Whether you are actually preparing for a trip to Israel or just wanting to know more about the land where Jesus walked, this simple study is for you. Before going to Israel for the first time I had no interest in the maps section of my Bible. While reading, if I reached the name of a city that I could not pronounce or had no idea where it was…I just skipped it and kept reading. Now, after walking the ancient paths, my interest has changed. The land of Israel has come to life. Our prayer is that this will happen to you as well. We will go slowly so that you can soak it all in, meditate on it, and envision the area in your mind. This will enrich your Bible study and will deepen your experience if you do travel to Israel and experience the land where Jesus walked. If you never have the opportunity to go to the Holy Land, I will share some photos with you so that you can experience it virtually. Let’s start with the first place you will experience, Jaffa, known in Biblical times as Joppa.
If you were to fly to Israel, your flight would land in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv was founded on the outskirts of Jaffa in 1909 and today it encompasses the ancient city. Jaffa or Joppa as it was known in Biblical times was the main port of the coast before the Israelis constructed the ports of Haifa and Ashdod. (Bibleplaces.com) Today only small fishing boats are in its harbor but it still is recognized as one of the oldest functioning harbors in the world.
Read Jonah 1:1-3.
- What did God tell Jonah to do?
- What did Jonah decide to do instead?
- The passage says that he decided to go to another city and that meant he would be leaving what? (Verse 3)
- How many times is the word “Tarshish” mentioned in verse 3? What do you think that the scripture is emphasizing?
- Twice the phrase “went down” is used in verse 3. Do you think that this is symbolic?
Take a look at the following map. Locate Nineveh and locate Tarshish. Where are they located in reference to one another?
- Was Jonah headed even remotely toward where God told him to go?
Read all four chapters of the book of Jonah. As you read the book, focus on God’s compassion for us as believers and his compassion for the world. Specifically, reflect on His compassion for Jonah, Nineveh and the pagan sailors.
We know that the scripture tells us that when Jonah disobeyed God and left on that ship toward Tarshish, God caused a great storm to come up on the Mediterranean Sea. Jonah was thrown overboard so that the sea would calm down. Joppa/Jaffa is still remembered as the place where Jonah boarded that ship. The people of Joppa have commemorated the memory with a statue reminding us all of God’s unusual rescue of Jonah.
As we begin the journey, ask yourself the questions:
- Am I running toward God or away from Him?
- Do I have compassion for the people around me who do not know Him or do I think that they are getting what they deserve?
- Do I have a deep appreciation for how much God seeks after me and others so that they might know Him in a deeper way?
- Do I have a sense of how much God orchestrates people and events in our lives so that we might have an encounter with Him?
Write your reflections down in a journal. Ask God to personalize this biblical account for you. This week, watch for opportunities in our pagan culture to share the love of Christ with others. Where is the Nineveh that God is calling you to visit and share His story?