Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jonah 4: 9-11

9Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death."

10Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight.

11"Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?

In what has been a book of short length yet of great depth, it comes as no surprise that God is doing the bulk of the speaking here at the end of Jonah. What is surprising is that the text ends with a question. Even though it should be a rhetorical question, Jonah does not choose to answer it in spoken word or in description, leaving the reader to wonder what happened next.

God asked Jonah in verse 4 of this chapter if he had "a good reason" to be angry with His decision to relent concerning the Ninevites' further punishment. This time, in verse 9, God asks the same question in regard to Jonah's anger over the death of the plant that God placed in his midst to provide shade--in a time when Jonah was brooding over God's will in the first "issue"! I rather like the King James Version translation of this verse, which says, "Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death." (italics, mine; meaning, does your anger, Jonah, please you or set this situation aright? It does please me to be angry, says Jonah, to the point of death.)

Throughout this book, God always seems to be in a teaching mode with Jonah. Apparently, Jonah's heart was so hardened to the idea of what God was doing that his head shut down in understanding the very lesson being presented about him. Even if he couldn't see the illustration through the gourd, could he not have remembered the countless times his own Israel was mercifully covered by God?

Changing His approach, God now takes the podium with two hands and delivers the message straight to Jonah:

"You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight." (verse 10)

I have an interesting note in my study Bible margin. The phrase "came up overnight" actually translates more literally to "was a son of a night." God is showing that He is the only One responsible for the creation of the plant and the lifespan of the plant. The creation is His offspring. All of it! And, as God continues the lecture, He makes it plain that He is compassionate for people--for people in whom He extends mercy and works out salvation. ["Jonah, where's your compassion for people?!"]

In the close, God elaborates on the population of Nineveh. The reference to "more than 120,000 people who do not know the difference between their right and left hand" is a fancy way of saying 'children.' And if there were that many innocent children, how many parents might there be? (And how many who were not parents?) God even references having compassion upon the animals, saving them from what could have been a calamity of Noah-like proportion. Again, this all demonstrates God's love for this people--those who turned to Him, away from their sin--and His special plan for this people, part of His offspring, "chosen" people or not.

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."
--II Peter 3:9

But, as I said up top, where does this leave Jonah? We have not been left with any further word from him--not to Nineveh, Israel or God. But, he did leave behind the book with the God-ordained messages that He wished for us to hold. Did Jonah retain his anger over the situation? Anger at God? Did he repent once again of his short-sightedness in understanding God's will? Did he come to understand that his mission to serve God as a prophet was thrwarted by his own hard heart?

And where do we stand in light of Jonah's ministry?

"We should often ask ourselves, Is it well to say thus, to do thus? Can I justify it? Do I well to be so soon angry, so often angry, so long angry, and to give others ill language in my anger? Do I well to be angry at the mercy of God to repenting sinners? That was Jonah's crime. Do we do well to be angry at that which is for the glory of God, and the advancement of his kingdom? Let the conversion of sinners, which is the joy of heaven, be our joy, and never our grief."

--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Jonah--not soon to be forgotten!

But, next week, we will meet Amos, who shares some basics in common with Jonah. Thanks for staying on the Journey... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Introduction to Amos

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).