Tuesday, May 3, 2011

pity for plants but not for people

And the LORD said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"
Jonah 4:10-11

The irony is dripping from God's words as He has the last say-so with Jonah. The book ends with a theological question. It forces the reader to think about the driving grace of God toward all humanity. Jonah, in his religious pride and anger is upset that God has chosen to be gracious to the repentant Ninevites. He spends a couple of days sulking outside the city. God has a little fun with his pouting prophet.

First God brings on a fierce, hot east wind. In the desert heat Jonah despairs of life. He is really quite an emotional guy. God then raises up a fast-growing shade plant (must have used "miracle grow") to provide relief. Jonah is thankful for the shade. Then, overnight, God appoints a little worm to eat through the plant, withering it. Jonah is furious... upset at the loss of the plant and his comfort. It is at that time that God begins to confront His reluctant, pride-filled prophet.

The ending question is telling for the heart of Jonah. He was more upset about the loss of the plant than the potential loss of a large city of people! God pushes His prophet to consider the moral outrage if his own twisted sense of justice. God was concerned for a lost city of people who as soon as they heard about Him, repented in hopes of finding God's favor. They were morally lost (the Hebraism "do not know their right hand from their left indicates lack of moral education or an inability to know right from wrong). God had compassion on them and sent Jonah to correct them. The sarcasm enters in with the last little bit... "an also much cattle". Could Jonah at least be upset about the waste of livestock if God leveled the city? God is using these comparisons with plants and animals to subtly teach Jonah the difference between his "right and left hand", because Jonah is showing himself to be morally destitute at this point as well!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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