Summary: This is the conclusion of our series in the Book of Jonah. This was a hard sermon that challenged our congregation to examine how we are like Jonah, and what we should do about it.
Text: Jonah 4:5 – 11
So we’re finishing up in Jonah today… I thought after last week I’d be done with it, but as I was re-reading it… just going over it one last time to see if the Lord would have me say any more on this book. I realized that I probably did need to touch on one more thing here.
This last part of Jonah is confusing to some. Because we’ve looked at Jonah, and we’ve talked about how he was a prophet, how he was a man of God who knew God’s ways. He understood God’s mercy and grace and that God looks to show His grace and mercy to people. We’ve seen how God had to use extreme measures to get him to repent and obey. And its mind boggling isn’t it. I don’t know a single pastor or evangelist that wouldn’t be overjoyed if an entire city of 120,000 repented when they preached on Sunday, but not Jonah. He’s angry that God showed mercy, and then he gets angry when the plant dries up and no longer shades him.
But instead of me just talking about it, let’s go ahead and go to the text.
First of all I want you to notice that the writer of Jonah makes it clear to us that everything that happens in our text, happens because it was appointed by the Lord. We’ve seen that through this book. God appointed the storm, God appointed the fish, God appointed the plant, God appointed the word, God appointed the scorching heat and wind. You think he might be trying to tell us that God is sovereign and in control? And that it’s better to work WITH the One who is sovereign and in control than to try and go AGAINST Him?
And so Jonah has been the appointed agent of God to bring mercy and grace to the people of Nineveh, and then God shows Jonah mercy and grace, again because Jonah didn’t deserve a plant for shade, or anything. But then when God removes the plant, Jonah is angry… In fact our text tells us that he was angry enough to die (that’s verse 9). And the Lord says to him, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
So what’s the point here, and the lesson we need to learn?
Well I think it comes here in God’s response to Jonah. God is pointing out to Jonah that instead of being bitter and angry, he should instead rejoice over the non-destruction of the city of Nineveh.
Stay with me here for a minute… This plant that God created to shade Jonah was an act of grace. It was God doing something for an undeserving man. You see; there’s a distinction between saving grace… the grace that God gives to those who are saved, and what we call common grace… meaning grace that is common to everyone. God causes it to rain on the just and unjust. In other words, the reason sinners get saved is because of God’s grace, the reasons sinners aren’t destroyed the minute they sin and the reason they have an opportunity to go on living and possibly get saved at some later date, is common grace. Because God would be perfectly within His rights, and He would be perfectly just, if He just wiped us out the second we sinned the very first time. Even it if was a so called “little white lie.” But instead He is gracious to us, over and over, and over again. If you have a job, that’s God’s grace. If you’ve eaten today, that’s God’s grace. Everyone take a breath (DEEP BREATH) – that’s God’s grace. The Bible says that He holds our very breath in the palm of His hand.
And so this plant here can represent any sort of grace or gift from God. And let’s be honest; how often do we forget that all of God’s gifts are given to us even though we are totally undeserving of them?
So God causes this plant to spring up and give shade to Jonah, and our text tells us that Jonah was glad. He was happy with this gift from God… again there’s a contrast here. He was unhappy with God’s grace toward the Ninevites, but he was glad when God showed grace to him. Keep in mind what we’re talking about here.
The jerk at work gets a promotion and you don’t… God showed him a bit of grace and he got the promotion – do you get angry or celebrate that God showed such an undeserving sinner grace? Or the guy you know who seems to have it all… you know… big house, nice vehicles, money never seems to be a problem. The Bible tells us not to be envious of them, or to be angry with God because He has blessed them. Instead we should look at it as an opportunity to praise God for His grace.