Jonah, Prophet to Ninevah
“Return to the Lord your God. For He is gracious and compassionate.” Joel 2:13
Last week, we saw Hosea’s amazing love for his unfaithful wife that provided a picture of God’s greater love for His unfaithful people. This week, we looked at Jonah’s lack of love as a contrast.
The Book of Jonah is not primarily about Jonah and a big fish. While those elements are important, Jonah’s account centers around the compassion of God, not only for the people of Israel, but for people throughout the earth—even Israel’s worst enemies!
God spoke to Jonah: “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because their wickedness has confronted Me” (Jonah 1:2). God is the judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25) and He is sovereign over all the nations. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and the rulers of Nineveh were notoriously evil and cruel. No wonder Jonah ran the other way!
No one can flee from God’s presence. (Ps. 139:9-10) Through a storm and some time in the belly of a fish, God got Jonah’s attention. Jonah went to Nineveh. For three days, Jonah walked around the city. His message to the Ninevites was brief: “In 40 days Nineveh will be demolished!”
The people of Nineveh immediately repented, and God withheld His judgment. He passed over their sins and did not demolish the city. How did Jonah react? “Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious” (Jonah 4:1). Jonah refused to love the people of Nineveh, even when God did.
God rebuked Jonah and prompted him to examine his heart. He left Jonah—and the reader—with a question to consider: “Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh?” (Jonah 4:11).
God called Jonah to go to his enemies and call them to turn away from their sin, but Jonah refused. Instead, he ran away. Later, God sent Jesus to His enemies to call us to repentance. Jesus willingly obeyed. Jesus died on the cross to rescue us from sin.
Help your kids see that God’s love extends to the nations and that like Nineveh, we are all enemies of God undeserving of grace and mercy. Jesus is greater than Jonah. (Matt. 12:41) Jesus came calling all sinners, Jews and Gentiles, to repentance. He didn’t only bring a message, He truly loved us. He submitted to God’s will with joy and laid down His own life for our sins. God shows His mercy in the gospel, forgiving those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. God sends us out, like Jonah, to share the good news of salvation.
KEY PASSAGE: Joel 2:13
BIG PICTURE QUESTION:
- What is God like? God is merciful and loving.
BIBLE STORY: JONAH, PROPHET TO NINEVEH
- God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell the people to stop doing bad things.
- Jonah got on a boat to go away.
- God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah for three days.
- Jonah went to Nineveh.
- The people said they were sorry.
- Jonah was mad that God showed mercy to the Ninevites.
FAMILY DISCUSSION STARTERS:
- Name a time when you did something you did not want to.
- Why did God show mercy to the Ninevites?
- What ways does God show mercy to us?
- Learn to appreciate other cultures. Visit an ethnic restaurant or grocery store. Attend an international festival. Play with children at a refugee center. Attend a worship service in a different language.
NEXT WEEK “Joel, Prophet to Judah” (Joel 1–3)