Reading For Thursday Jonah 4:1-11

Jonah was terribly displeased that God would relent concerning the destruction of Nineveh. Jonah felt that the Ninevites deserved judgment, and evidently he had felt this anger for some time. He who praised the gracious mercy of God earlier now denounces it. The surprise comes when Jonah confesses that this was his fear all along namely, that God in his patience would spare Nineveh. Here at the end of the book, we find the very reason he rejected the God's commission and fled to Tarshish. Apparently, he anticipated that the Ninevites would repent. The painful truth is that Jonah was so prejudiced against the Ninevites that he wanted to see them destroyed. In his prayer, Jonah enumerates a list of the gracious attributes of God. He knew that God was gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. However, Jonah’s words, are not words of approval. Perhaps he even regarded these attributes as character weakness on the part of God. At the very least Jonah felt that grace should have limits, and those limits should correspond to the territory of Israel. Jonah was depressed and spoke as if he wanted to die. The Lord responded to Jonah with tenderness, like a parent gently reprimanding a child and asked a question to help Jonah reflect on his disposition. He did not condemn the prophet, although Jonah’s attitude deserved castigation. No answer to God's question is recorded. Perhaps Jonah was still not ready to repent of his attitude. 

Jonah went out from Nineveh and took up a position on the east side of the city and made a makeshift shelter to protect himself from the sun by day and the chill at night. He sat there to see what God would do. Maybe Jonah did not believe that the repentance of the Ninevites would last the forty days. Jonah wanted to see the fire fall, and so he sat and pouted in his smug, self-righteous indignation. The Lord was determined to rescue Jonah again, this time from a sea of discouragement, self-pity and depression so the creator "appointed” a plant which miraculously grew up over Jonah to be a shade. In spite of God’s efforts to comfort Jonah, the prophet remained surly. Next, God “appointed” a worm when dawn came the next day, attacking the plant so that it withered and died. After that,  God “appointed” a wind off the desert and the sun beat down on his head causing Jonah to be faint. Jonah decided that he had come to the point where he believed that death was better than life. God asked questions about the dead plant, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” His first anger had been because Nineveh had not been destroyed; his present anger was because a vine had been destroyed. This time the question ignited Jonah’s simmering anger like gasoline poured on an open flame and Jonah fired back, dismissing any thought that he had no right to be angry. He had lost all patience with God. God did not give up on Jonah even when he was acting like an angry toddler. God pointed out how inappropriate Jonah’s anger was. Jonah had compassion on a plant which he did not plant, cultivate, or make grow. His concern for the plant was dictated by self-interest, and yet Jonah was sorry it had died. Should not God have compassion on Nineveh? He created all of its people, and he loved them. God showing compassion on them is most natural. People are more valuable than plants. Surely Jonah could see that. God had invested much time and patience on that city. The book concludes abruptly with these words, and we are left to ponder what became of Jonah. The book itself seems to indicate that at some point Jonah repented and appreciated God's grace. The Book of Jonah focuses on sovereignty and the saving work of God. 

Things To Consider:

  • Have you ever thought someone was not worthy of God's grace, and you hoped he or she would get what he or she deserve? Why?  
  • What do you deserve?  
  • Why is it significant to see God's interaction with his creation i.e. the plant, the worm, and the wind?  
  • What implications does that have for us?  
  • Have you thanked God for his patience? How often do we disobey and walk in ways contrary to God's instructions?  
  • Where is your prejudice? Racial, cultural, political, economic, religious? Ask God to help you desire grace and reconciliation?