Jonah 4 Part 4 - The Book of Jonah Ends with a Question
Jonah 4:9-11 - God is eternal and beyond understanding, but His compassion is infinite! Are you a spectator in your anger or do you see the beauty of His plans?
“Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?””
Jonah 4:9-11 NASB1995
Our reluctant and sullen prophet has reached rock bottom, so to speak. He is angry unto death about God sparing Nineveh AND now about losing his precious shade plant. Once again, God asks Jonah a question about whether or not he has good reason to be angry, this time about the plant. Perhaps Jonah could cobble together enough excuses for being angry with God for sparing Nineveh, but how does this same rage and wish to die apply to losing a modest plant that grew up, shaded him for a moment, then died?
So God replies again to Jonah, leaving this OT book as a cliffhanger. We have no idea what happens to this flawed prophet after this exchange with God. God tells Jonah that he had compassion for a simple plant (for which Jonah did not work for or cause to grow), but is angry beyond reason about God’s compassion for a great city, which has more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right hand and their left hand.
Nineveh was likely larger than the number noted (according to historical records), but God knows that there are more than 120,000 people there (made in His image) and they had no idea about right and wrong. Interestingly, He also references the animals (livestock) in this equation. He has compassion beyond measure for His creation and wants every person to come to repentance and salvation, plus He also cares for the myriad other creatures who are His handiwork and obey Him instinctively. In this day and age of “animal rights” and concern for creatures, I find it marvelous beyond understanding that He cares for them, too (but so much more so for His special creation, Man). As noted in this second view of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the creation of man by God is in the center and dominates all other aspects of this history of God and humans.
After digging into this book of an OT minor prophet, I must admit that Jonah represents the worst traits in humanity, but yet God never gives up on him. I find that so comforting, in so many ways! God is the God of all people, including the reprobates and those souls who flee at the first sign of trouble!
This Commentary from Enduring Word describes these passages so well:
Is it right for you to be angry about the plant? Jonah, in response to God’s question, felt totally justified in his anger about the sheltering plant’s destruction. Even though the plant was just a plant, and Jonah had no personal interest or investment in the plant except for what it provided for him at the moment.
Jonah made three errors that angry people often make. Each of these things put Jonah in a worse place, not a better place.
Jonah quit serving God and others.
Jonah separated himself from others.
Jonah became a spectator.
It is right for me to be angry, even to death: These are the last words of Jonah recorded in this book, but thankfully they are not the last words of the book. God’s mercy and compassion still worked with Jonah, teaching him and guiding him to God’s heart.
And should I not pity Nineveh: How much more should God be concerned about the destruction of people – those made in His image, even if they are Assyrians. God’s response to Jonah showed the prophet that he really didn’t know God as well as he thought he did.
Those who cannot discern between their right hand and their left are those who are unable to make moral judgments.
The lesson is clear: not only does God’s concern for people go beyond Israel, but He is totally justified in calling the nations to account. The lesson of Jonah reminds us that God is the God of all people.
The lesson of Jonah is what he proclaimed before being freed from the great fish: Salvation is of the LORD (Jonah 2:9), and not of any race or nation or class. This is the same message God made clear to Peter in Acts 10:34-35: In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”
Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city: Jewish tradition says that after God said the words of Jonah 4:11, Jonah then fell on his face and said: “Govern your world according to the measure of mercy, as it is said, To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness” (Daniel 9:9). We can only hope that Jonah – and we – would have such a humble response.
God showed His mercy to Jonah through a lot of preparation.
Nevertheless, the real work of preparation happened in Jonah. What God really prepared was a person, a prophet. “I would suggest to some of you here who have to bear double trouble that God may be preparing you for double usefulness, or he may be working out of you some unusual form of evil which might not be driven out of you unless his Holy Spirit had used these mysterious methods with you to teach you more fully his mind.” (Charles Spurgeon)
I shouldn’t be too hard on Jonah - he endured a lot, came to understand God’s will, acted with great courage while preaching, and probably overcame his pouting and defiance at the end, although we don’t know for sure. I honestly don’t know that I would respond in the same way in such a difficult circumstances. So believers should think about three things, especially when we are angry:
Do we stop serving God and others?
Do we separate ourselves from others?
Do we become a spectator?
Are we allowing God to carefully prepare us for something, or are we looking for shade as we hatefully watch for the destruction of others?
WOW, what a great book of Scripture!
My next series of devotionals examine the parables of the Gospels (other than the unique parables of Luke that were done previously). The parables are one of the mysterious foundations of our faith and our journey to understanding Jesus and His wisdom.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please help me to understand how you are preparing me for serving you and to keep me from being just a spectator hoping for the destruction of others who are made in your image. Delving into the book of Jonah was so insightful, thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit! Amen!
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.