Friday, May 5, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 7, 2017

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WHEN CALAMITY COMES
(GOD can bring us to HIMSELF in unexpected way)
(Jonah 1)

   The prophet Jonah, the son of Amittai, was born in Israel (2 Kings 14:25) in the 7th century B.C. He lived in Samaria, the capital city of northern Israel at that time. In the book of Jonah, in chapter 1, Jonah is called by GOD to travel to Nineveh, which is located about 550 miles northeast of Samaria, to prophesy to, and to warn the Ninevites, Israel’s greatest enemy at that time, to repent and turn to GOD.
    Nineveh was a unique, double walled pagan city of around 120,000 inhabitants, and it was located in the middle of the Assyrian Empire. It was so large, that it would take a person 3 days just to see the whole city. The inner wall of Nineveh was 100 feet high and 50 feet thick, and it directly surrounded the central city of Nineveh. The outer wall, which was similar in height and strength, surrounded the smaller towns, villages and fields (the suburbs) that were situated outside of the city.
    Jonah’s charge from GOD was to go there and deliver HIS message of judgment on the people, that, if they did not repent within 40 days, they would be destroyed. However, Jonah, because of his “national pride” and his hatred for his enemies on all sides, chose to ignore the LORD’s calling, and instead, he ran as far in the opposite direction as possible, all the way to Tarshish.
    Now a quick look at ancient maps tells us that Jonah’s fleeing to Tarshish was as far as one could go away from Israel in a westward direction at that time. Tarshish was a Phoenician colony that was located about 2500 miles west of Joppa, the place where the Apostle Peter would later spend time working with “Simon the tanner”, after JESUS’ ascension back into Heaven (Acts chapter 10).
    Here in this chapter (v.3) we see Jonah jumping up and hurrying down the seashore to Joppa to purchase a ticket on a boat headed to faraway Tarshish. He foolishly hoped somehow, that by going there, he would be able to escape the watchful eye of the LORD. However, the LORD caused a great storm to come over the sea that threatened to sink the ship and drown its entire crew.
    Fearing for their lives, the desperate men on board called out to their idol gods for help, while they, at one and the same time, began throwing their cargo overboard in an attempt to lighten their load.  Jonah meanwhile was sound asleep down below in the ship’s hold. When the captain of the ship realized it, he went down into the hold to wake him up. He urged Jonah to pray to his GOD, as they were praying to their gods for mercy, and maybe HE would spare them their lives.
    When Jonah came up to the deck, the sailors decided to draw straws to see which one of them had offended their respective gods, and thereby, caused the terrible storm that they were now confronted with. When they drew the straws, the LORD caused the short straw to go to Jonah.
    When the sailors confronted Jonah he admitted that it was he who had brought this disaster upon them. Knowing that GOD was using the storm to show resentment toward him for defying HIS instructions to go to Nineveh, Jonah then urged them to throw him overboard, and his GOD would cause the storm to cease.
    We are about to see here in this passage, that, even while Jonah was out of fellowship with GOD, GOD would still use Jonah to have an evangelistic impact on the men aboard the ship. His admission that he was the culprit that caused the storm, and then, his request to be sacrificed from the ship into the sea, along with the sudden stilling of the waters by GOD, all served to convert the sailors over to the real GOD, WHO dwells in Heaven, Jonah’s GOD.
    And so we see here, that, this event was not a testament to Jonah’s holiness, who at the time, was clearly navigating out of the Will of GOD, but rather, it was a testament to how a holy GOD can use imperfect agents to, not only do HIS Will, but also, in the process, glorify HIMSELF through our misbehavior.
     Even while out of fellowship with GOD, HE used Jonah to evangelize a boatload of unbelievers, into a ship full of men who were now willing to wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to the GOD in Heaven, WHO saved their lives, and their future livelihood as ship workers.
    We can all voluntarily present ourselves to GOD with clear channels through which HE can let HIS grace flow freely to ourselves, and, more importantly, to others. And we can truly, through our obedience to GOD, even in times of catastrophes such as the one presented here in this passage of Jonah, be a blessing to more people than we can ever imagine, because GOD is always trying to set us up, for a comeback.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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