1. “NINEVEH, THAT GREAT CITY”
a. What was the moral condition of Nineveh at the time Jonah was sent there? Nahum 3:1.
“In the time of its temporal prosperity Nineveh was a center of crime and wickedness. . . .
“Yet Nineveh, wicked though it had become, was not wholly given over to evil. He who ‘beholdeth all the sons of men’ (Psalm 33:13) and ‘seeth every precious thing’ (Job 28:10) perceived in that city many who were reaching out after something better and higher, and who, if granted opportunity to learn of the living God, would put away their evil deeds and worship Him.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 265, 266.
b. Compare the cities of Sodom and Nineveh, considering the number of souls within the reach of the Holy Spirit? Genesis 18:32; Jonah 4:11. What warning echoes down to us today?
“The sins of Sodom are repeated in our day, and the earth is destroyed and corrupted under the inhabitants thereof; but the worst feature of the iniquity of this day is a form of godliness without the power thereof. Those who profess to have great light are found among the careless and indifferent, and the cause of Christ is wounded in the house of its professed friends. Let those who would be saved, arouse from their lethargy, and give the trumpet a certain sound; for the end of all things is at hand.”—The Signs of the Times, October 16, 1893.
2. JONAH’S FAITH TESTED
a. Who was commissioned to call the Ninevites to repentance, and how did the devil tempt him to doubt, hesitate, and finally try to reject God’s call? Jonah 1:2, 3.
“As the prophet thought of the difficulties and seeming impossibilities of this commission, he was tempted to question the wisdom of the call. From a human viewpoint it seemed as if nothing could be gained by proclaiming such a message in that proud city. He forgot for the moment that the God whom he served was all-wise and all-powerful. While he hesitated, still doubting, Satan overwhelmed him with discouragement. The prophet was seized with a great dread, and he ‘rose up to flee unto Tarshish’. . . .
“In the charge given him, Jonah had been entrusted with a heavy responsibility; yet He who had bidden him go was able to sustain His servant and grant him success. Had the prophet obeyed unquestioningly, he would have been spared many bitter experiences, and would have been blessed abundantly.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 266.
b. What happened while Jonah was sleeping under the impression that he was safely fleeing from his God-given responsibility? Jonah 1:4, 5.
“If, when the call first came to him, Jonah had stopped to consider calmly, he might have known how foolish would be any effort on his part to escape the responsibility placed upon him. But not for long was he permitted to go on undisturbed in his mad flight.”—Ibid., p. 267.
c. What should all learn from the captain’s rebuke with which he awakened the sleeping prophet? Jonah 1:6. What did the mariners do as a last resort to still the storm? Jonah 1:7.
“The prayers of the man who had turned aside from the path of duty brought no help.”—Ibid.
3. EVANGELISM THROUGH PROVIDENTIAL CIRCUMSTANCES
a. When the ship’s crew interrogated Jonah, how did the prophet identify himself? Jonah 1:8, 9.
b. How did those mariners finally become acquainted with the true God? Jonah 1:10–16.
c. What opportunities and privileges for witnessing do we often forfeit, and why? 1 Peter 3:15.
“If the needs of the Lord’s work were set forth in a proper light before those who have means and influence, these men might do much to advance the cause of present truth. God’s people have lost many privileges of which they could have taken advantage, had they not chosen to stand independent of the world.
“In the providence of God, we are daily brought into connection with the unconverted. By His own right hand God is preparing the way before us, in order that His work may progress rapidly. As colaborers with Him, we have a sacred work to do. We are to have travail of soul for those who are in high places; we are to extend to them the gracious invitation to come to the marriage feast.”—Counsels on Stewardship, p. 186.
“Many flatter themselves that they could do great things if they only had the opportunity, but something has always prevented them; Providence has hedged their way in so that they could not do what they desired to do. We expect no great opportunity will meet us on the road, but by prompt and vigorous action we must seize the opportunities, make opportunities and master difficulties.
“You are in need of vital energy from heaven. We must in our work not only strike the iron when it is hot but make the iron hot by striking. Slow, easy, indolent movements will do nothing for us in this work. We must be instant in season, out of season. These are critical times for work. By hesitation and delay we lose many good opportunities. . . .
“That which stands most in the way of your performing duty is irresolution, weakness of purpose, indecision.”—Evangelism, p. 647.
4. A LESSON FOR GOD’S MESSENGERS
a. After Jonah had been vomited upon the dry land, what command did he receive from the Lord the second time? Jonah 3:1, 2.
b. What did he do as soon as he entered the doomed city? Jonah 3:3, 4. In what way did God demonstrate His mercy towards Nineveh, and why? Jonah 3:5–10.
“As Jonah entered the city, he began at once to ‘cry against’ it the message, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown’ (Jonah 3:4). From street to street he went, sounding the note of warning. . . .
“As king and nobles, with the common people, the high and the low, ‘repented at the preaching of Jonas’ (Matthew 12:41) and united in crying to the God of heaven, His mercy was granted them. . . . Their doom was averted, the God of Israel was exalted and honored throughout the heathen world, and His law was revered. Not until many years later was Nineveh to fall a prey to the surrounding nations through forgetfulness of God and through boastful pride.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 270, 271.
c. What comparison did Jesus make between the repentant heathen and the Jews who refused to repent? Matthew 12:41.
“God allows men a period of probation; but there is a point beyond which divine patience is exhausted, and the judgments of God are sure to follow. The Lord bears long with men, and with cities, mercifully giving warnings to save them from divine wrath; but a time will come when pleadings for mercy will no longer be heard, and the rebellious element that continues to reject the light of truth will be blotted out, in mercy to themselves and to those who would otherwise be influenced by their example.”—Ibid., p. 276.
“We shall not be held accountable for the light that has not reached our perception, but for that which we have resisted and refused.”—The Review and Herald, April 25, 1893.
5. JONAH IS BROUGHT TO HIS SENSES
a. Instead of rejoicing over the repentance of Nineveh, how did Jonah complain to the Lord, and what excuse did Jonah make for his doubts and disobedience? Jonah 4:1–3.
b. What should we learn from the way God sought to bring Jonah to his senses? Jonah 4:5–11.
“Confused, humiliated, and unable to understand God’s purpose in sparing Nineveh, Jonah nevertheless had fulfilled the commission given him to warn that great city; and though the event predicted did not come to pass, yet the message of warning was nonetheless from God. And it accomplished the purpose God designed it should. The glory of His grace was revealed among the heathen.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 272, 273.
“Our God is a God of mercy. With long-sufferance and tender compassion He deals with the transgressors of His law. And yet, in this our day, when men and women have so many opportunities for becoming familiar with the divine law as revealed in Holy Writ, the great Ruler of the universe cannot behold with any satisfaction the wicked cities, where reign violence and crime.”—Ibid., pp. 275, 276.
“Every angel in glory is interested in the work being done for the salvation of souls. We are not awake as we should be.”—Evangelism, p. 282.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What was the main difference between Sodom and Nineveh?
2. Name some ways by which we may be in danger of imitating Jonah’s hesitation, doubt, and attempt to escape God’s voice.
3. How might God surprise us as He did Jonah after fulfilling his duty to warn of impending judgment?
4. How is our attitude too often like Jonah’s after the victory?
5. What kind of illustrations to awaken us does God give us today?