond? Do you still need to respond? It is never too late.
3- Another important thing to take note of is that the words, "went down" to Joppa and "went" on board in the Greek mean, "to descend, decline, to sink". These are indicators of Jonah's sinking deeper into sin as he flees from God. The further we let ourselves sink the harder it is to get out. The more choices we make toward sin the easier it becomes and the more numb we feel. Any examples of this you would like to share with the group?
4- Is there someone you are struggling to forgive? Is there someone you are struggling to extend mercy? Please share and I will pray for you. None of this means what they have done is right. It frees you to be free in who God made you to be.
5- Lastly the word LORD in this passage is Jehovah. It is the name for the Triune God (God the trinity). It is the name that God introduced to Moses when asked who to tell the people God was. God said, I am. He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and the end, He is the one who holds all life, He is self-existent, He is the covenant keeping God. He is sovereign. He is everything. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Even if He gives us an assignment we would rather not do shouldn't we do it anyway because of who He is. He chose us and sent Christ to the cross for us to make us acceptable to Him. He did that all in love. We can trust Him. Do you know Him like that? Explain.