When we read about people in the Bible, we are tempted to “put them up on a pedestal,” and think if only we can be like them. We continue to read about them more closely, and then we are tempted to say “how did they ever get mentioned in the Bible?” Our expectations and hopes are dashed very quickly, and then we need to look in a mirror and say, “at times my life looks similar” to the one we are reading about. Jonah is one of these people we look at, and we come away saying there are times he seems to get what God wants him to do, and then there are times he doesn’t seem to have a clue. The book of Jonah is four chapters, a total of 48 verses, and can be read very easily. Here is a question we need to ask as we read this book: “Is this a story about Jonah, or is it a story about God?” The way we answer this question determines much what we get out of what we read. The following is what G.A. Smith says about our usual approach to reading Jonah:
“And this is the tragedy of the Book of Jonah, that a Book which is made the means of one of the most sublime revelations of truth in the Old Testament should be known to most only for its connections with a whale.”
I am sure we won’t cover everything in Jonah this Sunday, but hopefully we can begin to see God’s salvation through judgment and mercy, and grow to love our heavenly Father more after we spend some time reading Jonah.
Here are some questions to think about as your read and listen to God’s Word through the book of Jonah.
1. How do the opening three verses of Jonah serve as an introduction to the whole book?
2. What might an ancient Israelite have thought when the city of Ninevah was mentioned? Is there anything in our lives which might be a “Ninevah” to us today?
3. How would you compare the behavior of Jonah as a prophet with the behavior of Christ the prophet? How is Jesus like Jonah? How is he unlike Jonah?
4. What role does God’s mercy play in Jonah?
5. If you had to choose one or two verses in Jonah as the key verses, what would be? And why?
6. Can you think of any stories in the New Testament which remind you of things you read in Jonah?
Jonah is only four chapters, 48 verses -- read it at least once (maybe more) before this Sunday.