But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left– and also many animals?
It is no coincidence, as is often the case, that I would begin reading this strange story about a man, a large fish, and a country filled with wickedness that no one wants to reach, except the Lord, just as I hear about an opportunity coming up with my church at the end of this year to go overseas to a country which is much like the city of Nineveh, and that I would also be given the opportunity to pray for another country which is largely unreached with the Gospel, again much like Nineveh. I just LOVE the way the Lord works like that, don’t you?! One minute you are just bopping along, doing your thing, and then the next minute you are totally caught off guard, and yet completely excited about a new idea He has placed in your path that could have a potentially VERY LARGE impact on your life!
But for now, let’s really dig into this abrupt ending to a quite strange story. I just want to draw out a few key points about God’s character from this passage of scripture, as I find that I have been learning SO MUCH about my amazing Father in Heaven through His divinely inspired Words in the Old Testament prophets. It really is almost like reading his diary!
First, it is important to note the style of this minor prophet compared to all of the rest of the prophets. Most of the time if you were to open to any given book of the prophets you would expect mostly poetry and very little prose. However, I believe due to the very rebellious nature of the books namesake, we find in Jonah more of a story, full of narrative prose instead and very little poetry or song at all. In fact, the only poetic part of this book is Jonah’s prayer in Chapter 2, which is actually quite personal and more reminiscent of a psalm than prophetic.
So, then I begin to think, “What really is the point of this off-kilter minor prophet book anyways, if it doesn’t even really fit the mold? Why is it stuck in the middle of all the other prophets who do fit the mold?”
My thoughts on this have very little to do with Jonah himself or the literary style of the book, and EVERYTHING to do the Lord and His character. Almighty God is a jealous God, but not in the way that we are often jealous of our Facebook friends; no, He is jealous for His own glory, and he does all things to that end (Exodus 34:14). So, the events of this book are no different. I believe that our God wants His people to see something AMAZING about Himself through the story of Jonah!
That He is a God who pursues, jealously, after His beloved children!
We see this in 2 ways through this specific passage: 1. In the Lord’s harsh treatment of Jonah, not only was ingested by a large fish and then vomited onto a beach earlier in the story, but he is then almost burnt to a crisp after getting a taste of some shade for maybe a night! AND THEN the Lord chastises Him for complaining about being hot, thirsty and tired, I mean DANG God! I think even in this deeply unpleasant discipline of Jonah, we see the Lord’s jealous and loving pursuit of a rebellious, pitiful, self-righteous man. Think about it, if the Lord didn’t have a good plan for all this, and for Jonah himself, why would He put all the effort into pursuing a man who quite obviously had no interest in what the Lord wanted for him? No, this was ALL for a reason, to make Jonah more like Himself. What an honor it is to know that, just like Jonah, I too am a rebellious, self-righteous, pitiful sinner who is being hotly pursued by my loving Father because He has a plan for me!!
2. Just like Jonah, God also had a plan for the wicked city of Nineveh. This ending passage reveals that plan as God patiently explains to Jonah that HE WILL NOT IGNORE thousands of people in their wickedness because He knows their desperate need for Him! You see, while our God hates sin and has immeasurable amounts of righteous wrath towards it, He also sees the sinner. He sees the sinner as one in desperate need of His love, mercy and forgiveness, and He DESPERATELY wants to show that to the sinner and bring them into His fold and make them new again FOR HIS GLORY! For what other reason would a totally satisfied, completely self-sufficient, Almighty God have for pursuing me, a sinner, or nations and cities full of wickedness?!
My friends, our God is indeed a Universal God with a passion for His people from every tribe, tongue and nation! And that is certainly WORTHY OF PRAISE!!