This lesson is taken from Jonah 3 where Jonah obeys God and is given a second chance to go to Nineveh. As Jonah obeys God the people of Nineveh believe God’s message and repent. This lesson shows the importance of believers obeying God’s command to go into the world and preach the Good News and leave the results up to God. The lesson can be used for Children’s Church and simplified for younger students.
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Bible Story: Jonah Obeys and Nineveh Repents
Scripture: Jonah 3
Target Age Group: Age 9 – 11 (U.S. 3rd – 5th Grade)
Learning Context: Sunday School
Target Time Frame: 60 minutes
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Supply List: Pillow case and items that symbolize ways we send messages. Bibles, paper, crayons/markers, materials to create a magnet with a message
Learning Goal: Students will learn that believers are responsible to share the Good News and the results are God’s responsibility.
Learning Indicator: Students will demonstrate their understanding by answering review questions.
Learning Activity #1: Make a grab bag of items that enable people to send messages (radio, TV, computer, telephone, letters, tracts, sharing one on one, etc.). God has given us many ways we can share the message of the Good News. Can you think of any other ways the message can be shared?
Learning Activity #2: Have students create their own Gospel tract to share with someone who is not a believer.
Learning Activity #3: A craft idea for this lesson would be to make a magnet with the phrases “Help me to look like Jesus today”, “Help me to be an ambassador for Christ in every situation”, etc. Students can place this magnet in a place they will see every day before they leave the house.
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse: 2 Corinthians 5:20 “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
Teaching the Memory Verse: If you woke up in the middle of the night and looked out your window and saw your neighbor’s house on fire what would you do? Would you go back to bed and hope that someone else would call the fire department to rescue your neighbors from the fire? What if these neighbors were not your favorite people? Maybe they have caused a lot of trouble in the neighborhood and no one really likes them. What would you do about their house being on fire?
The only right answer to the question is to call the fire department and get some help to make sure the neighbors are awake so they can get out of the house before they are destroyed in the flames.
Let’s read together today’s memory verse. (Discuss ambassador-a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative. Implore-to beg urgently or piteously, as for aid or mercy; beseech; entreat. Reconcile-to restore a broken relationship.) Believers are God’s ambassadors. He lives in heaven and places His ambassadors all around the world to represent Him and help others to know how they can be reconciled to Him.
In the example of the neighbors in danger of being destroyed by the fire, each one of us come in contact with people who are in danger of spending eternity separated from God in a place called hell where the flame never goes out (Mark 9:47-48). Calling the fire department isn’t going to help them in any way. There is only One person who can rescue a lost person from the punishment for their sins. His Name is Jesus Christ. We can call upon Him to work in the hearts of those we know who are not believers and as believers we are Jesus’ ambassadors with a message to share with them.
What is that message? (The Good News that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day)
As Christ’s ambassadors we have been given a high calling to faithfully share the Good News with others. As His ambassadors we have an important job in God’s Kingdom. He has given us the position to be His representative on this earth to point people to Him. Name a place God has placed you as His ambassador (playground, home, school, sports, etc.).
Bible Lesson: Jonah Obeys and Nineveh Repents
In the Old Testament and the New Testament God’s ambassadors have pointed others to Him. In the Old Testament the prophets were God’s ambassadors taking His message to the people. Many times the prophets’ message from God to the people was to turn from sin and return to God (be reconciled to God) or face the consequences of God’s punishment. In the New Testament the disciples of Christ were God’s ambassadors taking the message of the Good News throughout the world. The Good News was a message that would rescue people from God’s punishment for sin.
Throughout the entire Bible God’s ambassadors have shared His message with people. Sometimes people heard the message that unless they turned from their sins and turned to God they would face God’s punishment and they believed. Sometimes people heard God’s message and chose not to believe and rejected God’s message.
As God’s ambassadors our responsibility is to share the Good News and represent King Jesus well. People’s acceptance or rejection of God’s message is not our responsibility. We need to leave the results with God.
(An idea for movement and drama for this story: It took three days for Jonah to walk through the entire city. Choose a volunteer to be Jonah. When Jonah preaches the first day allow the other students to respond as the Ninevites did. (If you have something could represent sackcloth for them to put on to symbolize their mourning before God.) Have another student act out the king’s part in the story.)
The following is the lesson told from a story point of view:
Let’s turn in our Bibles to Jonah 3. Let’s read Jonah 3:1
God came to Jonah a second time. God is a God of second chances. When a person sins God doesn’t cast them away never to be used for His Kingdom again. Sin hinders a person’s service for God but when that person repents of his/her sin and returns to God, He forgives them and enables them to continue to serve in some way for His Kingdom.
One minute Jonah was at the bottom of the sea sitting in the belly of a fish. Three days later he was propelled from the fish’s mouth onto the shore near Nineveh. Jonah may have looked very strange with sea weed wrapped around his head and his clothes and skin discolored because of the fish’s digestive juices. What he looked liked didn’t matter to him. God had given him a second chance to go to Nineveh and preach to them. He wasn’t going to let anything keep him from obeying God’s instructions.
Let’s imagine that after Jonah was given a second chance to do what God told him begins moving in the direction of Ninevah as fast as he can. Finally Jonah arrives in Nineveh. He finds a large city filled with people. The size of the city is so large that it would take him three full days to walk throughout the entire city. As soon as Jonah set foot in the city he boldly preached God’s Word: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”
We don’t know this for certain because the Bible doesn’t clearly tell us but if Jonah showed up in Nineveh with discolored skin and clothes he may have looked very strange to the Ninevites. Maybe Jonah introduced himself before he proclaimed the message. All we know for certain is that he clearly proclaimed that God was going to destroy their city in forty days.
Jonah had obeyed God and gave the people of Nineveh His message and now the results were up to God. Let’s look and see how the people responded to God’s message. Jonah 3:5
The people of Nineveh heard God’s message and believed His Word. The people were distressed by the news they received from God’s prophet Jonah. They did not want to be destroyed by God and called everyone to stop eating which is called a fast. Everyone put on sack- cloth to show their grief over the news that God was going to destroy Nineveh.
The King of Nineveh heard the news about God’s prophet and His message to Nineveh. As a king he is in a position of great authority. His reaction is important to the message the city received. He could have been prideful and angry with the message and ordered his servants to have Jonah killed. The king responded completely opposite of pride. He responded with humility. He took off his royal clothes and put on sackcloth and sat in the dust. He sent out a law to the people of Nineveh: “Everyone can not eat or drink anything. No animals can eat or drink. Every person and animal must be covered with sackcloth. Call upon God and turn away from your evil ways and violence.”
The king of Nineveh was calling upon all the people living in his city to cry out to God and turn from their wickedness. He may have heard of times when God showed compassion on His enemies. He was pleading and hoping for God to turn away His punishment and show His mercy and kindness to them.
The Ninevites remind us of what God says about all people. Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Every person faces God’s punishment for sin unless they receive His gift of salvation through His Son Jesus. The King of Nineveh acknowledged that his people were wicked and violent…something God already knew and told Jonah (“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.” Jonah1:2). The king knew the only hope he and his people had to be delivered from destruction was to call on God to have mercy. Mercy is undeserved kindness. God is merciful and full of compassion (Exodus 34:6 (NKJV); Daniel 9:9; Micah 7:18). He has provided a way for sinners to be delivered from sin and it is through faith in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. (“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” Titus 3:4)
God saw what the king of Nineveh and all the people did and how they turned from their wicked ways. He had compassion upon the people and did not bring the destruction upon the city that He had planned to send.
The story of Jonah continues but we are going to stop here for today. Let’s take some time to allow God to speak to our hearts about what He wants for us to do with the lesson we have heard today. If you are a believer this morning, how are you looking as an ambassador for Christ? Do others even know you serve Jesus? What does God want you to change in your life that would help you represent Him better to those around you? If you are not a believer this morning what is keeping you from calling upon God to save you from your sins? Today is the day of salvation and if God is calling you to be saved do not put it off for another day.
Close in prayer.
Closing Activity: As a closing activity play a game called “Who am I” and allows students to guess the Bible character who shared God’s message and the results. (Depending on the Biblical knowledge of your students you may have to adapt the questions to their needs. The following are just a few examples.)
I spent 120 years on a building project preparing for a day that God was going to destroy the earth by water. People mocked me and ignored God’s warning and the only people who were saved from destruction were me and my family. Who am I? (Noah)
I preached to a crowd after God sent the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Over 3,000 people believed in Jesus and were saved. Who am I? (Peter)
I shared the message of the Good News before the Jewish religious leaders and their response was to stone me to death. Who am I? (Stephen)
I rode in a chariot with an Ethiopian and explained how Isaiah teaches about Jesus and the Ethiopian believed in Jesus and was saved. Who am I? (Philip)
I was a missionary who travelled to different cities. Some people believed the Good News and some were angered by the message and tried to harm me. Who am I? (Paul)
- What is an ambassador? (A representative for a ruler who lives in another place)
- What does an ambassador for Christ do? (Shares the Good News with others so they can be saved from the punishment for their sins)
- What did Jonah do when he was given a second chance? (He obeyed God’s instructions and took God’s message to the Ninevites)
- What was God’s message to the Ninevites? (Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned)
- How did the people respond to this message? (They believed God, fasted and put on sackcloth)
- How did the King of Nineveh respond to the message? (He changed from royal robes and put on sackcloth and sat in ashes. He sent out a decree calling for all people and animals to fast and put on sackcloth. Cry out to God and turn from wickedness)
- How did God respond to the Ninevites fasting and mourning? (He showed compassion on them and did not punish them as He had planned)
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