Jonah, Prophet to Nineveh
“The Lord… is patient with you, … wanting… all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
Jonah lived during the time Jeroboam II was king over Israel, mere decades before the Northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed. Jonah was a prophet—and while he is best known as the man who was swallowed by a big fish when he tried to run away from God, his story continues beyond chapter 2 to reveal what Jonah knew all along: God is “a gracious and compassionate God” (John 4:2b).
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!
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and the rulers of Nineveh were notoriously evil and cruel. That was the very reason God called Jonah to go to them: “their evil has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). God is the Judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25), and He is sovereign over all the nations.
Jonah discovered that 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, and Jonah went to Nineveh. For three days, Jonah walked around the city. His message to the Ninevites was brief: “In forty days Nineveh will be demolished!” (Jonah 3:4)
The people of Nineveh immediately repented, and God withheld His judgment. “Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious” (Jonah 4:1). God rebuked Jonah. He left Jonah—and the reader—with a question to consider: “May I not care about the great city of Nineveh?” (Jonah 4:11).
Emphasize to your kids that Jesus is greater than Jonah. (Matt. 12:41) 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. 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.
Check this session’s Activity Page and Big Picture Card as well as the Gospel Project for Kids Family App for ways to interact with the Bible content this week
BIBLE STORY SUMMARY:
- God told Jonah to go to Nineveh to tell the people to stop doing wrong things.
- Jonah got on a boat to go the other way.
- God sent a fish to swallow Jonah.
- Jonah went to Nineveh and the people said they were sorry to God.
- God loves all people.
KEY PASSAGE: 2 Peter 3:9
BIG PICTURE QUESTION:
- Why should we obey God? We should obey God because He made us, He loves us, and His plans are good.
FAMILY DISCUSSION STARTERS:
- Why did Jonah disobey God?
- Why was Jonah mad when God decided not to destroy Nineveh?
- What does knowing that God loves all people tell us about how we should treat others?
- How is Jesus better than Jonah?
- Plant a shrub or tree in your yard or the yard of a neighbor or local ministry. Read Jonah 4. Talk about how God loves all people.