Sermon Study Guide
We want to be a church that tips the culture of the South Valley toward vital relationship with Jesus. Planting God’s Word in our lives, and seeking ways to multiply that Word in others is a concrete way this vision will happen. Use the background below to aid your study of God’s Word this week.
June 26-July 28 | Jonah
Family Worship Month at Morgan Hill Bible Church
(scroll down for ideas to talk to kids about Jonah)
Background and Context:
The book of Jonah is unique among the prophetic writings. All the others are an account of the words of the prophets from God to the people. Jonah is a story about a prophet, and not a very good prophet at that! Jonah runs from Yahweh (“the LORD” is a stand-in for God’s personal name—Yahweh) because he hates the idea of God showing kindness to Israel’s enemy—the Assyrians (Nineveh is Assyria’s capital city).
Jonah’s other appearance in the Old Testament also casts him in an ambivalent light: Jonah was sent by God to tell Jeroboam II (really bad king from northern Israel) that God would grant him victory in securing Israel’s border. But then another prophet, Amos, is sent sometime after Jonah and reverses Jonah’s word to Jeroboam II—God’s justice turns against him so that the same areas Jeroboam conquered are taken away! (compare 2 Kings 14:23-25 and Amos 6:13-14)
Jonah is written in a way that helps us see the satire in this prophet’s story. Every character is extreme and acts opposite of everything we would expect. Yahweh’s prophet hates Him, pagan sailors worship Yahweh, evil kings, the nation, (and even the cows!) repent immediately. Jonah’s pathetic sermon, “Forty days and Nineveh will be overturned,” comes true, but not in the way Jonah was hoping. Jonah waited for God to overthrow and destroy Nineveh, but God used Jonah’s words to overturn and transform the hearts of every person (and animal) in that great city. Jonah was furious.
The book ends with a question that remains unanswered. It’s as if the whole point was not Jonah, but YOU and ME! God’s question lingers for the reader to answer themselves, “Am I OK with God loving my enemies? Am I willing to follow a God who would show that much grace and mercy to His enemies?”
Tips for Studying Jonah:
Jonah is a work of literary genius. The author intentionally crafted every word of Jonah’s story, and paying attention to word-play, repetition, irony and reversal is going to be helpful. One example: Jonah flees from Yahweh by getting on a boat and then declares, “I worship Yahweh…who made the sea!” Umm, so you’re running away… on a boat!? That should cause us to laugh out loud! Try asking, “what is comical here?” all throughout this story.
ENGAGE YOUNGER KIDS WITH THIS STORY:
This month is Family Worship Month at Morgan Hill Bible Church, which means most of our kids are sitting in service each week! Alexa Tewkesbury created an excellent kid’s version of the Jonah story that you might want to check out this link. Consider the following quote from Alexa’s version of the story:
‘Jonah...? Jonah are you listening?’
‘Go to Ninevah,’ God says. ‘The people there do bad things. They make me sad. Go to Ninevah, Jonah. Tell them I’m their friend and I want them to stop.’
Now I feel cross. Grrr… God wants the people of Ninevah to know how much he loves them. Huh! Well, they don’t deserve his love, so I won’t go.”
Try talking with your own kids about the story of Jonah. Use the quote above along with each week’s text and ask questions like:
· Why does Jonah think that the people in Ninevah don’t deserve God’s love?
· Have you ever had someone make you so sad or mad that you thought they didn’t deserve God’s love?
· How does it make you feel that God loves them anyway?
· What’s a time when you’ve made someone sad?
· How does it make you feel that God loves YOU no matter what?
· What can we do this week to share God’s love to someone else in our words and our actions? Let’s make a plan as a family…
If you didn’t pick up this week’s Study Guide you can download a copy here:
The Bible Project has created dozens of quality videos helping churches understand books and themes throughout the Scriptures. Check out this overview of the Prophets as you prepare to experience God’s heart through the men and women called to speak to God’s people:
These weeks we’re looking at Jonah; check out the Bible Project’s video overview of this prophet:
For further study of the prophets we recommend the following commentaries and Bible Dictionaries:
Goldingay, John. Daniel and The Twelve Prophets for Everyone. Old Testament for Everyone. Westminster John Knox Press, 2016.
Heschel, Abraham. The Prophets. HarperCollins, 1962.
McConville, J. Gordon. Exploring the Old Testament Volume 4: The Prophets. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
The specific prophetic book in either the Tyndale (IVP) or NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan) series.
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. InterVarsity Press, 1998.
The IVP Bible Background Commentary of the Old Testament. InterVarsity Press, 2000.
New Bible Dictionary. InterVarsity Press, 1996.