March 3, 2024 – Jonah 1

Lesson Date: March 3, 2024

Focal Scripture Passage: Jonah 1:1-17

AIM: To lead students to discover some of the terrible costs of running from God, and to urge them to trust and obey God so they can avoid the costs of running.


Before class: Read the notes on Jonah 1 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book.  Get enough copies of theRunning From Godhandout for your anticipated attendance.


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Ask: “Have you ever seen any of those dash cam videos of someone running from the police?” (they probably have).  Tell the students that when people try to outrun the police, they often cause a high-speed car chase.

Ask: “What usually happens when someone tries to run from the police?” (most of the time they get caught anyway).  Ask: “What kinds of things happen during the high-speed chase, before the police finally catch the person?” (property and vehicles are damaged, the police officers’ lives are in danger, innocent people are hurt, and sometimes the suspect or other people are killed).

Tell the class in addition to those costs, the suspect piles up many more criminal charges than if he had surrendered to the police in the first place.  Stress the fact that running from the police is almost always futile and usually very costly.

Tell the students there is something far more serious than running from the police, which is Running From God.  Tell them that’s the title of today’s lesson, in which we will discover some of the costs and dangers of running from God, and examine ourselves to determine if we are running from God.



  1. Review and Introduction to Jonah.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (Bad Costs and Good Costs; we discovered some bad costs and good costs that King David paid, and examined our hearts to see if we are giving our best to the Lord).
    • Be sure everyone has a copy of the new Sunday School Member Quarterly.
    • Tell them today we begin a study of the Old Testament book of Jonah.
    • Jonah was a prophet who lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the reign of wicked King Jeroboam II (782-753 c.; see 2 Kings 14:23-25).
  2. Jonah Ran From God.
    • Read Jonah 1:1-2.
    • Ask: “What did God tell Jonah to do?” (go to Nineveh and preach against their sin).
    • Explain the following:
      • Nineveh (Mosul in modern Iraq) was the capital of the Assyrian Empire.
      • Locate Israel and Nineveh on the Map of the Middle East.
      • Assyria was the constant enemy of the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the 8th and 9th centuries BC.
      • The people of Nineveh were well known for their wickedness, cruelty, and idolatry.
    • Read Jonah 1:3.
    • Ask: “What did Jonah do?” (he ran the opposite direction as far as he could).
    • Explain that Nineveh was 500 miles to the northeast, while Tarshish (in modern Spain) was 2,400 miles to the west: the exact opposite direction from where God told him to go.
    • Ask: “What was Jonah running from?” (the presence of the Lord).
    • Tell the class that Psalm 139:7-12 says it is impossible to flee from God.
    • Ask: “What direction did Jonah go to get to the seaport of Joppa?” (down; locate Joppa on the Map of Israel).
    • Ask: “What did Jonah do when he found a ship going to Tarshish?” (he “paid the fare”).
    • Ask: “What direction did Jonah go into the ship?” (down).
    • Tell the students two important principles are revealed in these verses:
      • When we run from God, we always take a downward path.
      • When we run from God, there will be a price to pay.
    • Summarize: Jonah the prophet didn’t want to preach to the people of Nineveh, so he tried to run from the presence of the Lord.
  1. Jonah Ran Into Trouble.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Jonah 1:4-5.
    • Ask: “According to verse 4, what did the Lord do?” (He sent a great wind that caused “a mighty tempest in the sea;” something like a very powerful hurricane).
    • Ask: “How severe was this storm?” (the experienced mariners were afraid the ship would break apart and they would die).
    • Ask: “What did the frightened mariners do?” (they cried out to their pagan gods for help, and they threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship).
    • Stress the fact there was great financial loss in throwing the cargo overboard, which shows how fearful the sailors and their captain were.
    • Ask: Where was Jonah the disobedient prophet during this terrible storm?” (he had gone down into the lower part of the ship and was asleep).
    • Read Jonah 1:6.
    • Tell the class the ship’s captain came and rebuked Jonah for sleeping at such a time of trouble.
    • Ask: “What did he tell Jonah to do?” (to pray to his God in hopes that He would spare their lives).
    • Stress the fact that it is a sad testimony when a lost person has to tell a Christian to pray; sometimes God must use lost people to rebuke His disobedient and backslidden children.
    • Tell the students these verses reveal two more important principles:
      • When we run from God, we will run into trouble.
      • When we run from God, other people will get hurt.
    • Summarize: Jonah was trying to run away from God, but instead he ran right into serious trouble. Jonah’s disobedience hurt everyone around him, causing mortal fear, destruction of property, and loss of revenue.
  2. Jonah Admitted His Sin.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Jonah 1:7.
    • Explain that the sailors thought the storm was punishment upon someone in the ship who had done something wrong, so they cast lots to identify the guilty party.
    • Ask: “Who did God cause the lot to fall upon?” (Jonah).
    • Read Jonah 1:8-9.
    • Ask: “What did the mariners ask Jonah in verse 8?” (tell us what you’ve done to bring this evil upon us, what is your vocation, and where are you from).
    • Ask: “According to verse 9, how did Jonah answer them?” (he said he was a Hebrew who feared the Lord, whom he identified as the God of heaven and Creator of both the sea and the dry land).
    • Remind the class that Jonah was fleeing from the Lord and disobeying Him at the time.
    • Ask: “How does claiming to fear God while disobeying Him impact one’s testimony?” (it damages it, making it seem insincere)
    • Ask a volunteer to read Jonah 1:10.
    • Ask: “How did the men in the ship react to what Jonah said?” (they were afraid and incredulous that he would do such a thing and put their lives in jeopardy).
    • Ask: “What else had Jonah told them?” (that he was running from God).
    • Read Jonah 1:11-12.
    • Ask: “What did the men ask Jonah in verse 11?” (what they could do to calm the storm caused by Jonah’s sin).
    • Ask: “According to verse 12, what did Jonah tell them to do?” (he told them to throw him overboard to his death; he said the sea would be calm if they did).
    • Stress the fact that Jonah would rather die than obey God!
    • Tell the students two more important principles are revealed in these verses:
      • When we run from God, the truth of our sin will come out.
      • When we run from God, we will damage our testimony.
    • Summarize: When pressed by the fearful sailors, Jonah admitted his sin and told them the only way to spare themselves was to throw him overboard to his death.
  3. Jonah Fell Into God’s Hands.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Jonah 1:13-15.
    • Ask: “According to verse 13, what did the sailors do next?” (they tried to row to shore to avoid throwing Jonah overboard).
    • Ask: “What did they do in verse 14?” (the lost, pagan, idol-worshiping sailors cried out to the Lord God of Israel, begging Him not to let them die for Jonah’s sin and not to hold them accountable for Jonah’s death).
    • Ask: “According to verse 15, what did they do next?” (they threw Jonah overboard).
    • Ask: “What happened after they threw Jonah overboard?” (the storm immediately stopped).
    • Read Jonah 1:16.
    • Ask: “What three things did the mariners do when they witnessed this amazing miracle?” The students should name the following:
      • They “feared the Lord exceedingly” (they felt great reverence and respect for Jehovah),
      • They offered a sacrifice to the Lord, and
      • They made vows to Him.
    • Stress the fact that these lost, pagan, idol-worshiping sailors, had a life-changing encounter with the true and living God; in spite of Jonah’s rebellion, God still glorified Himself.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Jonah 1:17.
    • Ask: “What did the Lord do?” (He prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah).
    • Ask: “How long was Jonah in the belly of the fish?” (three days and three nights).
    • Tell the students these verses reveal two more important principles:
      • When we run from God, He will still glorify Himself.
      • When we run from God, He will catch us.
    • Tell the class that skeptics have long rejected the fact that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, but the Lord Jesus Christ believed it.
    • Read Matthew 12:38-40.
    • Summarize: While trying to run away from God, Jonah fell right into His hands. In the process, God glorified Himself by causing the sailors to believe in and trust Him.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: Remind the class that the title of today’s lesson is Running From God.  Give everyone a copy of theRunning From Godhandout.  Review the lesson by reading the eight principles we have discovered from Jonah 1.

Tell the students that probably none of us will be called by God to go to Nineveh to preach against their sin, and probably none of us will get on a ship to Tarshish to flee from God’s presence.  Ask: “How, then does this lesson apply to us?  Is it possible for us to run from God?  What are some ways we can run from God?”  Allow time for some responses, and then share the following.

Some ways we can run from God:

  • God gave you the ability to sing in the choir, play in the orchestra, serve as an usher, etc., but you choose not to.
  • Refusing to give tithes and offerings to the Lord through His church.
  • Choosing to go to a church that requires less commitment.
  • God tells you to witness to a lost person, but you don’t.
  • Being angry about the circumstances God has put you in.
  • Choosing leisure or comfort over going to church.

Ask: “Are you running from God?”  Ask everyone to bow their head and close their eyes.  Tell them to confess any areas in which they are running from (disobeying) God.  Urge them to trust and obey God so they can avoid the terrible costs of running.  Allow a moment for silent prayer, and then voice a closing prayer.


CONCLUSION: Tell everyone to keep the handout in their Bible so they can be reminded of the terrible costs of running from God.  Suggest that they memorize 1 Peter 5:6, which is printed on the handout sheet (that memory verse is not suggested in the quarterly).

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