Jonah 4: What's wrong with Jonah?

Study Notes

Read Jonah 3:10 – 4:11

  • What is God’s response to the Ninevite’s repentance? What is Jonah’s?
  • Why did Jonah get so angry – especially given what he knew about God’s character (verse 2), and also after how God treated him when the sailors threw him into the sea?
  • How does Jonah’s core belief about evil and justice compare to God’s?
  • What did God do in response to Jonah’s anger?
  • What is God saying to Jonah in the episode with the plant, the worm and the scorching wind?
  • In what ways are we sometimes more concerned about our shady trees than about those under God’s judgment?
  • Nicolaus Zinzendorf (1700 – 1760), the German theologian, wrote about the three conversions we go through on our road toward spiritual maturity: conversion to God; conversion to the church (God’s people); and conversion to the world. How does this help us understand what is going on in the book of Jonah?
  • How do you think Zinzendorf’s idea of three conversions fits with our traditional evangelical understanding of conversion?
  • In what ways to we need each of the three conversions every day?
  • Thinking back over the last four weeks of Jonah, what has challenged you?
  • Has your attitude to sharing the love of God with others changed in any way?

Jonah 3: Is change really possible?

Study Notes

  • What is one thing you remember about the sermon this week?
  • Was there anything you disagreed with?

Read Jonah 3

  • In what ways do Jonah, the Ninevites and God all change in this chapter?
  • How easy or difficult do you think it is to change?
  • Why do the Ninevites change?
  • What are the outward signs of the Ninevite’s repentance? Are there any modern day equivalents? Should there be?
  • Why do you think it can be so hard to repent?
  • What does it tell us about God that he is asking to Jonah to go to Nineveh again?
  • How many chances to we give people? How does justice fit into this?
  • What does it tell us about God that he is even asking Jonah to seek repentance and forgiveness for the Ninevites?

Read Matthew 12:38-41

  • Why would the Ninevites judge us?
  • In the sermon Mark spoke about how to go about changing our hearts. He used the expression ‘reorder our joys’. What does it mean to reorder our joys?
  • How do you think God is calling you to change? What joys could you reorder?

The number ‘forty’

Jonah’s message to the Ninevites is “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown”. Forty is a number that is used in multiple places in the bible. It has literal meaning, and it also has symbolic meaning, which is ‘an extended period of time, with particular focus on encounter with God’.  Take a look at the following passages and discuss in what ways these ‘40s’ mean encounter with God:

  • Genesis 7:4
  • Acts 7:30
  • Exodus 16:35 & Deuteronomy 8:2
  • Exodus 24:18 & 34:28
  • 1 Kings 19:8
  • Matthew 4:2 & Mark 1:13
  • Acts 1:3

Nineveh will be ‘overthrown’

The Hebrew word for overthrown (haphak) in this passage has two meanings. It can mean overthrown in the military sense – as a city would be captured and destroyed by a more powerful force. Or it can mean ‘hearts changed from the inside’. So when Jonah prophesies that Nineveh will be overthrown is saying they will either be destroyed or changed.


Jonah 2: Inside a Big Fish (and why you should tell people about Jesus now...)

Study Notes

  • What was this week’s sermon about?
  • Has anything challenged you this week?

Read Jonah 1 & 2

  • What has God asked Jonah to do?
  • Why did Jonah head in the opposite direction?
  • In heading for Tarshish Jonah was trying to get as far away from God as possible. In what ways is it possible / impossible to get away from God?
  • What do you think God was thinking when he sent the storm in verse 4? Was it punishment, as the sailors seemed to think? Was it persuasion? Was it simply the consequences of not living the way God intended?
  • Has God ever asked you to do something that you REALLY didn’t want to do? What happened?
  • God has our best interests at heart and he wants us to flourish. Why then does he give us free will? (You may like to consider what life would be like if we were forced to love and obey God, or if we were created without the ability to make our own choices.)
  • Chapter 2 is written from inside a fish! Yet it is a prayer of thanksgiving (see verse 9). How is it that Jonah is able to be thankful in those circumstances?
  • How do your life circumstances influence how easy or difficult it is for you to be thankful?
  • Why do you think we sometimes have to sink so low before we remember God?
  • In asking Jonah to preach in Nineveh, God is seeking repentance – and therefore forgiveness and salvation – for a notoriously evil group of people. How do you feel about God seeking forgiveness for people you consider evil?
  • How about people who you may not consider totally evil, but you just don’t like?