Whose Grace Is It Anyway?
October 5, 2014 Series: The Old Testament
Passage: Jonah 3:5-6, 10, Jonah 4:1-11
Have you ever been overwhelmed with options? How does the lifestyle of our society encourage an obsession with individual choice and preference?
How could this emphasis endanger our relationship with God?
Jonah’s call to preach God’s judgment to Nineveh was challenging because of the abuse that Israel had suffered—and would again suffer—at Assyria’s hand. But the book of Jonah makes a strong case for God’s freedom to exercise grace and compassion towards anyone—even the cruel, sworn enemies of Israel. As Jonah reflected from the fish’s belly, “salvation belongs to the Lord” (2:9). In response to his experience of this truth, Jonah finally went to Nineveh and preached the simple message of God’s judgment against their sins.
The fruit of Jonah’s brief ministry became the perfect illustration of God’s sovereignty in grace and compassion. Read Jonah 3:5-6, 10. What aspects of the Ninevites’ response stand out to you? What is so amazing about the way they responded to God’s Word? When the people of Nineveh turned from their evil way, what did God turn from? What does this tell you about God’s grace and compassion?
Jonah is angry when he sees the response of God toward the wicked Ninevites. Read Jonah 4:1-3. Jonah reveals why he is angry and why he had run away from God’s mission in the first place. How would you describe Jonah’s tone in his prayer? What does this reveal about his underlying attitude?
Jonah reveals that his anger is directed toward God Himself. He knew that God would be gracious and merciful because that is consistent with His eternal character. But Jonah did not like what he knew about God. Instead, he wanted God to conform to his terms. How have you tried to have God on your own terms? Do you see how this attempt is ultimately futile and destructive? Confess your sin to God, asking Him to take away your guilt and raise you up to a new life by His Spirit.
God does not abandon his struggling servant—even though Jonah is angry with him. Instead, God works to expose the folly of his anger and to help him (and us) see the proper response to God’s sovereign grace and compassion. Read Jonah 4:4-11. How do God’s questions in these verses help us think through the folly of our improper responses to Him?
God uses the plant and its demise to bring His point home to Jonah’s heart. How does the experience help? Can you relate to Jonah’s experience? When have you valued creature comforts over God and people made in His image?
Self-centered living contradicts our claim to having experienced God’s grace. The experience of grace ought to lead us to delight in God as He is rather than seeking to make Him fit our mold. Also, it should motivate us to adopt His character as our own. As sinners saved by God’s almighty grace, we should live so that He would be glorified through the salvation of others. Are you willing to ask God to give you His heart for the broken, wicked, and lost around you?
- Worship God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for His sovereign grace and compassion. Adore Him for His absolute freedom to exercise His mercy toward anyone at anytime.
- How have you tried to have God on your own terms? Do you see how this attempt is ultimately futile and destructive? Confess your sin to God, asking Him to take away your guilt and raise you up to a new life by His Spirit.
- Give thanks to Jesus—the one greater than Jonah—for coming into the world to preach peace to those who were far off and peace to those who were near (Ephesians 2:17). Praise Him for rescuing you from sin’s guilt and power through His death and resurrection.
- Who do you know that wants to be forgiven by God but does not want to forgive? Ask God to reveal to them the hypocrisy of their attitude and to soften their heart.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to renew you in God’s likeness (Ephesians 4:22-23), making you more compassionate and gracious—even toward your enemies!