READ JONAH THREE AND FOUR
Once Jonah was on dry ground, the pace of the narrative sped up. The author rushed us through the bullet points of Jonah’s obedience, the people’s repentance and God’s response. But, in our text today, the pace slows down again. We’re going to notice, once again, that the minute details of Jonah’s situation are recounted, which strikes a sharp contrast to chapter three. But the author wants us to learn, not just from the repentant Ninevites, but from unrepentant Jonah.
Jonah, seeing that God has extended mercy to a people Jonah finds undeserving, leaves the city. He leaves the place of his calling (his task there is complete) and sits outside the city looking down on it.
What is Jonah doing while sitting outside the city? What is he hoping to see?
I (along with many other scholars) wonder if Jonah thought God might reconsider. I wonder if he sat outside the city to wait and see if God would change His divine mind and punish the repentant nation anyway.
A series of events unfolds that involve a plant and a worm. If you’re taking notes, read Jonah 4:5-8 and make a list of the order of events.
What verb is used of God in these events (uniquely in verse 6 and 7)?
Where have we seen this verb before?
Though these events unfold in linear fashion for Jonah, God had one intention in mind. God is trying to teach Jonah about His character through each and every event as they unfold.
First, God appoints a plant to shade Jonah and show him mercy. The same verb that tells us that God appointed a great fish to rescue Jonah, tells us that God appoints a plant to give him shade. Remember Jonah wants mercy to be extended toward himself, but not the Ninevites. In this simple act, God reminds Jonah that he has benefited from the very characteristics that he “accused” God of having just a few verses previously.
Second, Jonah rejoiced. In fact, the original text literally translates: “And Jonah rejoiced concerning the plant – a great rejoicing.” Jonah’s rejoicing over the plant plays in stark contrast to his grief over Nineveh’s salvation! Jonah is exceedingly grateful to God for the plant, but feels quite the opposite over the people who have just been spared.
Third, God appoints a worm to eat and destroy the plant and Jonah wishes for death. Here is that same verb again. The same hand that was stretched out toward Jonah in blessing is now extended toward him in judgment.
What is God trying to teach Jonah?
What does this narrative reveal about God’s character?
The lesson for Jonah is the same lesson for you and me: God’s character is unwavering. God is faithful. All the time, He is faithful. And He will consistently and faithfully be who He is. Behind all of Jonah’s grumbling is a hope that God will cease to be who He says He is, that God will destroy Nineveh even after they have come to repentance, that God will allow Jonah to sit and see the destruction of this great city God has promised to spare. But, in contrast to our fickle prophet, God is unchanging.
PRAY & REFLECT
Thank God that His character is unchanging. Thank Him that you can always count on Him to be who He says He is.