Return to God

God's call to return to Him demands a response

In the Book of Jonah, we see a man who got off course in His relationship with God. Jonah’s move away from God’s instruction wasn’t subtle; he flatly refused to listen to God. But God got Jonah’s attention in a most unexpected way. As we’ll see in this study, God often acts to get our attention and draw us back to Him.

Do you believe God can call us back and awake us?

READING

Jonah 1:1–3; 3:1–5,10
Jonah Flees From the Lord
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
………………
Jonah Goes to Nineveh
1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
……………………
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened

CONTEXT

Jonah, a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel about 800–750 BC, had willingly been used by God to deliver a message of encouragement to his nation (see 2 Kings 14:25).

However, when God commanded him to deliver a warning message to Nineveh, the capital city of Israel’s oppressor, Assyria, Jonah at first refused. Only later, with reluctance, did Jonah comply with God’s instruction.

Israel shared its northern border with Syria. When the army of Syria defeated the army of Israel in war, it took some of Israel’s land. Then the army of the country of Assyria defeated Syria in war, which made Syria weak. Then Jeroboam (king of Israel 793–753 BC) was able to get his land back. Jonah had said that God would cause this to happen (2 Kings 14:25).

God called Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and call the people there to turn away from their sin. Nineveh had “more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left” (4:11). It was a big city. It was also a pagan place, full of clueless people. God wanted to use Jonah to get their attention and do something about their spiritual condition.

The book does not say who wrote it. It is unlikely that Jonah was the author. This is because the story is not very favourable towards Jonah. No writer in the Bible tells such a bad story about himself.

Source: VisualUnit.me — Biblical resources for the visually-minded — Thanks Mark Barry!

DISCUSSION

  • What do you like about the text?
  • What questions do you have about these verses?

Jonah 1:1–3

  • Why is it sometimes tempting to flee from God?
  • Does God still talk today? What are some ways God speaks to people today?

Jonah 3:1–5

  • When have you benefited from a second chance?
  • When have you been in a position to offer someone else a second chance?
  • What are the different ways people responded to God in these verses?

Jonah 3:10

  • What do God’s actions toward Jonah and the Ninevites teach us about His character?

[What about mercy? God is full of mercy.]

[How Nineveh was different than Sodom and Gomorra?]

REFLECTION

The same principles are at work in our lives. There are times when God gives us a clear call to return to Him, but we respond by taking the first ship going in the opposite direction. We race toward a place, person, or desire we think will bring fulfillment, yet we only find destruction. Running from God always leads to pain. Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there.

Be sensitive to God’s voice: Don’t let yourself become numb toward God.Immerse yourself in Bible study and prayer, asking God to help you be more sensitive to His voice.

Respond with obedience: When you hear God telling you to do something in the days to come — do it! Repentance isn’t necessary when we obey God’s call in the first place.

Repent when necessary: None of us will obey perfectly. When you find yourself wandering from God, repent, turn away from your disobedience, and turn back to God.


As we saw in Jonah’s story, God often acts to get our attention and draws us back to Himself. Could He be trying to get your attention right now?


CLOSING

Spend time in prayer this week asking God to make you aware of areas in your life where He may be trying to draw you back to Himself. Be willing to say yes, even before He asks you to respond

PRAYER REQUESTS

THINK about friends, people you know, that are distant, asleep from God, and let’s pray for them as well.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Researching on Jonah, I found this fantastic website, VisualUnit.me, with a number of visual resources for Bible Studies.

Source: VisualUnit.me — Biblical resources for the visually-minded — Thanks Mark Barry!
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