A Guide for Family Discussion | Jonah 1

The book of Jonah offers an excellent avenue for teaching and interaction with our families. Its fast moving story line and dramatic events grip the attention of even the youngest children. Our job as parents is to be sure they appreciate not only the story’s drama, but its underlying life-transforming truths.

As we think about leading our families through the text, it’s vital to remember, as Jeff emphasized, that the book of Jonah is first and foremost a book about God. Our focus should be in helping our children think right thoughts about God, our experience of Him, and how the truths we learn about Him affect the way we act and live.

The first encounter with God in the book of Jonah teaches us of His compassionate disposition. His initial words are “Go, warn the city of Nineveh of its impending judgment.” Jonah was stunned because he understood that this warning was an act of mercy. Jonah could not imagine a mercy so great that it would be extended even to the “Nazis of the Ancient Near East.” Jonah had experienced the mercy of God, he had preached it to God’s people, but he simply had no category for that mercy being extended to the worst of God’s enemies.

Take time with your family to focus on the implications of God’s amazing compassion. Ask questions such as these:

  • Why did God want Jonah to go warn the people of Nineveh?
  • What does that teach us about God?
  • Why didn’t Jonah want to go?
  • Since Jonah has experienced the mercy of God, how should he have felt about extending that mercy to the Ninevites?
  • Who are the people in your life that are difficult to extend mercy and kindness toward?
  • How would your actions toward those people be different when you remember the kindness and mercy God has extended to you?

The second aspect of God’s character displayed is His sovereign actions. Throughout the text, God is utterly in control of everything. He hurls the storm at Jonah like a man throws a spear. The boat “threatens” to sink at His command. Even the pagan sailors respond as God has accorded.

Here are some questions to lead a conversation on God’s complete sovereignty:

  • Why did Jonah’s attempt to run from God fail?
  • What things did God have control over in this first chapter?
  • What things in your life does God have control over?
  • Think about the week ahead of you. What would be different in this week if you remembered that God is in control of every single thing?

As the story progresses, we encounter the fact that God is a God who is constantly working out His saving purposes. God is not only working for the salvation of the Ninevites, but he even uses the disobedience of Jonah to bring the sailors on the ship to a saving faith in Him. Jonah’s “death” of being thrown into the sea was used to bring about the salvation of the sailors. He thus points to the “greater Jonah,” Jesus Christ, who purchased our salvation by facing the greater storm of God’s judgment for us.

  • Use this section to share the gospel with your children. Discuss God’s mercy and the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross.
  • How does knowing God’s concern for His enemies motivate you to share your faith with others?