Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious. He prayed to the Lord: “Please, Lord, isn’t this what I thought while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster. And now, Lord, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
The Lord asked, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Jonah left the city and found a place east of it. He made himself a shelter there and sat in its shade to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God appointed a plant, and it grew over Jonah to provide shade for his head to rescue him from his trouble. Jonah was greatly pleased with the plant. When dawn came the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, and it withered.
As the sun was rising, God appointed a scorching east wind. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head so much that he almost fainted, and he wanted to die. He said, “It’s better for me to die than to live.”
Then God asked Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“Yes, it’s right!” he replied. “I’m angry enough to die!”
So the Lord said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. But may I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?”
Jonah was not happy with God’s response to Nineveh’s repentance. He had set up camp on the edge of town and was waiting to see the fireworks. He predicted the destruction of the city and he wanted to see it happen. When it didn’t happen, Jonah became angry with God. He even confessed that this is why he had resisted going to Nineveh in the first place. He knew God would forgive them. Now he simply wanted to die instead of facing a future with Nineveh still in it.
God played with Jonah a bit to make a point. He allowed a plant to grow to add shade to a shelter Jonah had made for himself. He then allowed a worm to kill the plant. Jonah became angrier because his shade was now gone. God challenged Jonah because he seemed to care more about a plant than the 120,000 people in Nineveh who had been rescued from destruction. He had lost sight of God’s call to bless all people groups. Jonah was more concerned with his own comfort and security than the souls of the people who had repented of their wickedness and found new life.
If we’re honest, we can be a lot like Jonah at times. We become so focused on our safety and comfort that we lose sight of the bigger picture. We want God to be our personal God who takes care of our every want but we lose sight of His heart for other people, for the outsiders. Occasionally, God needs to remind us of what’s really important, namely, the restoration of all nations to right relationship with Him.
- Have you ever gotten so focused on your own wants that you lost sight of God’s perspective on the world?