Sunday School Lesson May 7, 2017 God’s Disciplinary Love
To follow along, visit your local Christian bookstore, and ask for the Bible Expositor and Illuminator
Time: about 780 B.C. Time: Joppa
Golden Text: “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17).
Lesson Outline: I. A Huge Problem – Jonah 1:7-9, II. A Frightening Prospect – Jonah 1:10-12, III. A Shocking Resolution – Jonah 1:13-17
Lesson Outline: I. A Huge Problem – Jonah 1:7-9
Jonah, son of Amittai, the 5th of the minor prophets, were born at Gath Hepher in Galilee. He is generally considered as the most ancient of the prophets. Nineveh was an ancient capital city of the Assyrian Empire and was founded by Nimrod. Nineveh was over five hundred miles from Gath Hepher Jonah’s home near Nazareth in Israel. The city was wicked, their wickedness refers to Nineveh’s pride, greed, brutality, and adultery. Their wickedness had gotten the attention of God and He instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. Jonah didn’t want to do it so he detoured from the instructions given him and went to Tarshish, his disobedience caused God to discipline him. Sometimes God’s will is difficult, either because of something we have done wrong or because of a new direction of life. When God’s will is easy and pleasant, we are eager to fulfill it but when it demands something difficult we try to run from it or ignore it. Jonah tried to run but God’s love for him was too great to escape, and he sought him out and gave him another chance to obey. Jonah’s disobedient caused others to be in danger so he was thrown into the sea and ended up in the belly of a whale.
Jonah 1:7 – And they said every one of his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots and the lot fell upon Jonah. Jonah’s message was a warning to be spoken to a foreign nation. Other nations had prophecies directed against them, but only Jonah was commissioned to go and give a direct message from God. Jonah boarded a ship to Tarshish and while on board the ship taking a nap on the lower deck, God allowed a storm, causing the mariners to cry out to each of their gods. After being scolded by the captain, Jonah faced the crowd of sailors who decided to cast lots to find out why they were facing such a desperate circumstance. According to their thinking, someone on board had displeased his god and something had to be done about it. Jonah had been chosen twice, once by God and secondly as a target rather than a messenger. Although the pagan sailors did not know God, God oversaw the casting of lots to reveal the truth to them, and the lot fell on Jonah. When God has a plan for our life, He will use the unbeliever to assist us to get into the plan of God. The lot fell on Jonah, now everyone is looking at him.
Jonah 1:8 – Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? As soon as the lots fell on Jonah, the sailors began to interrogate him in hopes of determining the cause of the storm that was life-threatening. They sensed the storm was a divine origin and needed to know about Jonah’s connection to their current situation. For some reason, they didn’t think it was their god who caused the storm, but it had something to do with Jonah.
Jonah 1:9 – And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. After being questioned, Jonah came forward and informed them he was a Hebrew, he also informed them his belief in and fear of Yahweh, Israel’s God. Jonah describing himself as a “Hebrew” identified himself with the people of the Lord’s covenant. Jonah gave a description of how powerful Israel’s God was, it was He that made the sea and dry land. Most of the men was most likely Baal worshippers and considered Baal to be the god of the sky and in control of the weather, but since hearing Jonah’s description of His God and their current situation they thought it must have been Jonah’s God and Jonah must have done something that displeased his God for them to be in the situation they were in.
Lesson Outline: II. A Frightening Prospect
Jonah 1:10 – Then were the men exceeding afraid, and said unto him Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. “Exceeding afraid” here means to be in terror, God the Creator of the universe was after Jonah and because God was after Jonah, He was after the sailors as well. None of them had an idea about how to appease their foreign god. They had no doubt battled bad seas before but never one that clearly indicated a divine cause as this one. They wanted to know why had Jonah done this to them, why would he try to run away from such a powerful God, did he really think he could run away if this God was as powerful as Jonah claimed Him to be?
Jonah 1:11 – Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. They understood the storm was created by God and the cause and the effect was Jonah. They asked Jonah what should they do with him. They wanted to know what should they do with a man that was being deliberated disobedient, what would it take to appease his God? Their hope was Jonah would know what to do since it was his God and he evidently would know how to appease Him.
Jonah 1:12 – And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Jonah knew he was the cause of the raging sea and therefore had to suffer the consequences of his actions. Jonah knew his absence from the boat would make the storm cease and the sailors would be out of danger. The sailor was in between a rock and a hard place, they didn’t want to throw Jonah overboard, but they knew if they didn’t they would lose their life.
Lesson Outline: III. A Shocking Resolution – Jonah 1:13-17
Jonah 1:13 – Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. They tried to outrun the storm to get to dry land but the storm became more tempestuous, God was after Jonah and the storm was not going to cease until God got what He wanted. Jonah knew that the sailors’ only recourse was to throw him overboard. And it appears Jonah was willing to suffer the consequences of his disobedience. The sailors showed that they had a sense of respect for human life in their unwillingness to do what Jonah said. The sailors were eager to go the extra mile to save the life of one, while Jonah was unwilling to take God’s message to an entire city under threat of destruction.
Jonah 1:14 – Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, has done as it pleased thee. In their desperation, the pagan sailors cried out to Jonah’s God. They knew by now that this was indeed God’s doing and He was their only hope for physical salvation. They would have to do as Jonah had said, but still, they did not want to be held guilty for taking a man’s life. They begged God not to punish them for what they were about to do by throwing Jonah overboard and not punish them for Jonah’s disobedience. In confession, they acknowledged that God was in control and was doing as He pleased.
Jonah 1:15 – So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Immediately the sea ceased from raging just as Jonah had said it would. The suddenly calm of the sea increased the sailors fear; it was obvious that the God Jonah served was far more powerful than they expected. In God’s sovereign power and knowledge, He knows how to get the attention of the believer as well as the unbeliever. The pagan sailors experienced the calmness of the sea until Jonah aboard the ship, they felt the raging of the storm, and they came to the realization who was the true God.
Jonah 1:16 – Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows. In order for them to offer a sacrifice and make vows, Jonah must have also instructed them how to offer a sacrifice that would be pleasing to God. Since they were pagans, their sacrifice to their gods would have been different from the sacrifice God would require. Them making vows indicates a submission to God and acknowledging who He was and that He was the God of all gods.
Jonah 1:17 – Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. God knew the outcome of the entire situation between Jonah and the sailors, just as God had chosen Jonah, He also chose the fish who would be at the right place, at the right time to keep Jonah being taken by the sea. God disciplined Jonah in response to his disobedience by putting him inside a fish for three days and three nights, God disciplined Jonah because He loved Him and He wanted him to grow in his spiritual character. Just as God did with Jonah, He also disciplines those He loves (For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth Hebrews 12:6). If God didn’t love us, He would allow us to continue to be carnal or disobedient, but because He loves us He doesn’t allow us to stay that way.