About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Jonah's Anger At The Lord's Compassion (ch. 4:1 - 11)       

 

Verse 1 states that Jonah was really upset, really mad.  You'd think that Jonah would be happy that Nineveh repented, but he's not.  We don't really know why he is mad, just that he is.  Many Bible teachers suggest that he is upset because in one sense of the word, what he prophesied did not come true.  Maybe he thought he looked like a fool, or worse still a false prophet.  Deuteronomy 18:18-22 states that a false prophet must die.  Maybe Jonah felt he was a false prophet, or maybe he thought God deceived him.  God told him to tell Nineveh of their destruction.  They weren't destroyed, and now he was worthy of death. 

 

It appears that Jonah missed the whole point of the prophetic word he was told to speak.  Prophetic words such as what Jonah spoke were meant to bring the recipients of the word to repentance. If the people repent, they are free from judgment.

 

As I have said before, there is what I call a "tipping point to sin".  Once a nation reaches a certain place, where its sin gets so bad, and when God actually pronounces judgment on that nation, it is too late to repent.  It appears that Nineveh had not yet reached the tipping point of sin, or else she would not have been spared.

 

This is what I believe verse 2 means.  First of all, Jonah would not have liked the city of Nineveh because it was the capital of the evil empire of Assyria, a traditional enemy of Israel.  So for that reason he might not have wanted to even think about going to Nineveh, eve , even to prophesy God's judgment.  But, in verse 2 Jonah says that he knows God is compassionate, and he knows God can and probably would change His mind concerning judging Nineveh .  So why go?  His preaching would be in worthless and make him look foolish.  The simple point is, "why go to Nineveh to preach judgment when God's not going to judge"?  Again, Jonah is missing the point of the possibility that Nineveh might repent.

 

Jonah was so upset that in verse 3 he wants God to kill him.  Jonah's mood swings are apparent. It appears to me that he was the type of person that when he was happy, he was very happy and everyone knew he was happy.  But, when he was depressed, he was really depressed, and everyone knew that to.  Probably no one wanted to be around Jonah when he felt down.

 

In verse 4 God asked, "have you any right to be angry"?  The obvious answer would be no.  Most of the time when we get angry, the same question could be asked of us.  The same answer would also apply to us.  Often our anger, as I believe was the case with Jonah, is based on selfishness - poor me - look at me - I need some attention.

 

It doesn't appear that Jonah answered God.  It looks like he just left in one big pout.  He went east of Nineveh, made a tent, and sat in the shade of the tent.  The reason why he sat in the shade is because this was desert land and in the day time, things got very hot.  He just sat to see what would happen to Nineveh.  Nothing happened.  His prophecy did not come true. 

 

It's like Jonah felt that after the three days of prophesying, the city should have been immediately destroyed, when it wasn't.  He gets upset.  Leaves the city, and waits for its destruction, that never takes place.  He gets even more mad at God.

 

Jonah gets very happy in verse 6. Again, we see the mood swings.  I guess God will and can use anyone.  You don't have to be a well balanced person.  The reason why Jonah is happy is because God allows a vine to grow that gave Jonah more shade.  Some translations say this vine grew up over night.  There is a plant that does grow in that part of the world that can grow up to 10 feet high and can grow 2 feet a day.  This might have been that plant.

 

Jonah didn't stay happy long.  His mood changed the next day because a worm came and destroyed the plant.  The same plant I mentioned in the last paragraph is often food for certain worms.  So Jonah lost his shade. 

 

So when the hot sun came up that day in verse 8, and Jonah had no good shade, again, he got mad and wanted to die. 

 

In verse 9 God asked Jonah, as He did in verse 4, when Jonah didn't answer, "have you any right to be angry about the vine'?  This time Jonah does answer God and he says that he does have a right to be angry and that's why he wants to die.

 

In verse 10 God tells Jonah that he had been greatly concerned about the vine.  It grew up over night and it died over night.  Jonah did nothing.  He did not cause the vine to grow.  He did not maintain the vine, and he did not cause the vine to die.

 

In verse 10 God gives us a clue to why He allowed this vine to come and go.  He tells Jonah that there are 120,000 people in Nineveh "who cannot tell their right hand from their left hand".  Bible teachers are divided in knowing exactly what this means.  The population of Nineveh was anywhere from 600,000 people to 1,000,000 people.  So who are these 120,000 people.  Are they righteous people?  Many people actually think they are little innocent children. They suggest this because along with the 120,000, is the mention of animals, who would also be innocent.  They would not have participated in the evil activity that those in Nineveh participated in.    

 

If the 120,000 are children, and really if they aren't, this shows that God was concerned with both people and animals in the city, something that Jonah didn't seem to be so concerned about. 

 

God provided the vine for protection for Jonah. He was happy, but I'm not sure he was thankful to God for the vine, therefore the vine died.  On the other hand, unlike Jonah, those in Nineveh repented, so they were saved.

 

I believe verse 9 and 10 shows us the reason why God provided this vine for Jonah.  Of course it was for shelter, but I believe there is more to this than just shelter.  The whole vine experience might well have been a test for Jonah, a test that he failed.  He was more concerned with the vine than the city he preached to.  He was more concerned about himself than those who he preached to.  Verse 10 says that Jonah "was concerned about this vine".  I believe that if Jonah had of been more concerned about Nineveh , the vine would not have died, but he wasn't.  Jonah is portrayed here as being selfish.       

 

One thing we can learn from verse 10 is that God cares for animals, and why not?  He created them.  Another thing we can learn from this is that God is concerned for Gentiles.  We certainly see that in the New Testament, but God's concern for Gentiles is not just a New Testament thing.

 

From the creation of Israel , from the calling of Abraham, God had one thing in mind.  The nation that would come forth from Israel , was meant to be a kingdom of priests, representing God to the nations of the world.  God cared about all these Gentile nations, all these Gentile civilizations, but like Jonah, Israel didn't.  Because Israel failed to be God's representatives, both Israel and the nations of the world suffered.  In the long run, as we see at the end of the book of Revelation, there will be an Israel the New Jerusalem, and there will be nations of the world, but Jesus Himself will be the One who represents God to both Israel and these nations.

 

It's ironic to me that Jonah preached to a Gentile city roughly around the same time that prophets like Amos and Hosea preached to Israel.  Both the northern and southern kingdom of Israel failed to repent, but a Gentile city did repent.  I believe this is an elusion to New Testament times when Israel rejected Jesus as a nation, so God turned to Gentile nations.  

 

The book of Jonah is often told as a Sunday school story to children and thus is over simplified.  The problem with many Christians today is that we do not graduate from Sunday school in our understanding and therefore fail to understand what the Lord wants us to know in such books as Jonah.  I would suggest we all graduate from Sunday school.

 

The book of Jonah is a small little prophetic book directed to Gentiles that is hidden in the large number of prophetic writings directed towards Israel .  This is yet another example, even in Old Testament days, that God is concerned about Gentiles.

 

   

             

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