Out of the Depths of Grace: A Guide to Jonah


I want to make you aware of a new Bible study resource. Stephen Witmer, pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship, Cambridge Ph.D. in New Testament, and beloved friend from seminary has written a guide to the book of Jonah titled Out of the Depths of Grace. If you’re looking for a new booklet to serve your Bible study group, look no further.

In addition to his biblical insight, Stephen knows something about this topic from the inside having grown up in the home of Daryl Witmer. In December of 1984, Mr. Witmer Sr. suffered an extensive ordeal with Guillain-Barre syndrome which has left him in a wheelchair ever since. Despite this limitation, Daryl has founded and led with faithful distinction the apologetics ministry, AIIA Institute.

The following interview reveals the heartbeat of the study. Please be aware, there is a special deal for those who plug in ‘gbgj’ at checkout to get 40% off the purchase of 5 or more copies.

Question: You’ve written the Good Book Guide to Jonah. What are the Good Book Guides?

The Good Book Guides are a series of study guides edited by Tim Chester for use by individuals and/or small groups. I used and loved the Good Book Guides long before I wrote one. They’re published by the Good Book Company, a publisher of Christian resources based in the United Kingdom that distributes material in the United States and around the world. Like other material published by the Good Book Company, the Good Book Guides are theologically robust but also short and punchy, with a strong emphasis on applying the biblical text to real life.

Question: What did you learn about God as you wrote these studies on the book of Jonah?

I caught a fresh glimpse of the sovereignty of God. It’s all over the place in this book and it is really breathtaking. For instance, Jonah flees his call to go to Nineveh because he wants no part in the conversion of pagans. How does God respond? He uses Jonah’s disobedience to get him onboard a ship full of pagan sailors and draw them to himself! After Jonah obeys God and goes to Nineveh, God uses Jonah’s obedience to convert pagans. That’s amazing. When the sovereign God determines to do something, he will use whatever means he chooses in order to accomplish his purpose.

Question: Any other insights into the character of God from the book of Jonah?

Yes, the deep and unmerited kindness of God is a central theme of this book; hence the title of this study guide, ‘Jonah: the depths of grace.’ God’s grace pushes beyond Jewish boundaries to reach the nations. That’s what most of us think of when we think about the book of Jonah. But God’s deep kindness is also beautifully on display in Jonah’s life. I hadn’t seen that before, and it was a fresh insight for me as I worked through the book again. Rather than killing Jonah when he disobeys the call, God gives him another chance to obey. And again, at the very end of the book, God could simply destroy Jonah for his prideful heart and surly responses, but instead he teaches Jonah by asking him questions, of all things.

Question: Why is the book of Jonah important for the church today?

For one thing, because it points us to the central realities of the gospel: the death and resurrection of Jesus (see Matthew 12.38-42). But also because it punctures our pride. It’s remarkable that in this book, the pagans come off so much better than the prophet. The pagan sailors do their best to save Jonah’s life. The pagan Ninevites repent immediately, whereas Jonah still hasn’t repented at the end of the book – sure, he’s gone to Nineveh, but it’s still not clear his heart is in the right place. The book of Jonah reminds the church that God has a passion for reaching unlikely people and sinful people. It indicts us for the prideful boundaries we raise that prevent people from hearing the gospel (e.g. that person or that group is beyond God’s grace). The book of Jonah ends with a question asked by God himself (‘Should not I pity Nineveh?’). That question is meant to hang in the air and pierce our hearts. Do we care for those around us?

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