Thursday, 11 March 2010

Jonah – KS 1 &2 – Encouraging responsibility – SEAL theme “good to be me”

It is important as you prepare to tell this story that there was never any serious suggestion made by those who originally compiled the Bible that this story actually happened. It is told in the form of a folk-tale, and is similar to other ancient folk-tales.

Need: Cardboard signposts to Ninevah and to Tarshish

This is a story which the ancient people of the Bible told. They didn’t think it had really happened, but it was a good story which helped them to think about important things.

There was once a very powerful nation called Assyria. They had a huge army of strong soldiers with all the latest weapons. No one else stood a chance against them. They were cruel too, treating those they captured badly. Everyone was scared of them.
In the nation of Israel there was a prophet called Jonah – a man who listened to God. One day when Jonah was praying he heard God speaking to him.
“Jonah – I have a job for you.”
“Yes, God, what is it?”
“I want you to go to the city of Ninevah, the capital city of Assyria, right in the middle of their nation, and tell them that I want them to change their ways, to stop being cruel to others.”

(put up signpost to Ninevah)

Jonah was TERRIFIED. He wouldn’t last two minutes in Ninevah with all those cruel Assyrians about. They’d never listen to him. And even if they did, he didn’t think it was fair. Why should they get a second chance? Why didn’t God just destroy them anyway? Everyone would feel safer then.

But Jonah didn’t say anything.

He just got up and packed a bag. He went down to the harbour, where all the boats were and started asking where people were going to.
“We’re off to Tarshish”, said one group of sailors.
Put up sign to Tarshish facing in the opposite direction to the sign to Ninevah

“That’ll do,” thought Jonah…Is Jonah going the right way, the way God asked him to? (let children tell you that it is the opposite direction.)

But off they went to Tarshish. Jonah thought he could run away from Ninevah, and run away from God. But he was wrong.

In the night a great storm blew up. The boat was tossed about. The waves got higher and higher. (Invite children to make “waves” with their hands, if you are sure you can stop the ensuing riot when you need to…) The sailors were sure they would all be drowned. In those days people often thought that God made storms happen, and the sailors wondered who might have done something to make him send this storm.
It wasn’t one of them, but then they remembered their passenger, Jonah. He admitted that he was running away from God. “The only way to save yourselves is to throw me overboard,” said Jonah. They didn’t want to, but Jonah insisted, so that’s what the sailors did, and as soon as they did, the storm stopped.

Jonah began to sink in the water. This is the end, he thought. But God had other ideas. Deep down in the water below Jonah was a big fish. God sent the fish to where Jonah was and he opened his mouth wide and with one gulp, swallowed him. Down went Jonah into the fish’s tummy.
And there he stayed for three days, thinking about what had happened. Jonah saw that he should have done what God wanted, and he prayed to God to help him.

The fish kept on swimming till it came to the land, where it opened wide its mouth again and spat Jonah out.

Now Jonah went in the right direction, straight to Ninevah. He still wasn’t very happy about it though. He didn’t like the Assyrian Ninevites, and he didn’t think God should like them either. He walked into the city, though, and began telling them God’s message. “God is going to destroy your city! You wait and see!” (He wasn’t very nice about it!). He didn’t think they would take any notice of what he said. But he was wrong. Every one of them stopped what they were doing, started thinking, and felt really sorry for being mean to people. Even the king of the Assyrians heard the message, and he was really sorry for being a cruel king. He ordered all his people - and even their donkeys and cows – to fast (to stop eating for a while) to show how sorry they were.

And God forgave them.

Jonah might have been happy about this. After all, wasn’t it a good thing that God had forgiven them and that they had changed their ways?
But Jonah was furious.
“You’re just soft, God! They don’t deserve to be forgiven. They are mean, nasty people, who have done mean, nasty things. You should punish them.”
And Jonah went into a big, big sulk.
He sat in the desert, with the sun beating down on him, feeling sorry for himself and cross with God.
God thought, “How can I show Jonah that he is wrong to feel angry with me for forgiving the people of Ninevah?”
God had an idea.
During the night he made a plant grow up beside Jonah. In the morning there it was, shading him from the sun. Jonah loved his plant. It was his new best friend.
But the next night God sent a worm along which munched through the plant. In the morning it was all eaten up. All Jonah’s lovely shade was gone. He was really upset about the plant dying.
And God said to him, “Jonah, you are really sad about the plant dying. It was special to you. But you didn’t care at all about the people of Ninevah – men, women and children – who were special to me. They are my children, just as you are…”

And the story ends there, with Jonah sitting in the desert thinking about what God said to him.

We’re going to sit still and think now, just like he did. Sometimes its hard to love and care for people we don’t like, who might have done something mean to us, but God asks us to help them, just like he would.

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