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Jonah Chapter Four, A Lesson In Humility

In our study of Jonah chapter four, we look at Jonah's reaction to the mercy shown to a people that he did not approve of and God's correction in his attitude.

Jonah 4:1

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.

Jonah did not like the fact that God showed mercy to the people of Nineveh after they repented. We may be quick to criticize Jonah for his outward display of this attitude but many of us hide the same type of attitude in our hearts and God knows what is in our hearts. The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus died for all men and NONE of us deserve God's mercy.

Jonah 4:2 & 3

He prayed to the Lord, 'O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.'

He was mad to the point of praying for death. This is much the same as a child holding their breath in an attempt to get their way. It is as if he was saying "see God I told you that they would be saved". Jonah knew God well enough to know that He would show them love but his hatred for the people clouded his judgment.

Jonah 4:4

But the Lord replied, 'Have you any right to be angry?'

I love how God just gets to the point and many times He does so with a question. God's answer to Jonah's childish attitude is to provide him with something to think about. Jonah may have got caught up in being a prophet and God needed him to think about his position and how he got there. The same may be true of some of us as we have been given a gift but sometimes we forget the One that makes it possible.

Jonah 4:5

Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.

So, Jonah doesn't argue with God but simply goes out of the city and sits down to pout like a little child. He didn't believe that the Ninevites had truly repented because he simply did not like them and didn't want it to be true change. So, he was watching and waiting to see them go back to their old ways.

Jonah 4:6

Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.

Now, God begins to give Jonah a lesson in how ridiculous it was for him to be angry. God caused this vine to grow and give him shade. Jonah was happy as it is easy to praise God when His will agrees with our own and adds to our physical comfort. But, we are called to praise God for what He does in the lives of others as well because we are all one body in Christ.

Jonah 4:7 & 8

But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, 'It would be better for me to die than to live.'

Now, we see the second part of the lesson for him. God removed the blessing of the vine and brought a trial through a scorching wind. Jonah got mad because he thought that he should have the vine. His agreement with God's will and plan ended pretty quickly and in fact we are told that he got mad enough that he wanted to die. The praise stopped when the blessing stopped and we are all probably guilty of that many times in our own lives.

Jonah 4:9-11

But God said to Jonah, 'Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?' 'I do,' he said. 'I am angry enough to die.' But the Lord said, 'You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?'

Now, God showed Jonah that the right of ownership goes to the Creator. We, like Jonah, have bought into the idea that we own things and God is reminding Jonah (and us as well) that, as the Creator, the only true owner is God Himself. If we remember this passage, it will truly help us to live in freedom because with ownership comes upkeep. For example, when you own a car or a house, effort is required to maintain them. But, when you realize that you do not own anything and that God is the owner, the responsibility for maintenance goes to the owner (God). God may use us to do the work but, since He owns it, it is up to Him to provide for its upkeep.

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