Jonah 4 Bitterness
This is a hilarious chapter. The first sentence genuinely makes me laugh out loud.
Then I notice myself in Jonah and stop laughing.
God is not a liberal or a conservative. Jonah is a conservative and thinks it only right that God should waste Nineveh. He is outraged that they should escape the very stiffest sentence. But true to form, God doles out more mercy. We have no reason to think that Nineveh stuck to their repentant behaviour. The Assyrian Empire (of which Nineveh was capital) continued in its idolatry – as nations do. But God is so kind.
Much of our ‘mercy’ does not truly reflect God’s extravagant ways. He is scandalous in his mercy. And if we’re honest, we are very uncomfortable about this sometimes.
But that’s when we show that we still don’t get it. We think we have some kind of claim on him. Only when we see that God owes us nothing do we begin to grasp his mercy for what it is.
God plays a game with Jonah to point this out. Jonah’s highly unbalanced emotional life is fruit of the fact that he is still all out of perspective. His eyes are not on God – but on himself and his own superficial comforts. God uses the plant to show Jonah still cares far too much for trivial matters.
Jonah, again, points to Jesus by contrast. Jonah would rather die than see mercy on the city. God would rather become a man and die than see destruction on the city…
(The curious mention of ‘cattle’ in the last verse is not so odd when you see it as a reference to the city’s economy.)
You can watch or listen to this sermon here