Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jonah 4: 5-8

5Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city.

6So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.

7But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered.

8When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, "Death is better to me than life."

You can just feel the great sense of dissatisfaction that Jonah was feeling, as God's question of "Do you have good reason to be angry?" obviously left Jonah with something bigger to think about than whether Nineveh was at fault. Picking up with verse 5, Jonah moves east of the city, builds a shelter and waits to see what God would bring next.

Perhaps Jonah thought that something still might happen in Nineveh, that God might yet make a move toward punishment of the people. Building a shelter would suggest that Jonah was intentional on seeing something come to fruition. And as Jonah sits, a plant begins to grow up, shading Jonah's head from the heat. "And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant." (vs 6)

The plant in question is possibly a castor-oil plant, according to my study Bible resources, though is mentioned in the King James Version as "a gourd." Jonah's shelter was likely more of a hut or a thicket of branches, which would have had myriad openings letting the sun and elements slip through. A fast-growing vine plant, such as a gourd, would cover that shelter with big, cooling leaves. God wanted to deliver Jonah from his "distress" or "his grief," as it says in the KJV. Again, out of His infinite mercy, God responds to the needs of Jonah despite Jonah's hugely mistaken insights regarding God's plan.

It is very intentional that the passage includes an expression of Jonah's feelings. Jonah wasn't surprised or alarmed or pleased with the plant. He was "extremely happy," as in "blithesome or gleeful." [Strong's] This becomes critical with the dawn of the following day, as no sooner does God appoint the gourd to grow than He appoints a worm to eat it! As the plant dies away, leaves shriveling, God then brings a sirocco, a hot, sandy east wind from the Arabian desert, to move through what's left of Jonah's not-so-shady shelter.

The vine dries up and the fig tree fails;
The pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree,
All the trees of the field dry up
Indeed, rejoicing dries up from the sons of men.
--Joel 1:12

Remember the desperate state of Judah as it faced famine and locust? Rejoicing would soon dry up for God's servant in the face of the loss of his shade. Whoa! Think about that. Judah stopped rejoicing because their entire food supply was being wiped out, leading to a state of emergency with a major trickle-down effect. Jonah....out of his gourd. [Ah, perhaps the origin of the expression??] "Death is better...." Really!?

"When afflicting providences take away relations, possessions, and enjoyments, we must not be angry at God. What should especially silence discontent, is, that when our gourd is gone, our God is not gone. Sin and death are very dreadful, yet Jonah, in his heat, makes light of both."

--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

I keep thinking, shouldn't time in the fish have convinced Jonah for sure that God was in control of all circumstances? That God is merciful beyond understanding? That second chances are to be accepted with gratitude and followed through upon out of willful and loving submission? Jonah, prophet of God, called and chosen to serve....

Please do not miss Matthew Henry's sobering conclusion:

Do we wonder at the forbearance of God towards his perverse servant? Let us study our own hearts and ways; let us not forget our own ingratitude and obstinacy; and let us be astonished at God's patience towards us.

--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Jonah concludes.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Jonah 4: 9-11

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

1 comment:

Carmen said...

LOL...Jonah was definitely out of his gourd! God's patience is amazing. What's sad is that we often take it for granted. God watches over us and often meets our needs before we even ask. I think we'll be surprised at how often He does this!