Lesson 10: May 7, 2017
God’s Sustaining Love: Jonah 1
Teaching Strategy: Compare and contrast the behavior of the sailors and of Jonah in the face of the storm. What is praiseworthy? What is worthy of condemnation? How do these reactions illustrate the ways people respond to crises today?
Jonah “set out to flee … from the presence of the Lord” (vv. 3, 10). He was on a ship to Tarshish when “the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up” (v. 4). In the face of this crisis, the sailors wanted to know whom to blame and how to save themselves. When they had determined that Jonah was the cause of “this calamity,” they asked him what they should do to him so “that the sea may quiet down for us” (v.11). Jonah instructed them to throw him into the sea. They did, but Jonah was saved when “the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah.” Jonah did not succeed in fleeing from the Lord, but instead discovered God’s sustaining love in the midst of the storm.
This biblical story raises many contemporary questions. In what ways do we try to flee from God’s presence? When we face our own crises, do we seek someone to blame? How do we decide? What do we do (or want to do) to those whom we blame? How do we seek to save ourselves? What have we done – or can we do – that is praiseworthy? What have we done – or might we do – that would be worthy of condemnation? How has God saved us? How have we experienced God’s sustaining love in the midst of the storm?
People experience many kinds of crises, acute and chronic – at home, at work, in churches and communities, in nations, and globally. Answering the questions above in relation to specific crises may generate more insightful reflections than thinking about them in a general or “generic” way. Consider examples such as these, or others that are more relevant to participants:
- A Christianity Today essay on ways to respond: Listen More, Speak Less to Help After Tragedies Like the Deadly Texas Church Bus Accident that occurred on March 29, 2017, killing 13 seniors.
- A Chicago Tribune article (January 28, 2017): Report Says Youth Unemployment Chronic, Concentrated and Deeply Rooted .
- Also in January 2017, a Time.com update: Flint’s Water Crisis Still Isn’t Over. Here’s Where Things Stand a Year Later.
- One of many recent articles about the likelihood of imminent famine: Drought and War Heighten Threat of Not Just 1 Famine But 4