I love to get new insights into God’s word even if they may seem small to someone else. It’s amazing to me the way God’s word fits together. I’ve recently completed a dynamic study of the book of Jonah taught by Priscilla Shirer and just this week had my eyes open to the events in chapter 4.
Those of you familiar with the story of Jonah may remember the ending, which has always left me a bit bewildered. Until this study I never understood why Jonah was so mad at God. I would wonder, “Why wasn’t he rejoicing at the repentance of the Ninevites? After all he was God’s prophet. And what’s the deal with the vine growing up to give him shade and then withering the next day?” I would scratch my head wondering what was going on there and why God included it in his word.
As I was reading my study, Priscilla pointed out that the word “destruction” in Jonah 3:10 is the same word that is translated “discomfort” in Jonah 4:6.
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:10 NIV)
Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. (Jonah 4:6 NIV)
Later in chapter 4, God sends a worm to eat the vine and it withers. He also sends a blistering east wind and a blazing sun to bear down on Jonah, and Jonah gets angry over it. What was God doing here? Well, he wanted Jonah to experience his “shade” just as he accepted the Ninevites’ repentance and did not bring on them destruction. Then God removed that shaded protection and let Jonah experience the full discomfort of the sun and a blistering, hot wind. He was trying to put Jonah in the Ninevites’ shoes to a certain degree, showing him what God had done for the Ninevites compared with what Jonah wanted God to do to them. God was making his point that the people of Ninevah were his creation and he cared about their eternal state. Jonah on the other hand only cared about himself. God was trying to build some character in Jonah and perhaps a bit of empathy for others.
Wow! Isn’t that something! I know it’s not earth shattering, but it finally makes sense to me.