Key Passage: Jonah 4:2 “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.”
Big Picture Question: How can we be forgiven? God forgives people when they are sorry and ask for forgiveness.
Christ Connection: God was going to punish the people in Nineveh because they sinned. The people of Nineveh were sorry. They told God they were sorry. God did not punish them. He showed them mercy. God showed mercy to the world by sending His Son, Jesus. Jesus took the punishment we should get for our sin. God wants us to go, like Jonah, and tell others about Jesus.
Today’s Bible story in The Gospel Project® for Kids is one that many kids have heard before, and we often lose sight of the central message. The message isn’t so much about Jonah being swallowed by a big fish, although that is certainly amazing. Jonah’s account centers around the compassion of God, not only for the people of Israel, but for people throughout the earth—even Israel’s worst enemies!
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and the rulers of Nineveh were notoriously evil and cruel. Check out how the prophet Nahum described the city in Nahum 3: “Woe to the city of blood, totally deceitful, full of plunder, never without prey” (v. 1). No wonder Jonah ran the other way! Through a storm and some time in the belly of a fish, God got Jonah’s attention. Jonah went to Nineveh. For three days, Jonah walked around the city. His message to the Ninevites was brief: “In 40 days Nineveh will be demolished!”
The people of Nineveh immediately repented, and God withheld His judgment. Jonah was furious. God rebuked Jonah and prompted him to examine his heart. God displayed His mercy and grace by forgiving the people of Nineveh when they repented of their sin. God showed His love to the rest of the world by sending His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross. God saves those who trust in Jesus and repent of their sin, and He sends them out, like Jonah, with the good news of salvation.
Family Activity: Take a family fishing trip, a trip to a local aquarium, or even a pet store. Challenge each family member to catch (if fishing) or find (if visiting an aquarium or pet store) the biggest fish they can. Talk about what it would be like to be swallowed by that fish. What sounds would you hear? What would you see or feel? Talk about how Jonah’s lack of obedience landed him in a fish. Invite each family member to share times they didn’t obey that got them in trouble.