Note: This is the final post for the book of Jonah. Beginning Saturday, I will be posting shorter daily devotions from the book of Proverbs to carry on through the summer. More on that next time.
Jonah’s autobiography ends on a strange note. We might think that the story would have ended with the repentance and salvation of Nineveh, an incredible miracle of God’s mercy and grace towards a whole city. Instead, a final chapter shows us an angry Jonah pouting in the wilderness as he looks with regret upon the great city below him. It seems that Jonah wanted Nineveh to be destroyed, yet he knew deep down that God planned to save them if they turned from their evil ways. Why is Jonah so upset?
Well, it may be that Jonah was concerned about the honor of God and the trustworthiness of His word. The salvation of Nineveh made Jonah look like a false prophet, he may have thought, because God did not bring the promised judgment upon the city. It is also possible that as he saw the repentance and salvation of this very wicked, lost metropolis, he was reminded of Israel’s own stubborn refusal to repent themselves. Either way, Jonah’s passion for God’s name and God’s people made him forget about God’s love and kindness. As the final verse tells us, God cared about the thousands of lost souls in Nineveh, even about their animals. He cared enough to send Jonah to warn them of the coming judgment, that they might have a chance to repent and believe in Him and be saved. And God wanted Jonah to care about lost people, too.
The takeaway for us is clear: Do we have compassion for the souls of other people? Do we care about the totally lost, spiritually clueless people who walk through our lives everyday? If we say we care, what are we doing about it? What are we doing to reach people in our school, our neighborhoods, our families, and on our teams with the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ? God ends the book of Jonah with a question for all of us: Shouldn’t we share His great compassion for the lost?
The Text (Jonah 4)
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”
4 Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”
10 But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
Questions to Think About
- Do you have compassion for your lost friends, family, and teammates? How can you tell?
- For whose salvation are you praying right now? With whom are you sharing the gospel?
- What can you do to help your church reach the lost people in your community?
- We must not be too hard on Jonah. Having a zeal or passion for God’s honor and name is a great quality. However, God is also love, and we need to balance our passion for biblical truth and God’s honor with compassion for people. Our enemies are sin, the world, and the devil – not the unsaved. Jesus died for sinners, among whom each of us is the worst.
- As the great British preacher Charles Spurgeon observed, God taught Jonah some important truths in this final chapter with a few visual object lessons. God provided a plant to remind Jonah and us of to be thankful for all of our blessings. God then sent the worm to eat the plant to show us that He has the right to take things away from us. Finally, God sent the fierce hot wind to show us that He has the right to send hard trials our way. Most of all, however, God wanted Jonah and us to understand that people are infinitely more valuable than stuff. Do we live like that is true?