YOU PITY THE PLANT
Jonah obeyed the Lord and had the privilege of witnessing one of the greatest revivals in history. Nineveh, a city, filled with violence, repents and asks the Lord for mercy. The Ninevites were not God's people realizing the error of their ways; they were an enemy of God's people fasting and calling out for clemency. Jonah was God's prophet who was commissioned to deliver God's message and witness once again to God's power. However, Jonah proves once again that he is a man of incongruous behavior. God's prophet does not revel in God's compassion, he is furious. He had earnestly prayed for God's grace, but now he is angry that God has extended grace to the Ninevites. Jonah complains to the Lord and reveals the reason that he ran from God in the first place. The questions raised by Jonah's actions in chapter one are finally answered. Jonah ran for Tarshish because he knew that the Lord was gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Jonah may have been eager to embrace God's grace for himself in chapter two, but he wanted no such thing for the people of Nineveh. Jonah is so distraught that he declares that he wishes for the Lord to take his life because that would be better than to continue living. Anger and frustration have led Jonah to exaggeration, and he seems to have forgotten his fish ride. The Lord answers Jonah with a question, "Do you do well to be angry?" The frustrated prophet is in no mood for discussing the matter, so he offers no answer.
Time For An Object Lesson
Jonah begins to make a series of choices that will lead him to a very dark place. Jonah leaves Nineveh and isolates himself from the people. Being alone can be dangerous, and instead of remaining in Nineveh to teach the people about God, Jonah went out of the city for a one-man pity party. The people of Nineveh would have recognized that Jonah was God's messenger and as such, they would have been an eager audience. However, instead of ministering to these new converts, Jonah cuts himself off from the rest of the world. The people may have received grace, but Jonah had no intentions of making them his friends. Jonah is consumed by his feelings. Emotions are not necessarily an evil thing, but one must discipline their feelings to train their emotions. Jonah's emotions have negated God's truth and God's character. He resents God's actions. Who are we to question the Almighty who does all things well? Jonah believed that God's actions justified his behavior since he knew that God was compassionate, but this time he was too compassionate. In this case, Jonah believes he is right—so God must be in the wrong. As far as Jonah was concerned, the problem was not that the Lord was gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love; it was more that he was always gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. His veiled accusation was that the Lord had wrongly chosen to extend compassion in this case. Jonah becomes irrational and decides that it is time for him to die. In the not so distant past, Jonah praised God for his kindness and compassion, but now in light of the repentance that he had witnessed, he ready to die. Jonah builds a booth under which to pout and waits to see what God will do to Nineveh. As Jonah sits in the booth, the Lord provides a plant that shot up overnight. Jonah's booth underwent a divine makeover and was turned into a delightful arbor. This was the Lord's kindness and the plant provided shade to ease his discomfort, but Jonah’s delight is out of proportion. Jonah is controlled by his feelings, and as a result, he has lost all sense of perspective. The following day at dawn, God appointed a worm that attacked Jonah's beloved plant until it withered. Then when the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind which beat down on Jonah until he was faint. Jonah's booth had become an oven, and the prophet was cooking. Jonah lost it and asked the Lord to die. The Lord offers no answer to Jonah's request, and instead, he asks him about his anger over the plant. This question ignited Jonah's anger like pouring gasoline on an open flame. Jonah fires back that he has every right to be angry and anger enough to die. God is merciful and begins to explain Jonah's misguided compassion. Jonah was more concerned about a plant than he was people. His concern was selfishly motivated by his desire for comfort. If Jonah was right to be sorry for this plant, then was God wrong to show compassion to Nineveh? Nineveh was a great city filled with people who were spiritually confused, and surely these people were more valuable than a plant. These people were precious to God who is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. The Book of Jonah is about the God who rescues sinners in need of his grace. Jonah was a sinner in attitude and action. The sailors were religious but had no knowledge of the Living God. The Ninevites were violent idolaters. God loves sinners, and he offers them his mercy and his forgiveness.
Things To Consider:
- Have you ever been angry with the Lord? Why?
- Is there anyone in your life that you do not believe should receive grace? Why?
- Why are we greedy with grace?
- How can we discipline our feelings?
- Why is isolation potentially dangerous?
- Do you ever complain to God? Why or why not?
- How do you guard against being irrational?
- Do we love comfort more than people? Why?
- Is there any anger that requires repentance?
- Have you thanked God for his grace toward you today?