Questions for Personal Reflection and Group Discussion
Read Jonah 1:4-16:
But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”
7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. (ESV)
- Talk about the chiastic structure of this passage and how that adds to the meaning.
- What are some topsy-turvy ironies in this passage?
- What were some positive qualities of the people in this passage who are the “heathens”?
- Non-Christians often criticize Christians for being shallow and hypocritical. How does the book of Jonah (as well as other parts of the Bible) actually agree with them in this?
- What can we do to work against this (see #4 above)?
- As Christians we sometimes stay “below the deck” in a couple different ways: (1) By staying in our Christian bubble and only speaking about God and our faith there. (2) By being out in the world and doing good things, but never speaking up about God, so people don’t connect our love and good deeds to God. Talk about how we can avoid each of these.
- In Jonah’s day, pagans offered sacrifices to a god for each area of life that was important to them – including their occupations, their need a for good harvest, their sexuality, etc. While few people still believe in these gods, how do we as modern people sometimes live in a similar way today?
- When it came to being involved in the rescue of Jonah’s own people, he was quickly obedient. But when God asked him to be part of rescuing an enemy people, he ran the other way. How can we keep nationalism from hindering our Christian witness today?
- What does it mean to be “above the deck” as believers today? What are some ways you are doing this? What are some ways you could live into this more?
- Read Mark 4:35-41, looking for the similarities to the book of Jonah as you read. On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” What similarities does this have to the book of Jonah? How is it different from Jonah’s account, and what is the significance of those differences?
- What did you sense God saying to you through this message?