Summary: God, for His part, cares for the whole of His creation.


Jonah 3:10, Jonah 4:1-11.

The LORD is merciful to those who repent (JONAH 3:10; cf. Psalm 130:3-4).

When Jonah at last arrived in Nineveh after his circuitous journey, his message was simple: ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown’ (cf. Jonah 3:4).

People may laugh at messages of doom and gloom, but not the people of Nineveh. The people of Nineveh, from the greatest to the least ‘believed God and proclaimed a fast’ (cf. Jonah 3:5). The twin graces of faith and repentance were found in that wicked city, and even the king got off his throne and humbled himself.

People may ask, ‘Why should I come to Christ for my salvation? What if I am not one of the elect?’ Yet the king of Nineveh, even under the threat of God's utter condemnation, saw things differently: ‘Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?’ (cf. Jonah 3:9).

Nineveh was full of wickedness (cf. Jonah 1:2). God pronounced judgement (cf. Jonah 3:4). Nineveh repented, and God relented (JONAH 3:10; cf. Lamentations 3:22-23).

Jonah, for his part, was totally and completely furious at God for sparing Nineveh (JONAH 4:1). And he was not afraid to say so (JONAH 4:2)! Nineveh’s repentance stood in stark contrast to Israel’s lack of repentance (cf. Matthew 12:41). And how dare God show the same ‘grace and mercy and kindness’ to these heathen as rightly belonged to His covenant people (cf. Exodus 34:6)?

God being “gracious” speaks of His compassion, like that of the father of the prodigal (cf. Luke 15:20). “Merciful” speaks of His long-suffering love, ‘not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance’ (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). “Slow to anger” speaks of God’s patience and forbearance, bearing with the tantrums of His disobedient – and now resentful – prophet!

“Great kindness” or ‘steadfast love’ speaks of God’s ‘hesed’; His covenant love toward His people.

When we “repent” of our sins, God “repents” (or ‘relents’) of the “evil” that He may have threatened against us (cf. Jeremiah 18:7-8). Jonah knew this, but his mind could not bear it. Jonah would rather die than see these people to whom he had preached saved from their sins (JONAH 4:3)!

The LORD asked Jonah, quite reasonably, “Doest thou well to be angry?” (JONAH 4:4). Jonah did not even reply, but walked away from God and set up a “booth” - a simple shelter - on the east side of the city, “till he might see what would become of the city” (JONAH 4:5).

Earlier the LORD had ‘prepared’ a ‘great fish’ to swallow Jonah and save him alive (cf. Jonah 1:17). Now the LORD “prepared a “gourd” – possibly a castor oil plant – to shelter Jonah from the morning heat (JONAH 4:6). So Jonah was “exceeding glad of this gourd.”

But the next day God “prepared” a worm which “smote” the gourd, so that it “withered” (JONAH 4:7). Not only that, but when the sun rose God “prepared” a “vehement east wind,” so that “the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted” (JONAH 4:8). And Jonah again wished himself dead.

God now asked Jonah, “Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?” This time Jonah replied: “I do well to be angry, even unto death” (JONAH 4:9)!

Jonah’s anger was on account of something for which he had not laboured, a gift of God, being withdrawn (JONAH 4:10). The only reason why Jonah was so upset about the gourd was because the shelter God had “prepared” was now removed from him. “It came up in a night, and perished in a night,” the LORD reminded him.

But here is the crux of the LORD’s argument (JONAH 4:11) - “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city?” A city of more than 120,000 souls “that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand” – this speaks of their moral ignorance, not knowing God. “And also much cattle.”

There is a certain irony here: if Jonah cared so much for the gourd, and yet could not bring himself to care for these people, could he not at least show some compassion upon the livestock? God, for His part, cares for the whole of His creation.

We should pray for our cities and for our peoples, that the LORD would show pity upon those who as yet lack discernment in the things of God (JONAH 4:11).

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