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.