1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” 5 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. 6 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. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 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.” 9 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.” 10 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. 11 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?”
My bible’s commentary:
The story of Jonah is peppered with testimonies of God’s providence–his intricate care over every detail of life. God “appointed” the great fish by which Jonah’s life was spared. He also “appointed” the vine, the worm, and the wind here in chapter 4. God’s hand is at work in all the events of our lives–both the good and the bad.
The vine was a good gift from God-bring joy, comfort, and blessing. But then God sent the worm–bringing sorrow, disappointment, and loss. On top of that, God sent the wind, which brought pain, affliction, and distress. It’s easy to see how God can use the vine, but how does God use the worm and the wind? God used the worm and the wind to save Jonah from a “vine-centered” life. A vine-centered person is one who is so taken up with the joy of God’s good gifts that he or she ends up loving the gifts more then the Giver. The Bible calls this idolatry. If we feel that without a certain person, or position, or achievement, our life would not be worth living, we may be deeper into idolatry than we think. Friends, family, money, ministry, and success are good gifts from God that can be very gratifying. But they are not the purpose of life. Christ died so that “those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised”
2 Cor. 5:15– and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Jonah indicated the priorities of his heart when he became angry at the salvation of the Ninevites.(vs. 1-4) If we truly love the Lord, we will love whom and what he loves. God showed his love to Nineveh by sending that pagan city the message of salvation. When Jonah reacted negatively to news that the Ninevites had been saved, he showed that he actually had little regard for God. So also today, if we allow our differences with others to dampen our zeal for their salvation, then we may be disregarding those for whom Christ died. And simultaneously, we may be indicating our lack of regard for him.
People “who do not know their right hand from their left” have lost their moral compass and will soon lose their way and become hopelessly lost. God’s pity is drawn out by the moral bankruptcy of the Ninevites. The Bible tells us that every one of us is born:
blind (2 Cor. 4:4) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
bound (John 8:34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
dead (Eph 2:1) And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.
A robust and biblical doctrine of sin, properly applied, will help us to grow in compassion. Any softheartedness or virtue we have cultivated is, after all, a gift of God’s grace.
1 Cor. 4:7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
2 Cor. 8:1-2 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
Jonah saw the moral bankruptcy of the Ninevites, and it led him to harshness and condemnation. He despised the evil people of Nineveh and felt that they deserved destruction. He identified outsiders as sinners, but, viewing himself as an insider, he did not see himself as a sinner. There were people like Jonah in Jesus’ day and in ours as well.
John 9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
This deficient doctrine of sin erodes compassion. But God sees evil more comprehensively than we do, and he has pity on all kinds of people.
1 Tim. 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
While we were still sinners–not just when we had “cleaned ourselves up”–Christ died for us.
Rom 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Grasping the effect of sin on the human soul helps us grow in the kind of compassion that reflects the compassionate heart of God.
Ex. 34:6-7 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
We should always strive to be the best we can be in anything we do, but we need to make sure that we are always Christ centered, because that is the only way we can reach our final destination. Jonah seemed to have a ‘they’re sinners, I’m not’ attitude, but we are all sinners and to feel that we are better then another, interferes with God being able to use us to bring others to Him. He wants kindness and compassion, not selfishness and arrogance. We want to strive to have God’s light shine brightly through us.