Breaking Down the Bible: Jonah
This week on the blog, we’re starting a new series called “Breaking Down the Bible.” If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard stories of Noah, Jonah, David, and Esther too many times to count. I am a huge believer in the idea that the Devil uses complacency to draw us away from the heart of God, and not remembering the significance of scripture and each one of these stories is an easy way to become complacent and apathetic in our walk with Jesus.
We will go through these famous stories that we all know and love, and look at new perspectives and discussion. The goal is that we walk away with fresh eyes to read the word. I want to encourage you to read the passage, and think through the discussion questions. Ask the Lord to reveal something new to you, and show you more of who He is and His character.
Today, we’ll start with the swimmingly exciting story of Jonah, and a very big whale.
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him. Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights…from inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me,the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’ ” And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
1: Thank goodness that we serve a God of second chances, a God who does not give up on His people. Is there an area of your life that God is nudging you in a different direction? Are you “playing Jonah” in any areas of your life right now? Pray and ask the Lord to reveal any blindspots you may have.
2: Sometimes we forget that our actions affect other people’s lives in real ways. Jonah’s fleeing forced a whole ship of people into a very scary situation. I think this is a great reminder that when we attempt to run our own lives, or deliberately disobey God, whether through sin or unfaithfulness, other people are affected. Whether we see it or not!
3: Are we so comfortable that we’re not truly willing to get in the trenches with people? Look, this can be a gut-punch, but it’s a GREAT reminder. People are hurting, lost, and in need of a savior. Sometimes our own comfort can blind us, or give us tunnel vision to those around us who need Jesus. Rather than running because we’re scared, we need to get our hands dirty.
4: What are we actually doing to reach the lost? It’s so easy to get caught up in our own lives, our day-to-day, the cushy seat at church, and our own bubble. But ultimately, our mission here on this Earth is to spread the good news and make disciples. Death and sin are real, and God has commanded us to find the lost and bring them to Jesus. Jonah had a very large, very clear calling to reach the lost, but so do we!
5: NEVER forget that God can redeem ANYTHING for His good. One of the parts of this story that I LOVE is verses 15-16: “Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.” It didn’t matter that Jonah had disobeyed, it didn’t matter that it seemed bleak and hopeless, God took an act of disobedience and turned it for His good and their glory. He took sin and gave salvation. I love that God can redeem anything for good.
So, as you read and ponder this story, ask the Lord to show you something new, and any areas of your life that look like Jonah.
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