Greetings! This reading is Jonah 4.
Jonah 4 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”
This would have been a good spot for Jonah to say, “Great point, Lord! I have no right at all to be angry. I should rejoice at your mercy and grace.” But He didn’t say that.
Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”
“I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
Note God’s amazing patience with Jonah!
Just a little side note – God was concerned about the cattle as well as the humans. Of course, He considers humans to be much more important, but this is one of many verses that display God’s love for animals. I did a post on my other blog about “Who will you see in Heaven?” and we discussed the concept of animals in Heaven a bit there.
I find verse 2 to be one of the most interesting verses in the Bible: “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. ” While much of the world pictures God as angry and unforgiving, consider that one of his prophets was angry enough to die because he “knew” that God abounded in love, and more.
Consider how the story ends. Jonah never does come around completely to God’s way of thinking (at least not in the portion documented in the Bible). God has exercised remarkable patience with the Ninevites and with Jonah.
Praise God for his incredible patience with us as we wrestle with him as Jonah did. And pray that we let God transform our minds so we can think more like He does and follow Christ more closely.
Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.
The next reading is Psalm 4. I thought we would do 3-5 Psalms, then a couple chapters of Proverbs, then I’m open to suggestions.
2 thoughts on “Jonah 4”
Jonah was angry that God would have compassion on an enemy of Israel. He wanted God’s goodness to be shown only to Israelites, not to Gentiles. To Jonah, God’s mercy to the Ninevites meant an end to Israel’s favored standing with Him. Jonah shortly before had rejoiced in his deliverance from death, but now that Nineveh lives, he prefers to die.
Like small children (Deuteronomy 1:39, Isaiah 7:15-16), the Ninevites needed God’s fatherly compassion. God had the first word (1:1), and He also has the last. The commission He gave Jonah displayed His mercy and compassion to the Ninevites, and His last word to Jonah emphatically proclaimed that concern for every creature, both man and animal. Not only does the “Lord…preserve both man and beast” (Psalm 36:6), but He takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but (desires) rather that they turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).
Jonah and his contrymen traditionally rejoiced in God’s special mercies to Israel but wished only His wrath on their enemies. God here rebukes such hardness and proclaims His own gracious benevolence.
It reminds me of Isaiah 55:8, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. Thanks be to God for this. Just as Jonah feels his way was better, we do the same every day. Who are we to question God, who in His great mercy, sent His one and only Son to die in our stead, despite our thoughts and actions.
Thanks, Rebecca. Well said!