It was a terrible storm. Men were shaking me and shouting, "Jonah, Jonah, wake up! Pray to your God! This storm must stop or we will all drown! Hurry, Jonah!"
I jumped to my feet and nearly fell as the ship rolled from one side to the other. I ran up onto the deck and saw some men throwing cargo boxes and other things over the side, into the water. Other men were praying to their gods to stop the storm.
I knew all of this was happening because I did not obey God. He had told me to go to Nineveh and preach to the wicked people there. God loved them and wanted them to be saved and to love Him. But I did not want to go, so I was running away.
I turned to the men who had followed me up onto the deck. "God has found me. If you want the storm to stop, you must throw me into the sea."
"No, Jonah," said the men. "We cannot do that! Just pray to your God."
"It is the only way," I said. "I have disobeyed God."
I knew they did not understand. They did not want to throw me overboard. But, they said if that was the only way to stop the storm, they would have to do it.
I hit the water with a big splash. Almost at once I could feel the storm stop. The waters became calm. Then, suddenly, I was being swallowed by a huge fish! Not eaten, but swallowed! I was still alive! What was happening to me?
There I was, down in the belly of a whale—what an awful place to be! Yuk! What hope was there for me?
I prayed for three whole days! I promised God that I would do what He had asked me to do, if He would just get me out of this awful place!
All at once there was a rumbling sound. With a swoosh I was thrown out of the whale's mouth onto a beach!
I scrambled to my feet. I pulled the seaweed out of my hair and rinsed myself off in the water. Before the sun could even dry my clothes, I started out toward Nineveh. When I reached the city my only duty was to tell the people to repent and to stop doing bad things. They must tell God they were sorry or in forty days He would destroy their city.
I saw many people pray that day. In fact, everyone in the whole city prayed. That was why God wanted me to preach in Nineveh. All those people prayed because I finally obeyed God.
This lesson is one of the favorites of most children, and it has an important lesson to teach with regard to our theme of obedience. As the teacher goes through the story of Jonah during class time, emphasis will be placed on the fact that when God asks us to do something for Him it is in our best interest to do it!
To reinforce this theme, encourage your child to use his imagination and ingenuity to re-create this favorite Bible story with words, pictures, and letters cut from magazines and newspapers. Provide your child with several old magazines or newspapers, scissors, glue, and a large piece of poster board.
Begin by reviewing the story from the Bible. Then let your child cut out words, letters, and pictures that will become a part of the story. Help him lay out the words or pictures on the poster board, piecing words together by cutting out individual letters when necessary. When the story is ready, glue all the words in place on the poster board, and allow your child to read his story to the whole family.