The Significance and Application of the Book of Jonah

September 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

This post continues some of my work sharing the significance and application of specific books of the Bible. I welcome your feedback and insights into these important books of the Bible.

The Significance and Application of the Book of Jonah

Photo Credit: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing

I.    THE PURPOSE AND ARGUMENT OF THE BOOK OF JONAH 

A.   Purpose

The book of Jonah shows God’s love and compassion for Gentiles in addition to Jews because God wants to be present with people.

B.   Argument

Jonah’s God was a God that desired people to be loyal to him and show love to him. The book of Jonah shows both God’s desire to be in the presence of people as well as the desire of some people to not be in his presence. When the Lord gave the message to Jonah (1:1) about going to Nineveh to tell the people that their city would perish in 40 days if they did not turn from their ways (1:2; 3:4), Jonah decided to go “away from the presence of the Lord” (1:3, 10). Away from God’s presence is not what God desired, therefore he sent a storm (1:4). Furthermore, God desired that the people of Nineveh be in his presence by allowing Jonah to have a second chance (3:1) at proclaiming the message.

An example that show’s how extraordinary that God’s love and compassion is for Gentiles is seen in Jonah. When the sailors found out that the terrible storm (1:4) was because of Jonah’s disobedience (1:7) Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard (1:12) in order to stop the storm from killing everyone. Instead of Jonah recognizing God’s storm as a sign to turn back and do the will of God, Jonah would rather have died. God’s love and compassion for the people of Nineveh was much greater than Jonah’s love and compassion for those Gentile people (3:10; 4:11).

II.  HOW JONAH FITS INTO THE OVERALL MESSAGE OF THE BIBLE

Some might empathize with Jonah’s complacency to go to the people of Nineveh (1:1; 3:1), give them a message (3:4), and help them not be destroyed by God because of their repentance (3:5-10). As a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam II (2 Kings 23-25) in 793-753 Assyria was one of Israelite’s largest and most powerful enemies. After all, hadn’t God promised to make Israel into a great nation (Gen 12:2-3; 13:14-17; 22:16-18)? However, this message from God (Jonah 1:1-2; 3:1-2) to go to the Assyrians is a foreshadow of God’s future plans to use Paul and the apostles to go to the Gentiles and proclaim the Gospel (Acts 9:15-16). And, that gospel was successfully shared with the entire world (Acts 28:28).

III.  HOW TO APPLY THE BOOK

A.   4 Principles from the Book of Jonah

1.    We Cannot Escape God’s Presence

Just as Jonah attempted to escape the Lord’s presence (1:3) we too cannot escape God’s presence. Pss 139:3 says that God sees us when we travel and when we rest at home because he knows everything that we do (also see Pss 139:7).

2.    Obedience Is Important to God

Jonah’s first call (1:1-2) resulted in him disobeying God and running away (1:3). Jonah’s second call (3:1-2) resulted in his obedience to do what God had told him to do (3:3). The important principle here is that God could have moved on to another prophet to use to proclaim his message. However, God placed Jonah in the fish (1:17) where Jonah repented (2:1-4), and God gave him the message again (3:1-2).

3.    Our Response to God Yields Results

Jonah’s first call (1:1-2) resulted in him disobeying God and running away (1:3). Jonah’s second call (3:1-2) resulted in his obedience to do what God had told him to do (3:3). However, each response of Jonah (whether in obedience or disobedience) yielded at outcome from God (1:4, 17; 3:5-10).

4.    God Gives Second Chances

No one would have blamed God for choosing another prophet to proclaim his message after Jonah had actively disobeyed (1:3) God’s command to Jonah (1:1-2). Yet, God gives second chances. After Jonah spent three days and three nights inside of the fish (1:17; 2:10) God again gave his message to Jonah (3:1-2) and therefore gave Jonah a second chance to be obedient to him.

B.   2 Sunday School Activities

1.   Meditate on God’s Presence

It is clear from the book of Jonah (1:4, 7-8, 11, 13-17; 2:2, 6, 10; 3:1-2; 10; 4:4, 6-11) as well as other Scripture in the Bible (Pss 139:3, 7) that God’s presence is everywhere. Ask students what areas they can be conscious of God’s presence. Encourage them to pick one or two times during the next week that they will meditate on God’s presence and then have them report back to the group the following Sunday about how they did.

2.    Reflection on Past Running from God

All of us have had times when we “ran” from God just like Jonah did (1:3-4). Yet, God appears to bring us back to him in various ways just as he brought Jonah back to himself (1:17; 2:10; 3:1-3). Ask everyone to think back on a time when they were running from God. How did God bring them back? In what way did God bring them back to him?

C.   My Personal Application

The statements Jonah makes about God to the gentile sailors stood out to me most. When the lots fell on Jonah and showed that he was the cause of the storm (1:7) Jonah made a couple of brief statements about God to those carnal and uncircumcised sailors. In 1:9 Jonah boldly declared to those men who he was (“I am a Hebrew”), who he worshipped (“I worship the LORD”), elaborated on who he worshipped (“the God of heaven”), and further explained the majesty of the LORD (“who made the sea and the land”). When talking to non-Christians I too hope to be so straightforward and blunt about who my God is and how majestic and powerful he is!

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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