May 14, 2017

Adult Bible Study Online

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God’s Love Preserved Jonah
Jonah 2

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Miss Annie Clemmer Funk realized her calling in November 1906 when she was sent to India as the first single female Mennonite missionary to be sent overseas. She started a school for girls. A teacher, Annie had served among the African American community in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and as a YWCA staff person working with immigrants and young women in Patterson, New Jersey, prior to her call to minister in India. In 1912, she was summoned to return to Pennsylvania because her mother was very ill.

Miss Funk boarded the Titanic in Southampton, England. She enjoyed the first days by celebrating her 38th birthday. On the night of the sinking, she was asleep in her cabin and was woken by the stewards. She quickly dressed and went up on the deck. She was about to enter a lifeboat, when a woman came from behind, pushing her aside by calling: "My children, My children." The last seat was gone, Annie had to step back. She died in the sinking. Her body, if recovered, was never identified.[1]

We do not know why the sea swallowed Annie and why God did not send a fish to save her. Unlike Jonah, Annie was running with God, not away from her life’s mission.

Jonah prayed to God when he was in the fish’s belly but not before he deliberately neglected God’s call. Jonah was supposed to go to Nineveh (1:2), but he tried to forget the Lord and ran in the opposite direction. Then Jonah remembered God (2:7). God’s hand was on Jonah and preserved Jonah’s life with a fish.

God is concerned about God’s work and ministry in the world, and, in the same way, God is also concerned about God’s workers and servants. In God’s provision, Jonah was not digested in the belly of the fish. Jonah needed Nineveh as much as Nineveh needed Jonah. Jonah needed saving as much as the people of Nineveh. At this juncture, Jonah is coming back to God through prayer.

God continues to love us and wants to teach us through all situations and circumstances. God taught Jonah while going through a situation that felt like death and hell (note Jonah’s pain, darkness, and despair). In a spiritual sense, Jonah was going through the same situation as the people of Nineveh—living in darkness and outside of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and love. God’s call in Jonah’s life was also preserved during this cycle of running away and experiencing God’s persistent love and grace.

Jonah’s eventual reply was “I will” with thanksgiving and sacrifices (2:9). As a Jew, Jonah was very familiar with the practices at the temple. Now see the difference between the first call to Jonah (1:2) and God’s re-call (3:2). Notice what all takes place in between them: violent storms, wind, an angry sea, and darkness. The problem was Jonah’s will. But God’s faithfulness and forgiving love melted Jonah’s strong will. At times, communities do not give us second chances, but God always does. As disciples, we are always given the opportunity to make a new beginning despite our weaknesses. God preserved Jonah, and Christ preserves us too (1 John 1:9).

God can change the length of our tribulations, as God likes. God spoke to the fish and the fish spit Jonah out on dry ground; Jonah’s life was preserved. God changed Jonah’s circumstances when Jonah’s character changed. Jonah was raised after three days of death in the belly of a fish (1:17–2:2. Brothers and sisters, Jonah learned the hard way, but you and I can say “Yes, Lord” to God’s call in our lives. May the Lord be with us during our journey.

  • Are we dying, unwillingly to obey God like Jonah? (1:3)
  • 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 or an outsider?
  • When have you ever felt like Jonah inside the belly of a fish?

—Paulus Thalathoti, paulus.thalathoti@gmail.com

© 2017

1. Pat Cook, Robert W. Gerhart, & Hermann Söldner, “Miss Annie Clemmer Funk,” Encyclopedia Titanica.

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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