May 7, 2017

Adult Bible Study Online

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God’s Sustaining Love
Jonah 1:7-17

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We do not know the reasons why, despite their work for the kingdom of God, some of our brothers and sisters leave this world so suddenly. The untimely deaths of Mennonites John Dave Troyer (1981)[1] and Michael J. Sharp[2] leave us with unanswered questions. Clearly, they were not running away from God’s call.

Jonah’s story, however, is quite different. When we knowingly disobey the Lord’s call we can sometimes encounter the Lord’s anger. In those circumstances, we can feel God’s hand on us; this is exemplified in the life of Jonah. Throughout history, God’s mighty call has come to God’s chosen people, saying, “Go and do my will, and serve others” either in the same community or to an unknown people, place, or language. Jonah was not ready to go and share the peace of God and God’s gospel with the people of Nineveh (Jonah 1), despite God’s compassionate love for them (4:2).

A cancer cell is a small but selfish cell; it will not cooperate with the rest of the body. At times, we are like a cancer cell or parasite when we resist God’s call. In the story of Jonah various parts of creation (wind, vegetables, and animals) are cooperating with God, but Jonah is taking his own route. Jonah has no compassion toward the people of Nineveh, and when he boards the ship to run away from God, he is found sleeping down below the deck and not caring what others are doing or what is going on around him. And yet, he still knows who he is: a Hebrew and a believer in the God who made heaven, sea, and dry land.

At times, we all need to learn from non-disciples. In Jonah’s story, some “outsiders” were trying to help Jonah (1:11-13). They even cried out to the Lord for their lives and begged the Lord to not hold them accountable for taking Jonah’s life. The calming of the storm when they finally threw Jonah overboard caused the sailors to fear the Lord and offer sacrifices and vows to God (vv. 14-16).

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to evaluate ourselves for how well we are responding to the call of the great commission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). Jonah’s story can give us an opportunity to open our hearts to Jesus’ command to go and serve, share, and preach the peace and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our Lord is a loving God, a caring God, and a protecting God who takes care of us in times of need and pain. God meets us along the way in our highs and lows, in times of good or ill health, in the valley of darkness as well as in our times of happiness and joy.

  • Have you ever run away from God or God’s call?
  • Have you ever experienced “the lot” like Jonah, or been “singled out” by God?
  • When have you needed to learn about God from a stranger?
  • When have you ever felt like Jonah inside the belly of a fish?

—Paulus Thalathoti,

© 2017

1. “Presumed Leftist Guerrillas Shot to Death One American Mennonite,” UPI, September 16, 1981.
2. See Paulus Thalathoti, “God’s Love as Victory over Death,” ABS Online, April 16, 2017.

Paulus Thalathoti is an ordained minister and the founding president of Peace Proclamation Ministries, an evangelistic and church planting ministry with those living in the interior rural areas of India. Dr. Thalathoti also serves as chairperson for Penn Bible Fellowship in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Sumatha, are mission associates with Mennonite Mission Network and members of Plains Mennonite Church, Hatfield, Pennsylvania.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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