Friday, March 12, 2010

An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday March 14, 2010

(No one is beyond GOD’s redemption)
(Jonah 4)

The prophet Jonah ministered during the reign of Jeroboam II. Years earlier, during the reign of Jeroboam II’s great grandfather, Jehu, the nation of Assyria had established dominance in the east, and, had secured tributes from Jehu, in effect, making him a vassal king. Sometime later, however, the Assyrians suffered a temporary setback due to dissension within their camp, and this allowed Jeroboam II to expand Israel’s territories to its greatest size since the “United Kingdom” of David and Solomon.
Unfortunately, because of Jeroboam II’s disobedience to GOD, and his leading of Israel farther into idolatry, GOD had sent both Amos, and Hosea into northern Israel to warn him of Israel’s impending judgment if they didn’t repent and return to HIM. In fact, the prophet Hosea specifically told Israel that GOD would use the Assyrians to topple them because of their refusal to return to HIM (Hosea 11:5). But, because Assyria had been lingering in a weakened and declining state for some years at that time, Israel did not believe the prophets and remained stubborn refusing to heed their warnings from GOD.
Perhaps the prophecies of Amos and Hosea explain why Jonah was reluctant to obey GOD and go to preach repentance to Nineveh. He of course, was one who believed Amos and Hosea, and so, he, understandably had a problem with going to save his enemies, so that they can come later and destroy Israel.
Nineveh’s repentance delayed GOD’s wrath on them for another 150 years. However, as man always does, so too, the people of Nineveh fell back into the doldrums of sin, and their city was still ultimately destroyed. World history tells us that Nineveh was invaded and destroyed by Nabopolasser, the Babylonian king, with help from his ally Cyaxeres the Mede, in 612 B.C. (also see Nahum’s prophecy in the book of Nahum).
Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites, which resulted in their repentance and their turning to GOD, angered Jonah very much. In fact, here in chapter 4 of his book, we see that he threw a major, adult-sized temper tantrum, stormed out of the city, and sat underneath a large leafy plant that GOD had provided for his protection from the blazing hot sun, and he literally sulked throughout the night.
GOD continues to deal with Jonah, however, as HE sends a worm to kill the plant that HE had made for the disgruntled prophet, causing him to be angered to the point of death. The lesson that GOD is trying to teach Jonah here is that when we cause GOD to withdraw HIS compassion from us, through our own ungratefulness and disobedience, we don’t have a right to be angry when we see HIM bestowing HIS compassion upon someone else, even if its upon those whom we don’t like.
We can not be sure, whether or not this lesson was lost on Jonah, for his book ends without him ever responding to GOD’s final comments to him. However, as I said in last week’s commentary, Jonah was clearly at fault with his attitude of not wanting GOD’s “will of compassion” to demonstrated in the lives of others, even if he feared they might harm him at some future date. But if we pray for GOD’s will to done in the lives of those we think might harm us, as believers, we have to know that GOD can and will act on their heart for the better.
The book of Jonah has often been called “The Gospel of Second Chance”, because it clearly shows that when we know GOD, HE will not let us run away from obedience for too long. And sometimes HE may have to place great storms in our lives, or great fishes in our paths to get our attention, however, we can be thankful, because ultimately, “our compassionate GOD” always has our best interest at heart.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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