Lesson on Compassion

Group Discussion // May 4, 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 4.

Jonah 4

4:1-4 Self-righteous Anger

  • (v1) Anger…What should have been a moment of joy and praise about the relenting of the promised destruction of a city, Jonah finds himself exceedingly displeased with the outcome that led to anger. Anger with the Lord for not destroying this enemy of Israel and by extension an enemy of God.
  • (v2) Prayer of accusation, but using positives. The self-righteousness of Jonah leads him to pray to God not with superlatives of praise for his mercy but of accusing God of being wrong about Nineveh.
    • “I knew that you are” – Jonah here knows the doctrinal truth about the character of God. He even states that the reason he fled previously was that because of God’s character, there would be mercy instead of judgement at this message.
    • If we read this prayer out of context, it would seem like a psalm of praise. Starting with “for I knew,” this phrase could easily be a hymn of praise and worship. Not a cause for bitterness and anger.
  • (v3) He is so angry that he would rather die than see Nineveh spared. Jonah hates these people so much that he does not want to live in a world where it is possible to have mercy and grace given to them.
    • Do we have these same thoughts about our supposed enemies?
      • Different political party?
      • Different social justice issues?
      • Different lifestyle choices?
      • Sinners being sinners?
  • (v4) God’s response to Jonah’s anger is a simple question, “Do you do well to be angry?”
    • God wants Jonah to examine his heart and motivation. Clearly there is a disconnect between the doctrinal head knowledge of Jonah and his doctrinal heart knowledge.
    • How often do you ask yourself this same question? Do you meditate on the Word of God and let it examine your heart with critical questions or do you sit and wallow in your indignation and self-righteousness? Letting this poison of bitterness and anger grow and infect every area of your life.
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Mercy Not Destruction

Group Discussion // April 27, 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 3.

Jonah 3

3:1-5 Take two… with an amendment

  • God gives Jonah the same message as in the beginning except that instead of focusing on the sin of Nineveh, he focuses on Jonah’s faithfulness. God seems a little more direct with Jonah this time as he specifically commands Jonah to give the message he is told.
  • Jonah’s response is obedience. There doesn’t seem to be any hesitation with Jonah this time. He obeys the Word of the Lord.
  • This is every preacher’s dream response. Not only did the people listen to the message he delivered, but they were convicted of their sin.
  • Picture Jonah’s appearance and then hear the message God gave him. How does his appearance affect the people’s response?
    • Jonah had to look like a ghost almost. Someone that has been recently in the grave. Which is not far from the truth.
  • The people didn’t believe Jonah… They believed God.
    • This is key for us to understand. We want to personalize the calling God has given us and take ownership of it.
    • We see success and failure based on how the people respond to us. We get our feelings hurt or our pride is wounded when people reject our message and by extension they reject us.
    • But the key element is that the people believed God and not the messenger. This is important for us as well. We want to make everything, even ministry, about us doing the Lord’s work. We are so self-righteous and full of pride that we take even the gospel message of hope and cloud it with our sin.
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Waiting in Sheol

Group Discussion // April 20, 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 2.

Jonah 2

2:1-2  Prayer During Distress

  • Assuming this is day three in the belly, What do you think it’s Jonah’s current state of mind? What is he feeling?
    • Jonah had to be feeling desperation, hopelessness, helpless. He doesn’t have any indication of how long he has been in the bell of the fish. In the darkness, the days all seem to run together and I am sure this just adds to his disorientation. He has to be feeling hurt, remorseful, ashamed, guilty even.
  • What do these first two verses of prayer tell us about those the days?
    • He is in distress. It is out of his distress that he prays. He likens his situation to being in Sheol, the grave. And truly that must be what it was like. This filthy, pitch black, putrid belly of a giant fish. It had to beyond unpleasant. 
    • They also tell us that Jonah is beginning to see the folly in his previous line of thinking. For it is here in Sheol that they Lord not only heard him, but answered him. The man than was trying to flee the presence of the Lord finally realizes that even in the depths of despair in the belly of a fish at the bottom of the sea the Lord is present with him.
  • When we are most overwhelmed, most troubled, most anxious – these are times when we need to cry out to the Lord. We can rest assured that he not only hears us, but answers us. Even when it doesn’t feel that way. When  everything around us seems hopeless, God is near.
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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.
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Irrationally Angry

Journal Entry // December 8, 2021

But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”

Jonah 4:9 ESV

Jonah is a tough read for me. I really enjoy the honesty of Jonah’s life and how we get a real glimpse of life at a prophet. There’s no doubt Jonah loved God and there is no doubt that God loves Jonah and used him in amazing ways, but I see far too much of myself in how Jonah respond to adversity and God’s plan. Even after Jonah repents inside the fish and is vomited onto the shore heading to Nineveh and sees a whole city repent in response to his message of destruction, Jonah is not only unhappy but angry. Not just angry, but irrationally angry.

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Fleeing God’s Presence

Journal Entry // December 7, 2021

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

Jonah 1:3 ESV

How often do I react to God’s calling in a similar manner to that of Jonah? To know without a doubt the command of God or his determination to place me where I am or his will to lead me through the desert. To know his hand upon me and to then flee from his presence because I dislike what he desires. To turn 180 degrees from the direction he leads and run from his presence. I wouldn’t say I do this often. Generally, I probably just grumble. But yes, there are times where I am actively disobedient to God’s sure direction in my life.

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