Leading Question: What are the most common excuses we use to avoid doing what God has called us to do?
Scripture Focus: Jonah 1-4; Isaiah 6:1-8
The Big Idea: God sends us to those we hate . . . and extends undeserved compassion to them.
Before discussing these questions, it would be helpful to read through the book of Jonah!
- God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh, a principal city in Assyria, a feared and hated enemy of Israel at this time. The Assyrians were noted in the ancient world for their cruelty, and Nahum later lists Nineveh’s sins as plotting evil, gratuitous cruelty in war (they led prisoners with hooks and impaled their victims, for example), sexual immorality, witchcraft, and commercial injustice and exploitation.
- Adventists have often focused on withdrawing from places of vice and encouraged simple, rural living. Today, more than 50% of the world lives in urban areas. How should the call to reach people where they are be balanced with the idea of withdrawing from wicked cities?
- Which do you suppose was the greater hurdle for Jonah—the fact that he was afraid of going to Nineveh, or that he hated Nineveh and wanted it to be destroyed?
- What is the greater hurdle for us today—fear of the “other” or hatred of the “other”?
- The book of Jonah draws a contrast between the apparent “heathens” and the prophet of the Lord. In each case the “heathens” (the praying sailors and the fasting people of Nineveh) seem more devout and spiritually open than the prophet. Even the great fish and the growing vine did God’s bidding—it was only Jonah who resisted God direction!
- What lessons should we learn from this? Are Christians closer to God than people of other faiths?
- What are some stories in the Bible that show that “God’s people” have things to learn from “heathens”?
- Jonah preached that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days. It wasn’t. Was Jonah a false prophet? What is the purpose of a prophecy of the future?
- At the end of the book, Jonah expresses his frustration at God’s graciousness and compassion. He admits that this was the reason why he didn’t want to come to Nineveh to begin with. He knew that God was “a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2).
- Is God too compassionate? Should a long history of cruelty, witchcraft, prostitution, violence and injustice simply be forgiven after a few days of fasting?
- Can you think of someone you don’t want God to have compassion on—someone you want God to punish?
- Who changed most in this story—Jonah, or the people of Nineveh?
- As we reflect on the violence, sexuality immorality, spiritualism, and injustice in our world today, what are the main lessons we should draw from the book of Jonah?