Jonah 4:5 "Jonah left the city and found a place east of it. He made himself a shelter there and sat in its shade to see what would happen to the city."
Jonah leaves Nineveh, perhaps on or about the 40th day since he started preaching. He is still hoping (in his anger and against God’s declaration) to see the city and its inhabitants condemned, judged, and destroyed by God. The weather is very warm, probably in the summer time of the year, and no doubt Jonah had very little in the way of shelter or provisions.
Jonah’s response was silence. Why? He was mad. He was defiant. He was not going to give in. And so, he walks away, probably trying to get away from God again.
Where is he headed? The verse today says he went east. Funny, isn’t it, that when he got mad the first time he went west, and now, he goes outside to the east? He probably did this because he didn’t trust the Ninevites. He might have said to himself, “They are so wicked – they will go right back to sinning and God will give them their due.”
This is the kind of person we are dealing with here. Yet, may we never forget, God used him and mightily so, even as he “sat in its shade to see what would happen to the city.”
Let’s remind ourselves of some key Scriptures:
“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him.” (Proverbs 17:17-18)
“Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Let's make sure our passion for justice isn't spiked with revenge. Taking revenge on someone else is asking God to take revenge on you. (see Matt. 6:15). A sign you're growing in grace: Rejection hurts, but it drives you to Jesus more so than to anger, despair, or revenge. Don't go to sleep rehearsing anyone's sin, plotting revenge, or ignoring the gospel.
Father, we thank you that when we are waiting for the fireworks to go off in someone’s life that we dislike that you confront and confound us. Father, don't let us be more aware and angry at other people's sins than we recognize and grieve our own sins. Let us care more of what you think about people than what we hold dear. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jonah 4:6 "Then the Lord God appointed a plant, and it grew over Jonah to provide shade for his head to rescue him from his trouble. Jonah was greatly pleased with the plant."
What did the Lord do as a result of what Jonah did in the last verse? God is going to show Jonah, once again, his sovereignty and mercy. But this time, it is not mercy upon Jonah, although the plant giving Jonah extra shade does make Jonah very happy.
In spite of Jonah’s response to God and his question to him, God was still good to Jonah. Not just as his chosen prophet, but as his child.
God is good to Jonah through his providence. God selected and prepared a special plant to do a special service to him. The word “prepare” here is the same word used in 1:17 when the Lord “prepared a great fish” to swallow up Jonah. What mercy!
Here is true peace: You never have to wonder if God is good, you never have to question his eternal love, and you never have to fear that God will leave. Even while you are in sin! God is so good. He is so sweet to me. Not trying to be eloquent or pithy. I'm just overcome by the gospel. Thank you, Jesus.
Friend, like Jonah, i your happiness found in the fleeting things of this world (Is. 16:3, Est. 5:9, Ps. 103:10-14)? When in doubt, you can assume you've still got some repenting to do. The good news is God throws tons of grace on repentance.
Gracious Father, we thank you are ever good to us despite our sin. We know that there is nothing in us that is lovely apart from your Son, Jesus Christ. We praise you that his righteous has now become our righteousness--all by grace through faith in Him alone. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Jonah 4:7 "When dawn came the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, and it withered."
Sometimes, as we see here in today’s verse, God may chasten and correct us through what he removes. God here removes the plant that he raised up for Jonah. God had to take away the very thing that Jonah took comfort and delight in so that he would take comfort and delight in Himself.
God did this through another common creature – a worm. Again, this shows us that God is in complete control of the entire situation. God prepared a plant, a fish, a worm, a city, and an escape.
But why did God do this? So the plant would wither and die! There would be no more shade, oxygen, life, or even companionship. Jonah’s heart is set on the temporary like this plant, but not on the very people God so dearly loves (and his subsequent response).
"He (God) controls the course of world events. He removes kings and sets up other kings" Dan 2:21 - I'm banking on this one. God have mercy! May the name of God be praised: wisdom and power belong to Him. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings.
Remember, it is always God’s desire to rearrange your schedule. Our comfort doesn't lie in getting our dreams fulfilled, but in the glory of the Lord coming down to rearrange everything (Isaiah 40:1-5). May our gracious Lord today disrupt, remove, lift up, rearrange -- whatever it takes for his glory to be revealed (Isaiah 40:3-5)!
Father, you are the appointer of all things. You are the one who causes the sun to rise and the sun to set. You are the one that raises up and casts down. In whatever we are facing today, Lord, let us be so humble before you, knowing that you will lift up in due time. Let not our situation or circumstances dictate to us what you can do. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Jonah 4:8 "As the sun was rising, God appointed a scorching east wind. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head so much that he almost fainted, and he wanted to die. He said, 'It’s better for me to die than to live.'”
Yesterday, we saw that God may correct and chasten us by what he removes or withholds. Today, we see that God may correct and chasten us by what he sends. Yet, there’s no need to fear, no need to panic, no need to “go bananas”—all the things that would bring you discomfort are under the Savior's careful rule. And Jonah had to learn this lesson (like many of will!).
So, God sends an unrelenting heat. One more time we see that it was God himself that prepared this to come over Jonah. “It beat upon the head of Jonah” is a strong emphasis that this wasn’t just a warm breeze but a scorching heat. Perhaps this is why Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones said of the Christian life: “If a philosophy of life cannot help me to die, then in a sense it cannot help me to live.” Jonah’s head theology was meeting the steps of practical life and he didn’t like it!
The result was that Jonah fainted and thought about taking his life. Jonah took it upon himself to tell the Lord what was best for him and that it was best for him to die. But the Lord graciously sent to Jonah what would awaken him back to his ways of truth. Because the Lord, in his omniscience and omnipotence, knew what Jonah really needed.
Christian, God may chasten and correct you through what he sends us. Let us remember Hebrews 12:5-6:
“Do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him,6 for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives.”
God does so because he has already paved the way for us to go back to him. If you know Christ as Savior and Lord, the judgment of your sin has already been taken through him. Now he can deal with you his son or daughter. And he wants you to return to him!
May our prayer today be that of Jeremiah 10:23:
"I know that the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord."
Father, nothing can ever take over what you have done for in Jesus Christ. Yet, when we are tired of life and weary, we believe that we know better than you. Forgive us, Lord. You know best. After all, aren't you the alpha and the omega--the beginning and the end? Aren't you the one in whom we know all things are held together? You are, Lord. And we give it to you today in Jesus' name. Amen.
Jonah 4:9 "Then God asked Jonah, 'Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?' 'Yes, it’s right!' he replied. 'I’m angry enough to die!'"
Today, we will see that God may correct and chasten us by or through what he reveals. You see, Jonah had to know the truth about himself again. God shows forth the true heart of Jonah.
Jonah was angry about God’s mercy to the Ninevites. Go re-read 4:1 again! But then God adds to his question: “Do you have any right to be angry?”. This is something new! Jonah had been really happy when the plant and wind came along. But now God shows why he is truly angry.
It is interesting that Jonah response is completely opposite of Job. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away – blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Jonah, however, admits he is angry, but sees it as a righteous anger. Again, the Lord knew what Jonah needed—and sometimes, the Lord needs to do the same for us before we do something drastic.
If there's something you want, but don't have, it's not because God is mad at you. It is because God knows it's not best for you. Are you trusting him in this area of your life today?
Father, remind us today that contentment isn't passivity; it's peace and joy fueled by the active conviction that you, Lord, know best. You are still good even when you don’t do what I want you to. Lord, we also pray for those today who are thinking of taking their lives. Point them by your Spirit back to the love you have shown us in Christ. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jonah 4:10 So the Lord said, “'You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night.'"
Jonah’s whole way of valuing the world has been turned on its head. And, graciously, God is trying to get him back on the narrow way. Yesterday, we saw that the question in Jonah 4:9 was the same one God asked in 4:4—save the last three worlds concerning the plant. By zeroing in on the plant, God is calling Jonah’s bluff and showing him his own condemnation with his words.
This theme continues today in verse 10. God just tells Jonah, “Look, you care more about this plant—and you didn’t even do anything for it!” You see, Jonah neither planted, watered, or concerned himself about the plant. But, when it was stripped away, then he cared, even if only available for a short time.
When we drift spiritually, it is never a place worth going. Jonah knew this. The first thing to go, when our hearts drift from the Lord, is simple gratitude (Romans 1:21). Then open rage is only a matter of time.
The warnings in the book of Hebrews alert us to our true danger: "drift away," "fall away," "hardened," "neglect." Defaults destroy. "I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride" (Jeremiah 2:2). When we drift from him, he misses our love.
Pastor-theologian Dr. D.A. Carson said: “We don't drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort we don't gravitate toward godliness but godlessness.” If we do not intentionally bring our conscience under the gospel, DAILY, it will drift back under the law, guilt and shame.
Where are you today? Drifting toward Christ or somewhere else?
Father, as we get closer to Christmas Day, help us resist our drift towards muchness and manyness, busyness and bluster. Remind us that it doesn’t take outrageous sin to drift away. Like a slow leak, Lord, when we neglect your lovingkindness in our hearts, we will head that way. Guard us, shore us up, and protect us, Lord. For your glory. For your renown. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jonah 4:11 "But may I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?”
As we end out our study of Jonah, what a wonderful reminder that lost people matter to God.
"Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city?" (Jonah 4:11). God asks Jonah for advice: "Help me out here, Jonah. Isn't my love okay?" Unanswerable. It is never good to be more severe than God. God's love is of higher quality than ours. In fact, He cares more for animals than prophets often care for men (Jonah 4:11; Proverbs 12:10).
The book of Jonah is proof that God has a heart to reach even the most pagan of cities. No one has invested more in you than God. And no one cares more about lost people than God.
Christian, you need to strive to have God’s perspective – the things of this world really don’t matter at all (or, perhaps, very little). And we need to have the pity and mercy of God. The lost souls matter eternally. Do you share this perspective?
Let me just close out our study with a few quick faith lessons (applications):
1. If you are in a city or a community that is broken, where people are burned out or spiritually lost—stay as long as you can...and serve as much as you and those you influence can. Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel.
2. Just going to church is not a compelling witness. Lost people have hobbies too. In other words, are you intentionally seeking out conversations and contact with lost people?
3. If you say you are following Jesus, then where are the lost people in your life? Jesus was a friend of sinners.
4. People have to get lost before they get found. People must first be convicted of their own need for a Savior.
Remember, In Jonah, the— Wind obeys God…Lots obey God…Fish obey God…Pagans obey God Sun obeys God… Plant obeys God… Worm obeys God…Only Jonah disobeys.
May we pray that all we learned will help us be more like Christ and see people come to Jesus!
Father, help us, your elect people, know the difference in our obedience and disobedience. Father, you are worthy to be given our whole lives. May we rest in the knowledge that we are accepted in you, our beloved, but still are called to intentionally walk in holiness. Grant us wisdom, Lord. In Jesus' name. Amen.