Sunday School Lesson: Jonah Returns to God

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Free Sunday School LessonsThis Bible lesson is a continuation for the study of the Book of Jonah.  It was prepared with older elementary students in mind.  The focuses of this lesson is repenting from sin and turning back to God.  The lesson can be simplified for younger children with a focus on how God hears and answers our prayers.  It can also be used for Children’s Church.
You can also browse all our free Jonah lessons and resources.

Bible Story: Jonah Returns to God
Scripture: Jonah 2:1-3:1
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: Bibles, pictures of Jonah, paper, pencils, memory cards for activity #1
Learning Goal: Students will learn that God’s discipline for our sins should lead us to repent and turn back to Him so we can continue to do the work  He has called us to do.
Learning Indicator: Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the lesson by answering review questions.
Learning Activity #1: Memory Game:  Make cards with a sinful action paired with the righteous action. (Lying-Honesty, Unkind-kind, Lazy-Hard worker, bad language-wholesome speech, Boastful-humble, etc.)
Learning Activity #2: Before class, prepare slips of paper with any additional Scripture verses you are planning to include.  Give students an opportunity to select a Scripture and locate it in their Bible so when the verse is used in the lesson they will be ready to share.
Lesson Activity #3: For students who express themselves artistically give them an opportunity to draw a picture depicting Jonah’s situation in Chapter 2.
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse: Philippians 1:6:  “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Bible Lesson: Jonah Returns to God

(Pray for each student every day as you prepare for class.  Pray that God will prepare their hearts to receive the truths God has for them.  Pray that the students will learn at an early age to immediately repent when they sin so that they can live a powerful life serving the Most High God.  Pray for any students who have not yet received Jesus as their Savior to hear His voice and accept Him.)
(The following is only a guide to this lesson.  There is not a lot of action in this chapter. Many Biblical Truths will be introduced for students unfamiliar with God and the Bible.  The lesson also challenges students who are believers to apply the truths so they can grow in their faith and knowledge of Jesus.  Depending on your class’ familiarity with the Bible there are many opportunities for them to travel through the Bible looking up different verses.)
God has a plan for every man, woman, boy and girl that He has created.  In order for people to know God’s plan they have to take the first step of His plan and that is to be saved.  To be saved indicates we are lost.  What makes people lost in God’s sight?  (All have sinned and fall short of His glory. Romans 3:23) Sin separates us from a right relationship with God.  The consequence of sin is death (eternal separation from God) Romans 6:23.
When sin first entered God’s perfect creation He promised to send a Savior to rescue us from our sins.  Who is God’s Savior?  (Jesus)  What did Jesus do so every man, woman, boy and girl can be saved from their sins?  (Died on the cross, was buried and rose again the third day)
When you believe in Jesus you are adopted into God’s family.  He makes you into a new creation.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)
True or False: God has a purpose and a plan for each one of His children?  Let’s look in His Word to find out the answer to that question.  Have students volunteer to read the following verses:  Ephesians 2:8-10; Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 43:7; 2 Timothy 1:9
Our memory verse for today is Philippians 1:6.  Let’s read the verse together.  (Have students rephrase the verse in their own words.  This will help them to personalize this verse and help them to understand it.  Encourage their responses.) Discussion starters:  What is God’s plan for each believer-to glorify Him so others can see Jesus and turn to Him and be saved.  What are some works that God gives believers to do?  (Share the Good News, preach, teach, encourage, pray, etc.)
(Give Bibles to any students who need one.)
Let’s open our Bibles to Jonah 2.
Last week we learned about one of God’s prophets named Jonah.  What is a prophet?  A prophet is God’s servant who takes God’s message to the people.  God gave His prophet Jonah specific instructions.  Allow students to review what they remember from the lesson on Jonah 1.
God had a plan for Jonah’s life and Jonah didn’t like it.  He rebelled or sinned against what God wanted him to do.  Sin interferes with God’s plans for our lives but nothing can stop or thwart God’s plan. (Job 42:1-2)
God loves all people. (John 3:16)  It was never His plan for people to sin and suffer the punishment of sin.  The Ninevites were living wicked lives and God wanted them to have an opportunity to turn from their sins so they would not have to be punished for their wickedness. (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4)  Nothing would stop God’s plan to allow the Ninevites to hear and have the opportunity to repent and turn away from their sins.  Since Jonah was rebelling against His instructions God could instruct another person to go and preach or He could change Jonah’s heart and continue to use him for the work.
In this circumstance God chose to work in Jonah’s life and change his heart.  God began a good work in Jonah and He would be faithful to complete it.  However, Jonah chose to disobey.  God did not allow Jonah’s disobedience stop Him from doing what He planned to do. God chose to immediately discipline Jonah for his disobedience.
How did God discipline Jonah for his disobedience?  (He was thrown into the sea and was swallowed by a great fish)
The word discipline means punishment inflicted by way of correction and training (Dictionary.com) As a child of God when we sin against Him we will be disciplined.  God disciplines His children because He loves them and knows what is best for them.  (Hebrews 12:10)  His purpose in disciplining His children is to correct them and teach them the way to live a life that pleases Him.
Believers sometimes get angry with God when life doesn’t go the way we think it should.  Sometimes we don’t like the instructions He has given us so we choose to go in a different direction than what He told us to go.  Sin always causes our relationship with God to suffer.  When we allow sin to control our hearts we cannot be as close to God as we used to be.  We begin to read our Bibles and pray less.  We may even choose to spend more time with unbelievers and begin to act and talk like an unbeliever.  God will punish sin in the life of His children. God disciplines His children because He desires them to repent (turn away from sin) and return to a close relationship with Him.
God is a loving and patient heavenly Father.  He does not punish us as our sins deserve. ( Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:10-14) When His child confesses his/her sin, God is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse him/her from all unrighteousness.  (1 John1:9)
Let’s turn to Jonah 2 and listen in on what Jonah is up to now.  Choose volunteer to read Jonah 2:1.  What are some feelings that Jonah may have had as he is inside the belly of a great fish?  What would it look like inside the great fish?  How do you think you would feel if you were Jonah?
The belly of the great fish was like a ‘time out’ chair for Jonah.  God put him there because He wanted Jonah to turn from sin and return to God.
Jonah didn’t have a lot of choices of things to do inside the fish’s belly.  He could no longer run away from God’s plan for him.  What did he choose to do?  (He prayed)  Can you think of what else Jonah could have chosen to do?  (He could have become angry with God and spent the time inside the fish feeling sorry for himself)
Jonah choice is what we all should do if we are God’s children.  When we are in a difficult situation, whether it is because we are being disciplined for disobedience or not we should always turn to God in prayer.
We are going to look at two things from Jonah’s prayer.  He teaches us two important truths about prayer.
The first thing we learn from Jonah’s prayer in Jonah 2:2 is that God hears all our cries.  (Psalm 18:6, Psalm 34:15, Psalm 55:17, Psalm 145:19, 2 Chronicles 6:19)
Jonah also teaches us in Jonah 2:9 that when we pray we should have an attitude of thanksgiving.  (1 Chronicles 29:13, Psalm 95:2, Psalm 118:21, Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
When we sin against God we need to cry out to Him and confess our sins.  He promises to forgive us.  If our sin is disobedience we need to ask God to help us obey. You can ask other believers to pray for you if you continue to struggle with disobedience.  Memorizing Scriptures about obedience to God will help us when we are tempted to disobey.
We should always have an attitude of thankfulness.  If you struggle with thankfulness you can spend time in your daily quiet time with God writing things in your journal you are thankful for.  You will be amazed at the many things you actually can thank God for!
As Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish he responded appropriately to God’s discipline for him. God’s discipline brought him to the place where he repented of his sins and turned back to God.  He decided that he was going to let God be the boss of his life.  He was now back in the position for God to use him for the purpose God had planned for him.
As we continue to study the book of Jonah we will see how God uses him for His work.  We would encourage you to read the entire Book of Jonah in your quiet time so you can allow God to continue to teach you throughout the week.
Close in prayer.
Review Questions:

  1. What does God want all people to do?  (Repent/turn away from sins and be saved)
  2. How did God discipline Jonah? (Sent a great fish to swallow him)
  3. Why did God discipline Jonah?  (Because he disobeyed His instructions and wanted him to turn back to Him)
  4. What is God faithful to do when believers confess their sins?  (Faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness)
  5. What did Jonah do inside the great fish?  (Prayed)
  6. Name the two things we learned about prayer from Jonah’s prayer?  (God hears all our cries, we should always be thankful)

Personal Questions:

  1. Who is the boss of your life, you or God?  If it’s you will you turn from your sin of pride and allow God to be your boss?
  2. What sin is keeping you from having a close relationship with God?  Is it the sin of unbelief because you have not yet accepted Jesus as the payment for your sins before God?  If you would like to know more about how to be saved please talk to us and we can talk to you individually and share what the Bible says about how to be saved.
  3. How has Jonah’s prayer affected how you will pray from now on?

Need More Sunday School Ideas? Be sure to browse all our free Sunday School lessons for children. You can also find suggestions for Sunday School Crafts.


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