Journey Through The Scriptures

Jonah: God’s Reluctant Prophet

Lesson 1: Running Away from God

(Scripture to Read: Jonah 1:1 – 10; 2 Kings 14:25)

The prophet Jonah was not the first person in the Bible to run away from God, but he may well be the most famous. Jonah’s attempt to avoid his responsibilities by running from God is the theme of this story, and reminds us of when Adam also fled from God and sought to avoid responsibility for his actions, pushing it onto Eve who in turn blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:8–13). God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh, the great capital city of the Assyrian empire, and pronounce judgment against their evil and violence. It must have been daunting for Jonah to think of confronting these powerful people in a city that was over 500 miles from his hometown of Gath Hepher, located a few miles north of Nazareth in Galilee. But Jonah was also reluctant to obey God because the Assyrians were enemies.

But Jonah was also reluctant to obey God because the Assyrians were enemies of Israel. In 722 BCE, about a generation after Jonah’s ministry, they would destroy the northern kingdom of Israel. So Jonah headed for the other side of the known world, Tarshish. But the storm God sent was so fearsome the sailors prayed and cast lots to decide who was to blame, a common practice in that day. Jonah was identified, and he admitted to the terrified sailors that he was the cause of the calamity that had come upon them.

Study Questions

  1. This story begins with “the word of the LORD” coming to Jonah. How does this phrase set the context for the story?
  2. According to 2 Kings 14:25, what other prophecy did Jonah make?
  3. What did Jonah hope to accomplish by running away from Nineveh? (Hint: read Jonah 4:2)
  4. What was so terrifying about this storm?

Something to Think About

The first question God asks in the Bible is, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Of course, God knew where Adam was, and He knows where we are. This is a question we need to ask of ourselves. Where are we in relation to God, to our family, to our fellow man? Are we doing His will, or are we trying to flee our responsibilities? Ask yourself this question regularly and check up on how you are doing.