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Friday, December 7, 2012

Bible Session - 12+ Group - 12-3-12

Jonah Goes To Nineveh
Review last 2 weeks: 
            God told Jonah “Go to Nineveh.”
            Jonah runs in the opposite direction and gets on a ship.
            The ship almost sinks in a storm.
            The sailors cast lots; it’s Jonah’s fault.
            Jonah has the sailors throw him overboard.
            The sea becomes calm; the sailors are saved.
            Jonah is swallowed by a large fish where he stays for 3 days and 3 nights.
            Jonah turns back to God and the fish pukes him out onto dry land.

Read:  Jonah 3:1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:
If God tells you once, listen and obey.
If God tells you twice, you better already be moving!

Read:  Jonah 3:2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
In Jonah 1:2 God says “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

In Jonah 3:2 God says “Go and proclaim the message that I give you.”

I find it interesting that God did not say the same thing both times.  He also did not say “proclaim the message I GAVE to you” which would be the message from Jonah 1:2.  Instead he says “the message I give you,” which implies there will be a new message or more to the message he previously gave.

Read: Jonah 3:3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.  Now Nineveh was a very important city – a visit required three days.

Finally!  Jonah finally obeys and gets to where he was supposed to go.

Nineveh was a HUGE city for that time.  If the Bible writer takes the time to point out the size of the city, you know it is important.

Read: Jonah 3:4 On the first day, Jonah started into the city.  He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

Jonah wasted no time.  He went straight to the punch and delivered God’s message. Now we know what that message was that God was going to give to Jonah.  40 DAYS

Read: Jonah 3:5-6 The Ninevites believed God.  They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.  When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took of his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.

Why did Nineveh believe Jonah?  Why did they believe God’s word when they did not worship God?   Because Jonah smelled like rotting fish guts?  Because no prophets from Israel have ever prophesied to a foreign nation before?  What do you think?

Well, the Ninevites believed, fasted and put on sackcloth.  Three points to look at here.

1.      All of them.  It doesn’t say that some believed God.  It says that ALL OF THEM believed God.  To make this point, the Bible says from the greatest to the least.  To stress the point even further, the Bible goes into detail about the kings’ actions.

2.      How a leader acts greatly impacts those under him or her.  Believe me, your actions speak louder than your words, and if you’re thinking “This does not apply to me; I’m not a leader.” Look behind you, if anyone is following you, you’re a leader.

3.      Sackcloth – Usually made of coarse, black goat’s hair sackcloth was used for making bags, but also for wearing during times of mourning or deep repentance (being very sorry for things you’ve done and turning from them.)
Read: Jonah 3:7-9 Then he (the king) issued a proclamation in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.  But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth.  Let everyone call urgently on God.  Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.  Who know?  God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

A few key thoughts in this section.

1.      The leader sets the example – puts on sackcloth, removes himself from the throne, and sits in the dust.  Then he sends the proclamation.  A good example of leadership – He sets the example and then asks the same of his followers.

2.      In the king’s proclamation, he says no one (man or beast) can eat or drink.  I have 2 cats, a dog, and a rabbit.  I cannot imagine trying to put sackcloth on them and keep them from eating or drinking for even one day.  They were supposed to do this with all of their “beasts” or large animals.

3.      In the king’s proclamation, he tells everyone to “Call urgently on God.”  I feel like all too often as Christians we become complacent.  Just like the Ninevites, we need to call urgently on God.  We need to be passionate about our relationship with God.

4.      Give up your evil ways and violence.  Do any of you have a habit that you have tried to quit? Now imagine you were born into a family, a city, an entire culture where that is a habit for everyone.  You’re 15 years old now.  You’ve spent 15 years surrounded by this habit.  You’ve developed your own habit, your own behavior patterns, and now on the king’s command, you give it up.  Sound easy?

5.      Hope – The king is tough on his people?  Sackcloth – fasting – prayer – keep the animals form eating and drinking as well and cover them in sackcloth as well.  Why?  Despite the 40 day warning with no offer of forgiveness, the king holds onto the hope that perhaps God will spare his people. 
Read: Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

Can you imagine the celebration in Nineveh?  From sackcloth to celebration!  God spared Nineveh!

Next week: Jonah’s Response – God’s Lesson

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