Jonah, Prophet to Nineveh

Last week, kids at Antioch saw Hosea’s amazing love for his unfaithful wife that provided a picture of God’s greater love for His unfaithful people. This week, we will look at Jonah, which offers a powerful contrast.

The Book of Jonah is not primarily about Jonah and a big fish. While that part of the story sure is interesting, the story of Jonah centers around the mercy of God for people throughout the earth—even Israel’s worst enemies!

God spoke to Jonah. He said:  “Get up, go to the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it, because I see the evil things they do”(Jonah 1:2). Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and the rulers of Nineveh were notoriously evil and cruel. No wonder Jonah ran the other way!

However, no one can outrun God. (Ps. 139:9-10) 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!” He advised them to stop sinning and instead live like God instructs.

The people of Nineveh immediately repented—they begged God to forgive them, then they mourned their bad behaviors. They put on sack cloth and sat in ashes and cried out to God.  And God withheld His judgment. He did not demolish the city.

How did Jonah react? “This made Jonah very unhappy, and he became angry.” (Jonah 4:1). Jonah refused to thank God for the mercy He showed to the Ninevites, and refused to love the people of Nineveh, even when God did.

God was not pleased by this response and prompted Jonah to examine his heart. He left Jonah—and the reader—with a question to consider: “Shouldn’t I show concern for the great city Nineveh, which has more than one hundred twenty thousand people who do not know right from wrong, and many animals, too??” (Jonah 4:11).

God loves people—and, as kids will also observe, loves the animals He has made, too! His love never ends, and His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23). Mercy means “being treated better than you deserve”—the story of Jonah is filled mercy. God treated Jonah better than he deserved. God treated the Ninevites better than they deserved. And God treats us better than we deserve every single day! His love is unending and his kindness is real!

As you review this story with your child, we encourage you to reinforce these truths:

  • God loves people.
  • God sent Jonah to Nineveh because He loves people.
  • Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh.
  • God sent Jesus because He loves us.
  • What is God like? God is merciful and loving.
  • What is mercy? Being treated better than you deserve.

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Hosea: Prophet to Israel

This week, we encountered the curious instructions God gave the prophet Hosea. God gave the prophet Hosea a message to tell to the people of Israel. In this message, God explained how much He does not like sin–in fact, discipline was coming. But the message didn’t end there. Hosea also brought a message of God’s love—a love that never gives up.

God used Hosea’s own life to show Israel what a never-gives-up kind of love looks like. (Please note: your child learned an age-appropriate version of this story in his or her class). The short version of the story goes like this…God told Hosea to marry a prostitute. He told Hosea that his wife would not be faithful to him. She would have children with different men. Still, Hosea obeyed God. He chose Gomer as his wife. Just as God said, Gomer was not faithful to Hosea. She went after other lovers. Can you imagine Hosea’s grief each time he found his wife with another man? It might have seemed easier and even fair for Hosea to throw up his hands and say, “Enough! I’m done with you!”

The Israelites were similar to Gomer in that they kept running away from God and loving many other things more than God.  It might have seemed easier and even fair for God to throw up His hands and say, “Enough! I’m done with you!” But God’s love never gives up.

God didn’t give up on His unfaithful people after all they had done. In fact, He did the exact opposite: He drew near. He came to us in the person of Jesus!

Homer did not love Hosea–she did things that made Hosea sad, but Hosea still loved his wife. Similarly, we do not love God like we were made to–we do things that make God sad, too. But God still loves us! One way He has shown us His love is by sending Jesus to be our Savior.

As you review this story with your child, we encourage you to reinforce these truths:

  • God loves people.
  • God sent prophets to help His people know how to live best.
  • Hosea was a prophet.
  • Hosea’s life showed Israel how much God loved them.
  • Jesus’ life shows how much God loves us!
  • What is God like? God is merciful and loving.

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Jesus Was Born

Last week, kids at Antioch learned about a prophet named Isaiah who wrote promises from God about the coming Messiah, Jesus. God promised a Savior and finally after all the years of waiting, Jesus was born! This week, kids were invited to think about the night Jesus was born into the world.

He wasn’t born in a hospital. And he wasn’t born in a warm home. Instead, he was born in a stable, which is a lot like a barn or even a rock cave. When Jesus was born, he wasn’t greeted by a doctor or a nurse. Instead, there were animals sharing his newfound space.

Jesus was born as a baby, just like we were. He had to learn to talk just like we did. He had to learn to walk like we did. He had to do work and chores like we do. He became hungry and thirsty like we do. He laughed and cried, felt pain, and probably even got sick sometimes, too. He lived like us in many ways. But Jesus was unlike us in many ways, too.  Though He was fully human, He also is fully God. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

Imagining God is very hard! When Jesus came to us, it gave people the chance too see and know God. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He came to Earth so we could know that God is real, that God is good, and that God can be trusted.

Christmas is a wonderful holiday where we celebrate Jesus coming to earth. But the funny thing about Christmas is that we can’t fully celebrate it without Easter! Easter is when we remember the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus showed his power—he took all the sin, sadness, and sickness of the world and paid the price for them. It cost him his life—and he did this on purpose. But he didn’t stay dead— he came back to life and invited every person—that means you and me!— to turn from our sin and trust God.

Now we are waiting for the day when another of God’s promises will be fulfilled—the day when Jesus will return and fix the whole earth and gather His people to live with Him forever in His perfect Kingdom.

If there’s one thing the Christmas story teaches us, it’s that God always keeps His promises. Our God is a good God who left heaven and came to Earth so we would know His love. That is a great reason to celebrate. As you remind your child of this story, we encourage you to reinforce these truths:

  • People were expecting the Messiah.
  • An angel told Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus the Messiah!
  • Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem for a census.
  • Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
  • An angel announced that God’s promise had been fulfilled: Jesus was born!
  • Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
  • Jesus told people to turn from their sin and trust God.
  • We can always trust God!

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Anticipating the Coming King

This week, kids at Antioch will learn what Isaiah said about the coming Messiah. God promised a Savior, but then the people had to wait. From our perspective, some promises take a very long time for God to fulfill, but His timing is absolutely perfect. God’s promise to send Jesus seemed to take a very long time to come to pass, but it happened at the perfect time.

You probably know how the Bible starts: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Then God made Adam and Eve and put them in the garden of Eden. Not long after that, Adam and Eve sinned, which is the first time we hear about the One who will come to rescue people from sin. A lot happened between sin entering the world and Isaiah’s writing

When Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah, it wasn’t something that was going to happen the next week or year. He told about the Messiah 700 years before Jesus was even born! God’s people were waiting for God to keep His promise. Each generation looked forward to the Messiah’s arrival. Now, thousands of years later, we can look back on Jesus’ birth and celebrate that God kept his word. Jesus, our Messiah, came!

When we are in desperate situations, it’s so easy to panic and let fear control us. When we hear that help is on the way, we are relieved. When Isaiah was alive, the world was in big trouble. Sin had broken nearly every single part of it. Isaiah told the people not fret—help was coming! When Jesus was born, he left heaven and came to Earth to help us.

Likewise, our sin leaves us in a desperate situation because no matter how hard we try, we can’t stop sinning. We need someone to help us!  When Jesus came, He died on the cross to pay for our sin and invite us back to God. But Jesus’ restoration of the world isn’t done yet. One day Jesus will return to fix the things that are still broken! We can feel relieved knowing that Jesus has come and is coming again. We can trust in Jesus to free us from the power and penalty of sin now. We can know that someday we will even be free from the presence of sin too!

As Christmastime nears, we celebrate because Jesus chose to be born so He could make a way for our sins to be forgiven. We celebrate at Christmas because it’s proof of God’s fulfilled promise! We can always trust God.

As you remind your child of this story, we encourage you to reinforce these truths:

  • There is one true God.
  • Isaiah was given a message for the people.
  • The message told of the Messiah!
  • 700 years later, Jesus–our Messiah– was born!
  • God kept His promise.
  • We can always trust God.

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Isaiah Preached About the Messiah

The Book of Isaiah contains four Servant songs—poems about the servant of God. (See Isa. 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:12–53:13.)

In these poems, the prophet Isaiah describes God’s plan of redemption. We see a vision of the promised Messiah, the innocent substitute who would suffer for the sake of sinners. Through Jesus, God reconciles creation back to Himself.

The fourth and final Servant song is found in Isaiah 53. In this passage, Isaiah provides an answer to these questions: How can a just God justify the ungodly? How can He declare innocent those who are guilty? How can He treat bad people as though they are good? How can He love people like us?

A just God can’t just look the other way. He doesn’t say, “Don’t worry about it,” or “No big deal.”  Sin against a big God is a big deal. God didn’t just forgive our sins, He dealt with them. And this grace was costly. The price? God’s own Son.

Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecies of a Suffering Servant. People assumed God had cursed this Suffering Servant because of his own sins. But no; Jesus was sinless. So why did He suffer? Isaiah wrote that He was pierced because of our transgressions and crushed because of our iniquities. His punishment is what brought our peace. The Suffering Servant died the death we deserve. When we trust in Jesus, our sins are paid for by His blood—and His righteousness is credited to us.

When Christ’s work on the cross was finished, God rewarded Him. “For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

God’s servant Isaiah wrote about Jesus many years before Jesus was born. God planned all along that Jesus would die on the cross for our sin. Jesus is God— he came and died to save people from sin! The one true God is a good God!

Help your kids appreciate what Jesus endured during His earthly ministry. Talk about how Jesus hurt because of His love for people and His desire to please His Father. Because of Jesus’ suffering and death, our sin punishment has been paid and because of His resurrection, we have victory over death. As you talk, reinforce these truths:

  • There is one true God.
  • Isaiah told people about the Messiah.
  • God sent the Messiah because He loves us.
  • God said the Messiah would be a suffering servant.
  • Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

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God Called Isaiah

King Uzziah’s death marked the end of an era. His reign had been long and prosperous. Uzziah became king when he was 16, and he reigned over Judah for 52 years.

But Uzziah’s pride got the best of him. (See 2 Chron. 26:16.) Under Uzziah’s leadership, God’s people had turned away from the promises of God and trusted in the promises of the world around them. God had promised to bless the entire world through Abraham’s family, but God’s people were rebelling against Him. Instead of blessing, they set themselves up to receive God’s judgment. But God’s plans and promises were not thwarted. God sent the prophet Isaiah to preach a message of hope.

Isaiah 6 opens with Isaiah worshiping in the temple. Then God gave Isaiah a vision. Isaiah saw God sitting on a throne. God was reigning over the universe. The magnitude of God’s holiness made Isaiah realize the magnitude of his own sin. His response? “Woe is me!”

God extended His grace to Isaiah. He took away Isaiah’s guilt and shame and invited Isaiah to stay in His presence and then gave him an important job–to tell the people of Israel God’s message.

Isaiah knew he was sinful but God forgave Isaiah’s sin. Isaiah tells us God is good and holy. Like Isaiah, we also know we are sinful. God sent His Son, Jesus, to take away our sin. Only He can save us. The one true God is good and holy.

Help your kids understand that God is perfectly holy—He is pure and without sin and He is unique from anything and everyone else. God is also loving and full of mercy and grace. God sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay for the sins—past, present, and future—of those who would trust in Him. When we trust in Jesus, God says to us the words Isaiah heard: “Your guilt is taken away. Your sin is atoned for.” As you talk, reinforce these truths:

  • There is one true God.
  • God called Isaiah to be a prophet–meaning God gave Isaiah a message to tell to others.
  • Isaiah saw God the King on His throne.
  • Isaiah tells us that God is good and holy.

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Elisha and Naaman

Everyone gets sick at some point in his or her lifetime … often many times! Illness is probably no stranger to your kids. This week, kids will learn about a commander for the Syrian army—he was really sick. He had leprosy, a skin disease that was likely disfiguring and isolating. Without a cure, Naaman would face great suffering. But help came from an unlikely source: a young slave girl.

The people of Israel and Syria were often at odds with one another. The Syrians sometimes attacked the cities in Israel and plundered them. They took what they wanted, including people to work as slaves.

The young slave girl who served Naaman’s wife had been taken from her home in Israel.

As an Israelite, the girl knew about the one true God. She was familiar with God’s prophets, including Elisha, who had performed miracles to help and heal people. The girl told her mistress that Elisha the prophet could heal Naaman. So the king of Syria sent a letter to the king of Israel, asking him to cure Naaman of his leprosy. But the king of Israel had no power to heal Naaman. The power to heal comes only from God.

Elisha called for Naaman. But what happened next was not at all what Naaman expected. Naaman expected Elisha to call upon the name of God, wave his hand over Naaman, and miraculously heal him. Instead, Elisha instructed Naaman to go wash in the river.

Naaman was upset! He could have washed in a river back home! But Naaman’s servants urged him to wash. He did, and God healed him.

Naaman was sick. He had a problem with his skin. When Naaman washed in the river, his skin got better. It was a miracle! We are all sick with a sin problem—but when we trust in Jesus, He heals us. It’s a miracle! God forgives us and gives us new life.

Help your kids understand that not all sick people will be healed on this side of heaven, but our physical maladies are symptoms of an even greater illness–sin. Life is not how it was designed to be, but God plans to make it good! Jesus’ death and resurrection provided healing—forgiveness and eternal life—for those who trust in Him. As you talk, reinforce these truths:

  • There is one true God.
  • The servant girl teaches us to always want the best for others–even people who treat us poorly.
  • God healed Naaman.
  • Naaman learned that obeying God is always best.
  • There is no one like God.
  • How many gods are there? There is one true God.
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Elijah Ran from Jezebel

The prophet Elijah had just witnessed God’s great display of power over the false god Baal. God had sent fire from heaven and then ended a long drought with a great rain. Elijah must have felt a sense of victory; the evil King Ahab could not deny the one true God. But trouble awaited Elijah in the form of Ahab’s wife, Jezebel.

When Jezebel heard what happened at Mount Carmel, she threatened to kill Elijah. Elijah ran away and hid in the wilderness. What a change Elijah experienced! He went from a man faithfully and confidently praying for God’s glory to be displayed at Mount Carmel to a man begging the Lord to take away his life. (See 1 Kings 19:4.)

God was merciful to Elijah. An angel of the Lord brought Elijah food and drink while he rested. Then Elijah traveled to Horeb for a personal encounter with God. Horeb—another name for Mount Sinai—was a familiar place in the history of Israel. It was the place where God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites and where Moses met with God.

After the events in 1 Kings 18, Elijah might have expected a grand display of God’s presence, but what he experienced was just the opposite. The Lord was not in the wind. The Lord was not in the earthquake. The Lord was not in the fire. God revealed Himself to Elijah in a voice, a soft whisper.

Elijah’s circumstances were difficult, but God didn’t leave him. God gave him Elisha, a friend and successor. God assured Elijah that he was not alone; there were 7,000 people in Israel who had not turned to worship Baal.

Some people did not like Elijah—they wanted to hurt him because he worshiped God. He urged the people to turn from sin and to return to the true God. Elijah points us to Jesus, who also longs for us to turn from our sin and trust the one true God.

Help your kids understand that the messages God gave through the prophets like Elijah pointed forward to the ultimate prophet, priest, and king—Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection brought victory for God’s people. As you talk, reinforce these truths:

  • There is one true God.
  • God spoke to Elijah in a small whisper.
  • God encouraged Elijah.
  • How many gods are there? There is one true God.
  • Jesus is with us when we are afraid.

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Elijah Confronted Evil Ahab

This week, we continue in the big story of the Bible by learning about the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. King Ahab was an evil king. In fact, “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33). The things that Ahab did made God angry. God wanted His people to be faithful to Him, but King Ahab led them away from God.

God chose Elijah to get Ahab’s attention. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah told Ahab that a drought was coming. God prevented rain in the land for three years. For Ahab, a man who worshiped Baal—the false Canaanite god of rain and fertility—the drought sent a strong message about the one true God.

When God was ready to send rain on the earth, Elijah appeared to Ahab and instructed him to gather the Israelites and the prophets of the false gods at Mount Carmel. Elijah challenged the people to choose: Follow God or follow Baal. They couldn’t do both.

Elijah set up a challenge to prove who is the one true God. He faced off against the prophets of Baal. Each group prepared a bull on an altar and called on its deity to send fire from heaven. The prophets of Baal called and cried and cut themselves, but Baal did not answer.

Elijah poured water on and around his altar. He called to God, and God sent fire from heaven. Everything was burned up. The prophets could not deny that the God of Elijah is the one true God, and God sent a great rain to end the drought.

The people who worshiped the false god Baal worked very hard to show they loved Baal, but Baal was silent. The one true God is not like false gods. God is real and cares deeply for His creation. God showed His love for us by sending His Son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the world.

Help your kids understand that God is an initiating God. We love God because He first loved us, which He proved by providing Jesus. Only God—the one true God—has power to help His people and to save them. And He saves them through His Son, Jesus, whose name means “the Lord saves.” As you talk to your child, reinforce these truths:

  • There is one true God.
  • Elijah showed the people God’s power.
  • God hears His people when we pray.
  • How many gods are there? There is one true God.
  • The one true God defeated the prophets of Baal.

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