Fleeing His Presence

Group Discussion // April 13, 2022

This is a lesson I prepared for a community group discussion. I have reworked it a bit to provide a summary of the discussion points during our time spent together in Jonah chapter 1.

Jonah 1

1:1-3  Fleeing the Presence of the Lord

  • Think about God giving you this calling to go to the epicenter of the country that is the sworn enemy of your home. Not only the enemy that wants to destroy you, but you and your fellow countrymen hate them as well. For Jonah, it was even more than that. Nineveh represented not only the enemy of Israel, but the enemy of God.
    • Now, personalize this calling for yourself. What’s your reaction? How is it different than, or the same as Jonah’s?
  • Jonah chose to go the complete opposite direction of where God had called him. A complete 180 degree turn. It wasn’t that Jonah just decided to disobey, but Jonah decided to go the complete opposite direction than what the Lord said.
  • What’s the significance of him fleeing the presence of the Lord?
    • Jonah is clearly aware that he cannot flee the presence of the Lord, but his heart intention was to flee God’s presence.
    • It hearkens us back to the Garden. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they realized they were naked and felt ashamed. So, when they heard the Lord walking in the Garden, they hid themselves. They were in essence fleeing the presence of God.

1:4-6  Consequences of Decisions

  • What’s God’s response to Jonah’s decision?
    • God responds to Jonah in a manner designed to get his attention and engage him directly in his sin. To force him to deal with his rebellion.
    • God sends a tempest upon the sea. Not just any storm, but one that was so strong that it threatened to beak the ship apart.
  • What was Jonah’s response to his decision to flee?
    • Jonah’s response is that he is fast asleep. The sailors had to go and wake him.
    • Jonah was so blinded to the depth of his sin that he was not concerned at all. There was no anxiousness, no guilt, no shame plaguing him and causing him to lose his appetite or sleep. Quite the opposite actually.
    • Jonah’s response is one of contentment with his decision
  • What are the immediate consequences of his decision?
    • The immediate consequences are that Jonah had endangered a ship full of innocent sailors.
    • Jonah in his flagrant sin and blindness thereof, had unintentionally brought these men into harm’s way.
    • We may think our sin is of no consequence. It is only a thought. It is only an action that could cause no harm. Nobody is getting hurt. These are all lies from the tempter designed to lure us to sleep.

1:7-10  Heart Change

  • Compare Jonah’s heart attitude in v.9 with v.10
    • V.10 – In this verse we are told that Jonah was so at ease with his sin that he freely told these men that he was fleeing the presence of the Lord. He had no guilt or shame. He was acting as if he was in the right.
    • V.9 – Jonah acknowledges that he can in no way flee the presence of the Lord. God is the Lord of both the dry ground, which he left, and the sea, which is where he finds himself.
    • There is an awareness awakening in Jonah and the storm is working its purpose to rouse this sleeper.

1:11-16  Obedience

  • Compare the difference in how the men treated Jonah with how Jonah treated them?
    • Jonah was not mindful of the men at all. He was fleeing the presence of the Lord and took a vessel full of innocent men out onto the sea without a care or thought for the danger he may put them in.
    • The men in contrast, cared for Jonah and sought to preserve and save his life. They feared the Lord, exceedingly.
  • How did the men respond to the clear will of God in this situation?
    • Once the men had determined that God was calling them to hurl Jonah into the sea, they were obedient. They were humble and obedient.

1:17  Salvation Appointed

  • What’s the significance of this verse?
    • Compassion – In this verse we see the compassion of God. Jonah had been hurled into the sea without any hope of survival. The sailors understood this. They were tossing this man to his death. But the Lord appointed a great fish to come and swallow up Jonah. In God’s compassion he saves Jonah from the consequences of his sin and then delivers him to the place of his calling to carry out his assigned task. God’s compassion provides an opportunity for Jonah to be obedient.
    • Resurrection – In a story that deals with the complete disobedience of a prophet who went out of his way to flee the presence of the Lord, God works to develop a story that will be used as the archetype of the resurrection. When talking about his death, Jesus will remind us that just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, so he too will be in the tomb for three days and three nights.
    • This is a beautiful chapter of God’s working for good the wayward heart of his servant. That even when Jonah makes a poor choice, a sinful choice, God can and will use this for good. He did not cast Jonah away as useless. On the contrary, God used this to teach Jonah what it means to trust and follow the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And he does the same for you and me each and every day.

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