Jonah 4:4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.
6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
10 Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
Jonah was in a pouting mood at the end of yesterday’s text. He was angry with the LORD. What right does a servant of the LORD have to judge and be angry with the Creator God? Jonah was not alone in his extremely foolish way of thinking. We can learn the importance of stopping and considering what our attitude is to the true God, as we look at the book of Jonah.
God was merciful to Jonah and was reaching out to Him again in our text. Jonah needed much coaxing. As we have noted, God could have called on someone else to go and preach to the Ninevites. Jonah had the privilege of serving the LORD in this important task. Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrian empire. Thus, this good response to the preaching of God’s Word would have a ripple effect throughout the kingdom. As we noted, it would be short lived, but it would give Israel some more time to listen to God and repent. Israel would not take advantage of this opportunity but that would not be God’s fault. Eventually the Assyrians would come against the northern nation of Israel and capture it. They would intermingle with the people and God would need to send lions to terrify the people to get them to realize this pollution could not stand.
The LORD rightly asked Jonah if he was doing well in being angry. Did he have any right to be angry as a servant of the LORD? What had God done that gave Jonah cause to be angry. The answer is obvious. Jonah had no right to be angry with God. He should have been rejoicing in the mercy and grace of the LORD. Jonah should have appreciated that mercy and grace that was shown to him. Why should God not show the same mercy and grace to all people? All people are worthy of that.
In verse 5 we see that Jonah decided to sit outside of the city and wait to see what would happen to the city. Jonah had a great opportunity to be there to help those who had repented, to know how to live for the LORD. Instead, he was going to remove himself from the picture and wait to see the city fall.
God would again show His mercy and grace toward Jonah. He provided a gourd to come up over Jonah to offer shade for his head. Earlier, God had prepared a storm to show the mariners that He was all powerful. Then He prepared a fish to swallow up Jonah. Next, He prepared that fish to vomit Jonah up on dry ground exactly where He wanted him to be. Now He prepared this gourd that would grow up in a day and be big enough to provide shade from the hot sun.
The book of Jonah certainly shows us that God is in charge. It certainly shows us the nature of the LORD. He can do as He pleases and no one can stop Him. He is not like lost man who abuses nature and man. He uses all things for His glory. He provides the only way for lost sinners to be saved and for saints to be faithful to Him.
In our text, God did not have to provide that gourd. He could have left Jonah out there in the heat, if he wanted to pout like a spoiled child. Rather, God provided a means for Jonah to have some short term comfort as he sat there making a fool of himself.
Jonah was exceeding glad for the gourd. He appreciated this plant. God was not finished with the lessons He wanted to teach Jonah. The Bible tells us that the next day, God prepared a worm to come along and bore into that gourd so that it would die. God was proving His control over all things. He can make a fish behave like a taxi. He can make a fish to release a man unharmed at the exact location God wanted him. He can make a gourd to come up in one day and be big enough to provide shade for a man. He can also provide a worm to come and destroy that gourd in a day. God can do all things. Most importantly, He can change a hard and wicked heart into a repentant heart that can receive His blessings.
We certainly appreciate the good things God does for us. Sometimes people do not even notice the many blessings of the LORD. We, like Jonah, do not like the difficult things from the LORD. We need them to grow in the LORD.
The apostle Paul wrote of a thorn in the flesh that he had. He prayed and asked God to remove that thorn from him. He prayed three times to have that removed. God said no. God told him that His grace was sufficient for him. Paul chose to accept God’s answer and chose to glory in his infirmities. He wanted the power of Christ to rest upon him. He needed that power to be successful as a servant of the LORD.
In our text, Jonah needed to learn humility and obedience. He needed to learn compassion for souls as well. In verse 8 God prepared a vehement east wind that would be hot and dry. The sun was beating down upon Jonah and the east wind was not offering any relief. Jonah was a slow learner. He again wished to die. He did not want to learn the important lessons God had for him. Even when God needed to give him hard lessons, he just kept on complaining. Jonah was quite ungrateful.
Again God reached out to Jonah to give Him the opportunity to reconsider his response to God’s working in his heart and life. How could Jonah justify his selfish and self-centred attitude? In verse 9 Jonah justified his anger over a gourd that came up quickly and died just as quickly.
In verse 10 the LORD again gave Jonah opportunity to do a reality check. That gourd was without a soul. That gourd was just a plant. It was made by God, but it could not sin. It had no soul that could go to hell. However, as we see in verse 11, there were many people in Nineveh who needed an opportunity to hear the truth and repent. There were one hundred and twenty thousand people in that city that did not know how to discern between their right hand and their left hand. We are not told how old these people were. Many people make assumptions on this matter. There has been a debate for a long time about the age of accountability. Some parents want to believe that their young children are not accountable and will go straight to heaven when they die.
God referred to these people as not knowing their right hand from their left hand. There are many adults who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand. They choose to go the wrong way rather than turn to the “right” and be saved and serve the true God.
God also referred to the many cattle that were in that city. Cattle cannot be saved, but God was concerned even for them. He wanted to give the people and the livestock the opportunity to know what it was like to live in a place where people feared the true God. He wanted to bless the people of Nineveh with a blessing they had never known. God shows us here that animals have more worth than plants.
The book of Jonah ends without giving us any information on whether Jonah repented and thus changed his attitude. We know that Jesus referred to this book in reference to His crucifixion. God can use anyone He chooses, for His purposes. He chose to use Jonah to reach out to a people that were despised by the Jews. The nation of Israel assumed they were superior to the Gentiles, and yet they turned to the Gentile nations to find gods that they assumed would help them. They rejected the true God and chose false gods. God had reached out to them with many prophets. In this book He called upon a Hebrew prophet to preach to a Gentile city. That city repented, while Israel continued to pursue idolatry until they would be captured by a Gentile nation and their land corrupted by the paganism of that nation.
We need to learn the importance of the Word of God. We need to learn the importance of honouring God in our lives and being willing to preach to all people with the Gospel. God wants all to be saved. We need to be willing to give our lives in service to the LORD and be a blessing to the lost that God puts in our path.