…. if you missed the first post on Jonah check it out here. Jonah, like many of the Old Testament prophets, does not merely communicate a message but he embodies the message. Jonah 2 and 3 in a snapshot: Jonah eventually gets thrown off the boat. The pagan sailors had a greater fear of God than Jonah and tossed Jonah overboard. Jonah was famously swallowed by a large fish. He cried for deliverance from the belly of the fish and God spared him. He was given a second chance and told once again to preach to the Ninevites. Jonah was wise enough to obey God the second go-around. Jonah preached to the Ninevites and they repented. They actually took the word of God seriously and repented. Which leads us to Jonah 4 – which often gets neglected. Why did Jonah flee? Jonah fled because he knew God would be gracious to his enemies.
Jonah, like many of us, suffered from a self-centered perspective.
Let’s look at the first person statements made in verse 2 alone: “Yes, that’s exactly what I thought, as I was still in my home; and that’s why I first wanted to escape; for I knew…” That’s four! The same concentration on himself occurs four times (in the Hebrew text) in short verse 3: “Lord, take my life from me; for my death is better than my life.” No less than eight times Jonah’s ego finds expression in simply two verses. Jonah has a self-centered perspective. Why was Jonah so angry? We have already discussed, Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria. The Old Testament records over and over again that Assyria was a bitter enemy of Israel. Jonah did not like God showing compassion to a group of people he grew up hating.
Jonah was not seeing things through the proper perspective. Jonah needed to abandon his self-centered perspective for God’s perspective.
Jonah didn’t care that he was involved in saving the lives of thousands of people. He only cared that he didn’t get what he wanted. Jonah sounds like a child. He is pouting. He is kicking and screaming. He is throwing a temper tantrum. Picture a kid sitting on the floor of the toy section of Wal-Mart upset that mom said “no.” With that image in your brain you have a decent representation of Jonah. Maybe we find ourselves in the same situation. Something doesn’t go the way we think it should. Things turn out differently than expected. When the unexpected outcome arrives, we sit and sulk and echo the words of Jonah: “I would be better of dead.” We prefer a pity party to the will of God. The church is not to be a self-centered institution. Rather, we are to be centered on God’s will and God’s ways. God is accurately described to us in Jonah 4 by a pity party Jonah. The church should be reflect these characteristics:
You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. – Jonah 4:2
In the midst of Jonah’s pity party God provided shade for Jonah’s head. Yet, God allowed the vine to die. Jonah got upset and showed more concern for the vine than the people of Nineveh. The vine becomes a powerful image for the message of the book of Jonah. It reminds us of God’s provision and our selfish attitude. The book of Jonah ends with God’s question: “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” The obvious answer is “Yes.” And we, as the people of God, should be concerned as well.