Mixed-Up Jonah

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

“Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six-score thousand [120,000] persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10,11 KJV).

Nearly everyone is familiar with the story of Jonah. Circa 800-750 B.C., the LORD instructs the prophet to go to Nineveh, the wicked capital of Assyria, and to speak on His behalf against their evil deeds (1:1,2). Naturally, Jewish Jonah is extremely resistant to minister to pagan Gentiles, so Jonah heads in the opposite direction—a ship bound for Spain (1:3)!

God causes a storm that makes the mariners afraid and inquisitive (1:4-8). Jonah confesses that he has run away from the LORD. Lest the ship sink, the mariners eagerly agree to throw Jonah overboard (1:9-16). For three days and three nights, Jonah is dead in the belly of a fish (1:17-2:9).

Then, God speaks to the fish, and it vomits Jonah onto dry land (2:10). Jonah is revived. As before, God commands Jonah to go to Nineveh, so Jonah obedient preaches, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (3:1-4). Nineveh responds to Jonah in repentance (3:5-9). Nineveh listens to God, so God decides not to destroy Nineveh (3:10).

Now, Jonah is “very angry” with Nineveh’s response (4:1-5). The LORD causes a gourd to grow over Jonah and shade him, pacifying him (4:6). Then, God causes a worm to destroy the gourd, and Jonah is saddened and angered because the gourd died (4:7-9). Today’s Scripture is God’s response: “Jonah, you pity a silly gourd plant that died, but you have no pity for lost, hell-bound Gentiles!”

Many times, we pity animals and plants suffering and dying more than we pity our family, friends, and neighbors dying and going to hell. May we never be like mixed-up Jonah. People, unlike plants and animals, have souls that last for eternity. Your priority should be people’s souls. Are they?