Sep 29, 2019

Bitter or Bountiful

And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
Begin Session

First Thoughts

  1. Being perfectly honest, if you were in Jonah’s shoes, how would you have responded after Jonah 3?
  2. Consider all of the characters so far in the story. Who’s the hero? Who’s not looking great?

Read Jonah Four


The situation screams “madness!” Jonah is fuming. He is tail-spinning out of control, descending into his personal fit of rage at God, because God acted as expected, graciously and mercifully. God, on the other hand, has relented of His anger toward Nineveh because they repented. Do you see the statement being made about Jonah? Can you feel the irony? God is on a mission to reconcile all of creation back to Himself, and the one person in the story who should be seen as God’s holy mouthpiece to a dying world, literally prefers death—first, death for his enemy, and if that won’t happen, death for himself. 

Story Reflections

  1. Does Jonah know and trust God’s character? Why is Jonah angry? 
  2. Compare Jonah 4:2 with Exodus 34:4-6. What parts of this character description does Jonah minimize?
  3. Read Jeremiah 18:5-10. How do you feel about God’s statements here? 
  4. When you think of being “chosen” as described in the Bible, how would you describe it in your own words? How about “holiness”? How would you describe Jonah’s understanding of Israel’s “chosen-ness” and holiness? Why did God choose Israel and why did He set them apart as holy?
  5. Jesus says that He is a “sign” like Jonah. How does the entire story of Jonah point to the excellence of Jesus?
  6. Have you ever been unhappy with the results of a situation after you specifically chose to be obedient to something God impressed upon you?
  7. Be honest. Are there groups of people that you consider unworthy in some way? Why do you feel this way? What brought you to this conclusion?

Choices Ahead

Repentance is good. But what about when your enemy repents? This is where human graciousness and Divine Grace can go in different directions.

The crazy thing is that something good like holiness—being set apart, being different like God is different—can take a dark turn. I must be different, turns into “I don’t want you to be different like me” or “you don’t deserve to be part of this crowd.” 

Who is your Nineveh? Who is the person (or group) that makes you bitter at the thought of their success, happiness, or otherwise good graces? 

No one wants to admit it, but maybe you are harboring racial prejudices. Maybe you have grown to hate a family member. Maybe you have grown to see members of the opposing political party as unredeemable, unlovable enemies. Who is it that, if you are honest, you would rather see punished than rescued? We cannot forget Jesus’ words, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” It’s hard, but now is the time to confess. Who are you hating? Let’s repent together for our bitter hearts, and seek God’s grace and hope for EVERY one who might call on His name.
Bible Passage—
Jonah Four

Jonah's Anger and the Lord's Compassion

4 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plantand made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 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.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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