Their Problems And Ours

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Their Problems And Ours

EasyEnglish Study Units (Level B) that show that God is sufficient whatever the problem

Unit 8

Jonah: The Problem Of Prejudice

by Raymond Brown, M.A., M.Th., Ph.D.

translated into EasyEnglish by Mary Read

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

About these units

Paul says: ‘Everything that people wrote in the past was to teach us. They wrote those things so that we could have hope. That hope comes from the patience and strength that the Bible gives to us’ (Romans 15:4).

Here Paul suggests reasons why we should study the OT. (OT means Old Testament, the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before Jesus’ birth.) The OT is history. It also has stories about people’s lives. These great OT stories:

· teach the mind. (Read 2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 10:11.)

· encourage the heart. One translation of Romans 15:4 uses this word. The OT stories encourage us. We all have times when we desire some word from God. We know that this would encourage us. It would help us in our difficulties.

· make the will strong. (Note: The will is the part of us that makes us able to choose). The Holy Spirit gives us the strength to continue when things are hard.

Jerome K. Jerome writes funny books. His most famous one is ‘Three Men in a Boat’. The man who is telling the story visits a library. He wants to know what to do about a minor illness. He finds that he seems to have 101 serious diseases! That is not the purpose of this book! Nobody will have all the problems that are in this book.

But all of us have bad times. We may have problems. We may feel sad. One trouble often leads to another too. Some of the subjects are very similar. They may go with each other. So, fear and worry may go together. But they are separate here. One situation may not be the same as the reader’s situation. Another one will be. There is something else important. We may not have these difficulties ourselves. But we may need to help people who do have them.

Unit 8. Jonah: The Problem Of Prejudice

(to have strong ideas; and to refuse to think about anybody else’s opinions)

Bible Passages about Jonah:

The book of Jonah; 2 Kings 14:23-27;

Matthew 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-30, 32.


This is the story about Jonah’s fight with God. It is a great story. It is an exciting record. It shows one man’s reaction to the clear voice of God. Jonah was a man who was sure about his beliefs. All sincere Christians are in the same danger as Jonah. It is the serious danger of prejudice.

We must not be unfair. There are many great people in the Bible. No Bible teacher wants to talk about these people’s *sins all the time. Most of these people are much better than we are anyway. So, we should not give all our attention to their failures.

The book of Jonah warns all *believers. It warns against certain beliefs. They are *religious beliefs too. People with these beliefs are in danger. They think that their own opinions are the only right ones. They refuse to listen to any other people. There is something else too. It is the most serious thing of all. They can even refuse God’s message.

Dr. Graham Scroggie was a Bible teacher. He also wrote books. He describes Jonah. He says that he is very like Peter. He loved his country. He had strong prejudices. He only thought about his own little world. He had a tendency too. It was to act without any thought. But you still like him!

Jonah was afraid of the people who lived in Nineveh. It is easy to understand the reason for this. Their nation was Assyria. They were very cruel to their enemies. All people in that part of the world knew about them.

Then God gives clear instructions to Jonah. He has a task for him. God says: ‘Get up; go; cry out’ (1:2). His orders were very clear. He could not possibly mistake what God wanted him to do. But Jonah did not want even to think about what this meant. It seemed to go against many special truths. He felt pain and despair. So he tried to escape from God.

Strong Bible beliefs are right and proper. They are essential for the Christian life. The Bible has great truths that do not change. We must be very sure about them. Each one who speaks God’s message must know their value. Bible truths give authority and certainty. This is not just for Christian workers. Every member of the church should share this great certainty. Many people do not trust the Bible. They say ‘if’, ‘but’ or ‘maybe’ about many things. This attitude only makes the truth seem weak.

But there is a danger here. It is good if someone knows the truth. But this could turn into ideas that are just strong opinions. This can easily happen. Then that person cannot allow any other opinion. He may agree to hear it. But it is not likely that he will study it. Anyway, he will not really think about it. There is no careful thought about it. So there is no chance to learn new things with other people.

Jonah had his own ideas about whom God should save. The people in Nineveh were certainly not among them! Jonah had great resistance against them. His message was that God is severe. But it was also about the fact of God’s goodness. Jonah did not want to tell them that part.

There are various important matters in the book of Jonah.

1 We must aim to obey God’s word completely

Sometimes you must be very severe with yourself. Your ‘*religious ideas’ may be wrong. It is possible to have very strong opinions. But they can lack the authority of the Bible. Martin Luther lived from 1483 - 1546. He had one ambition. His only desire was to be ‘a prisoner to the Word (the Bible)’. We should be the same.

The Jonah story happened at some time in the years 782-753 BC. (BC means Before Christ.) Jeroboam 2 was ruling at this time. (Read 2 Kings 14:25.) There were smaller countries in the near East. They were all afraid of Assyria. This large nation was a great danger to them all. We noted before that they were extremely cruel. The *Hebrews hated Assyria.

Of course, Jonah shared his people’s hate and fear. In the same situation, we would probably feel the same. So, he just could not warn these cruel people. He could not urge them to *repent. He wanted God to punish them as soon as possible! The people in Assyria had made God very sad. He would be their judge and punish them. This was definite. But He chose to use them first. He called them ‘the stick of my anger’. (Read Isaiah 10:5.)

There were limits to what they could do to God’s people. Now, God wanted to warn them. Their punishment was approaching. The *Lord God knew the people in Nineveh. He knew that the message would upset some of them. Some of them would *repent. (Read Jonah 3:5-10.)

God would forgive these people, if they *repented. Jonah did not want to accept this truth. He is very honest. He tells God the reason why he ran away. It was because he knew what God was like. He would give God’s message in the streets of Nineveh. The people would accept what he said. They would *repent. Then God would forgive them (4:1-2). Jonah did not want this to happen.

Some people have good Bible beliefs. They are sincere and loving. Other people can have the same beliefs. But they have a different way of thinking. They are not kind to those who have other opinions. They can even be cruel to them. They are full of prejudice. This way has brought trouble in each century. It might stop people who want to become Christians. Read Ephesians 4:14-15. Paul wants them to have good, correct beliefs. That is sure. But he says something else in a very firm way. It is that they need to love. His words are for us too.

There are true *believers who do not agree with each other. In every age, there are things that we need to discuss. I have an appeal to make. We should all clearly know something. It is this. We can have our own opinions. We may not agree about some subjects. Perhaps they are important matters. But they should not divide true *believers. We must trust one another.

We must all study the Bible and pray. We will discover many things in that great book. We must follow all these truths. But, let us realise a fact about some subjects. Our understanding of Bible passages can be different. We must not be certain that we are always right. This would mean that those who do not agree with us are wrong. People like this act like a judge. They say things before they think. Their words can be very cruel. This can lead to groups that oppose each other in a bitter way. All this is very much against the Bible’s teaching.

There will be times when we cannot agree with other Christians. Then we must remember something. They will not agree with us! We must be careful about our attitude to other true *believers. We can easily say things about them that are not with love. We can say bad things about them. But just remember something. They belong to the same *Lord. So, we would be saying bad things about our *Lord too.

Our beliefs have great value for us. This is right. But we must all have God’s love for other people too. They may express their beliefs in a different way. They may not understand some Bible passages in the same way. But this does not mean that their beliefs are dangerous.

Jonah had strong beliefs about a certain truth. Parts of that truth were essential. It was right that they were valuable to him. But God desired to say something more to Jonah. Another truth was just as important. It was the truth about God’s *mercy and patience. Jonah would not listen to God’s appeal. He preferred the easy parts of God’s truth at that time.

Let us notice something else:

2 God’s truth has demands

It calls for certain reactions. We often need a powerful meeting with God to see this. It can even be a painful meeting.

Nineveh was a very wicked city. Jonah refused to take God’s message there. This was because it was against his own special opinions. So he ran away. This was such a foolish thing to do. But we have all tried to do this at times. We cannot escape from God. (Read Psalm 139.) The events in Jonah 1 show this clearly. Jonah is very unwilling to declare God’s message. But God will not let him escape.

It can take trouble to make us realise the truth. It is rare to learn Bible truth by just reading it. We need a true understanding about God’s nature. This often comes in a hard way. It often comes as we have great pain and suffering.

3 We may be ready to suffer anything rather than deny our beliefs

But this may not be a holy quality. Some people are eager to guard the truths in the Bible. These people have great determination. We all admire people like this. We want to be like them. But we must not neglect Paul’s warning. It is in 1 Corinthians 13:3. We may be ready for someone to burn our bodies. But, without love, even this has no worth at all.

Jonah was certainly not a coward. He did not want to go to Nineveh. He was trying to escape on a ship. There was a terrible storm. The sailors thought that they knew the reason for it. God was angry with somebody. Jonah agreed with them. He said: ‘Throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm’ (1:12). He would rather drown than see an enemy *repent. This was certainly not a holy attitude!

4 We may have much prejudice

We might behave in a bad way. We might not obey God. But God refuses to leave us. This wonderful story has a great subject. It shows the provision of God. He provides for Jonah. Jonah is a servant who refuses to accept God’s authority. God prepared:

a fish (1:17)

a plant (4:6)

a worm (a small animal that lives in the ground) (4:7)

a wind (4:8)

He is the great all-powerful God. He was eager for the people in Nineveh to *repent. But he was eager for Jonah to be loyal. He wanted Jonah to obey him too. Jonah is in the stomach of a huge fish. He calls to God from there. He cries: ‘I will look to you again’ (2:4). He obeys God in the end. Then he feels upset when the people *repent. (Read Jonah 3:10-4:2.)

Campbell Morgan was a great Bible teacher. He wrote books too. He speaks about ‘the last picture’ of Jonah. He is still not in agreement with ‘the *mercy of God’. Then there is ‘the last picture’ of God. He is full of pity and sympathy. He cares very much even for a city like Nineveh. He is ready to save the people as they *repent.

How selfish we can be. Jonah feels angry about the death of a plant. There was a selfish reason for this. It was because it affected his own comfort. But he did not care for the lives of people. Many of them were innocent. Many in the great city did not understand about God (4:10-11).

The *Lord’s love for us all is wonderful. We do not deserve any of it. He is so generous to us. He is so patient with us. We have done nothing to deserve it. We could certainly never earn it.

The God of Jonah is the one who appeals to us too. He urges us to realise the value of his truth. That truth will always be there. He urges us to listen to his voice. Then he urges us to think about other people. We should look for people who are waiting to hear his word. That word can change their lives.

Word List (Words with a *)

believer ~ a person who knows and accepts the *Lord Jesus Christ; another name for a Christian.

Hebrew ~ a nation, a people and a language; Jew is another name for a Hebrew person.

Lord ~ a name that we call God or Jesus; we call God or Jesus Lord when we do what they say.

mercy ~ kindness to someone who does not deserve it; a very strong word; there are several meanings in it; there is love and pity; to have mercy means to forgive.

religious ~ about religion; a person can be religious; but he may not really know God; (read Acts 17:22; 2 Timothy 3:5; James 1:26, 27).

repent ~ to turn away from evil and towards God; this choice will mean a complete change of life.

sin ~ not reaching God’s standards; not obeying God’s rules; it can speak about a state (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23; 5:12-17); it can also be an act; so, the word can be a noun or a verb.

By full permission of author

It has not been possible, so far, to discover the copyright holder of this book. If this information becomes available, WA will gladly recognise the publisher fully. The original publisher was Oliphants (1969) SBN 551 00136 4

Wycliffe Associates (UK) EasyEnglish(C) Translation (Level) B

AD 2001


EasyEnglish TRANSLATION (Level B) Mary Read


© 1999-2003, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

June 2003

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