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Jonah 4 – a vine, a worm, and a wind

Chapters 2 and 3 provided a great story of salvation for both the Jew and the Gentile. In theory everyone should be happy except Jonah is not. Jonah had wanted Obadiah-theology (judging the nations) to be applied to Nineveh. Instead Jonah quotes the first part of Exodus 34:6-7: You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. This is the “John 3:16” of the Old Testament and quoted multiple times. The surprise in the book of Jonah is that while this was originally applied to Israel, apparently this characteristic of God can also be applied to the wicked nations – and this is not wanted Jonah had wanted.

Jonah removes himself from Nineveh to see whether God will act consistently with his God’s revelation about his character. God appoints/provides a plant to shade Jonah to make him more comfortable – of course Jonah is exceedingly joyful about the plant.

God who appoints/provides a plant then appoints/provides a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. The next morning God appoints/provides a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. Jonah who had previously been raised from the grave now wishes he could return to the world of the dead. Jonah is full of wrath while God is not.

It is interesting to note that the same God who hurled a western storm, appointed a big fish, commanded the same fish’s digestive system, appointed a plant, appointed a worm, and appointed an eastern wind. Certainly, one is inclined to recognize that God is a sovereign God and all providences occur at his hand. But notice that the same God who provides comfortable plants also provides uncomfortable worms – do we have hearts that will submit to the God of all providences?

Finally, in contrast to Jonah’s anger at the perishing of the plant is God’s mercy that prevents the perishing of 120,000 persons and also much cattle.

Jonah has taught us that while God sovereignly toward the nations in Obadiah-theology (judgment), he also acts toward the nations in Jonah-theology (mercy). Is the fact that God is a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster (as demonstrated to Nineveh) bad news for Israel? The next book in the Twelve, Micah, answers that question.