God and Our Enemies

“Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, ”It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, ”Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”  (Jonah 4:5-11)

In 4:5 we find Jonah leaving the city, but not going home.  Rather, he goes up on a hill, makes a hut, and waits.  For what?  4:5 says it, “to see what would become of the city.”  Jonah is still angry, and he obviously wants the city to be destroyed and Jonah wants a front-row seat.  Then, God does what He always does, and gives grace to sinful Jonah by providing a plant to shade him from the sun.  Jonah looks at the plant and 4:6 says, “Jonah was exceedingly happy because of the plant.”  Again, Jonah is happy at God taking care of him and angry at God taking care of the Ninevites.  Then in 4:7, just as God appointed a fish to swallow Jonah, He appoints a worm to eat this plant.  And right after this in 4:8 God brings a “scorching east wind” to beat down on Jonah.  To which Jonah again replies, “It is better for me to die than to live.”  We, as the readers, can tell that God is still teaching Jonah a lesson and asks him in 4:9, “Do you do well to be angry at the plant?”  Jonah, raging in anger and still throwing his childish temper-tantrum, talks back to God, and says in 4:9, “YES! I do well to be angry at the plant, angry enough to die!”  Then comes the lesson from God in 4:10-11 when God says, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?

This may seem like a strange lesson but what God’s rebuking Jonah because if he can care for one little plant so much that it made him want to die, God can care for a whole city that needs God.

The end of Jonah does tell us what happened next.  Why?  I think Jonah wrote this book and didn’t tell us what happened next because he wants us to answer this question as well.  Will we think we’re closer to God than other people because of our ethnicity, nationality, wealth, etc?  Will we understand that the gospel is for anyone who believes and for the nations?  Would we be okay with it if God were to show mercy to terrorists?  We ought to be.  May we be the kind of people who rejoice when heaven rejoices, when one sinner (no matter who they are) repents.

Jonah here looks forward to Jesus.  How?  Jonah came to a people not his own, an alien people, and watched them repent.  Jesus came to His own people and watched them reject and kill Him.  The Truth remains, as Jonah and Jesus were sent with the message of gospel, the Church has also been sent, to give and bring the message of the gospel to those all around the world, even to our enemies.

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