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Jonah 4
A surprising lesson:  Compassion has everything to do with Service/Kindness to God.
Published February 20th, 2019
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Main point summary
Main point summary
Jonah thinks God is wrong to show compassion on the Ninevites and is very angry so he prays and God answers in a surprising way by sending a plant and taking it away to use as an object lesson that becomes the ground of revealing God's compassion and righteous anger for the Ninevites . God feels strongly about the Ninevites and made them to serve Him. He would rather them serve Him than have them be destroyed.
Jonah 4:1-11
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, 1
from Jonah's perspective God's response was exceedingly evil,
and y he was angry.
and he was angry,
And he prayed to the Lord and said,
so he prayed and said
“O Lord , is not this what I said
"O Lord I said this before
when I was yet in my country?
when I was back home
z That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish;
Therefore that's why I ran for Tarshish;
for I knew that you are a a gracious God
because I knew you are kind to the undeserving
and merciful,
and merciful
slow to anger
and not easily angered
and abounding in steadfast love,
and over flowing in constant love,
and a relenting from disaster.
and softening your anger when humility and repentance is present
b Therefore now, O Lord , please take my life from me,
Therefore now O Lord I want to die,
c for it is better for me to die than to live."
because it is better for me to die than to live.
And the Lord said,
The Lord questions Jonah,
d " Do you do well to be angry?"
Is your anger right?
Jonah went out of the city
Jonah answers by ignoring God and going out of the city
and sat to the east of the city
and then sat down east of the city
and e made a booth for himself there.
and then made a shelter
He sat under it in the shade,
and sat down under its shade,
till he should see what would become of the city.
so that he could see if the city was going to be destroyed.
Now the Lord God appointed a plant 1
The Lord gave Jonah a plant
and made it come up over Jonah,
and made it grow tall
that it might be a shade over his head,
so that it would shade Jonah
to save him from his discomfort. 2
to save him from his discomfort.
So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant.
As a result Jonah was delighted about the plant.
But when dawn came up the next day,
But when the break of day came
God appointed a worm
God sent a worm
that attacked the plant,
for the purpose of attacking the plant
so that it withered.
as a result it died.
When the sun rose,
When the sun rose,
God appointed a scorching f east wind,
God sent a hot east wind,
g and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah
so that the sun beat down on Jonah's head
so that he h was faint.
and as a result he was weak, and weary.
And he asked that he might die and said,
as a result Jonah prayed to die again
c "It is better for me to die than to live."
saying "its better that I die than live."
But God said to Jonah,
The Lord questions Jonah again,
i "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?"
"Do you have a righteous anger about the plant?"
And he said,
Jonah answered
“Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”
"Yes, I'm right to be angry, even enough to die."
And the Lord said,
and the Lord answered
“You pity the plant,
"You had compassion on the plant though
for which you did not labor,
you did not work,
nor did you make it grow,
or cultivate it,
which came into being in a night
and it came up over night
and perished in a night.
and died over night.
And should not I pity j Nineveh,
This is like my compassion for Nineveh,
that great city,
a big city that's important to Me,
in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left,
and has more than 120,000 people with youthful weak morals
and also much k cattle?”
and a lot of cattle too?
So what is the lesson? Jonah did not serve the plant. God sent the plant to bless Jonah to give him shade and save him from discomfort. So the plant served Jonah even though he did nothing no work and did not make it grow . The plant only existed one day. And Jonah was exceedingly happy about the plant. God made the Ninevites He caused them to grow. They exist to serve God. God feels very strongly about them He wants to destroy them in 40 days if they don't repent. He is more pleased to have the Ninevites serve Him than to destroy them. This is just as Jonah; He feels very strongly about the plant and would rather have the plant serving him. This calls into question why do we share the gospel ? The greater motive is not for the lives of people so much as for the Honor and service and pleasure of God . Typically we regard compassion as kindness to people end of story. But here it is fuller to regard compassion as kindness to God serving God. We want to evangelize and disciple so that God is served and honored as He should be . This is a greater motive because like Jonah he did not want to obey God because the people were too wicked but God is saying think about Me as the motive to preach I made these people for my pleasure and to serve me and they are not doing it. So if we want to endure in evangelism and discipleship (in ministry) our focus, I think God is saying here, is to bring people into" My" service.
If God's honor and service in other words worship is not the goal in evangelism and discipleship we could grow weary or worse angry and give up serving God like Jonah demonstrates here. God mercifully gives Jonah the theology he needs to get on course with God and God's agenda.
God's surprising response is to place Jonah's wrong anger in the right circumstance of his feelings for the plant demonstrating God's compassion as well as His righteous anger. He answers Jonah's gripe about God's compassion by referring to Jonah's compassion for a single plant that he did not invest in and that lasted one day . How much more should I have compassion on Nineveh since it is important to Me and has lots of people I delight in and whom I made to serve Me and cattle as well. All these I made and caused to grow . I would rather they serve Me instead of be destroyed. God is saying .
Why does Jonah so quickly want to die again after having been saved from death? Jonah called on God at the last minute when he was faint and about to die even such a small prayer he "remembered the Lord" and the Lord saved dramatically . Take heart when you are faint and your prayer hardly seems to be a prayer. God responded so powerfully to Jonah's cry. Why didn't Jonah pray about his conflict with God's compassion to a wicked people? He must of felt so hopeless against God's powerful mercy not reckoning with it being for himself as well.
The situation is that Jonah is very angry over God's compassion for the Ninevites and he prays to die.
The plant God sends overnight delights Jonah and was sent to serve Jonah. When God takes the plant away Jonah is angry and prays to die again missing the plants service. This object lesson serves as the ground for revealing to Jonah and us whether Jonah has a righteous anger and what is at the core of God's compassion.
"Do you do well to be angry?" God asks two times. God seems to be pressing in to Jonah's heart. It reminds me of Cain when he was angry and God said" if you do well will you not be accepted?"(Gen 4:7). Perhaps God is using this very phrase to remind Jonah and warn him. Jonah has an unrighteous anger. We know that because he has been running away from doing God's will and unresponsive to God when God asks him if his anger is right the first time he is asked. On the other hand Jonah is learning because he prays this time though he is exceedingly displeased and angry enough again to want to die. When we see what God does with this prayer it should encourage all of us to bring our strong feelings to God. (Ps. 62:8 ) In one swift object lesson The Lord creates a situation where Jonah's wrong anger is surrounded by right circumstances to be angry. And yet the object lesson is merely for a plant and one that Jonah invested nothing in and lasted only a day. Consider God's investment in making "people" for His own glory to serve Him. God flips Jonah's unrighteous anger on its head and makes it righteous in the illustration. God would have Jonah be angry like God and compassionate like God. In the context of the plant it is right for him to delight in the service and life of the plant and to be mad when it is no longer serving him. Jonah would rather the plant still be serving him than for it to be destroyed. This is like God's righteous anger about the Ninevites who are not serving Him. In His compassion He would rather they repent and serve Him bringing Him delight. God is not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance(2Pt. 3:9b) Jonah wants to die praying two times here for that. This is the opposite of Paul's attitude when he weighs between life and death he essentially says it is better for me to live for others service and joy in the faith. For Jonah self seems to be on the throne. "It is better for me to die than to live. " What under girds God's compassion? His own glory and honor. He made people to serve Him. God is the focus for everything. " For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things." In the book of Hosea God says I desire compassion and not sacrifice. It is also translated I desire loyalty and not sacrifice. Isn't that what we learn here. Loyalty service to God is real worship. God is letting us know we should serve God faithfully and want all peoples to serve God faithfully too for His glory because He is worthy. Hallowed be Thy name! May God grant us grace to walk in this mindset.
God appoints. He is in control of everything; big fish, plants, little worms,sun and wind.
Jonah wants to see the city destroyed.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.