But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11 (NIV).
Here ends the book of Jonah on ‘an evaluator note,’ which is an old Air Force reference. It means that we have sufficient information, that we know enough to make an informed decision. The book of Jonah ends suddenly, with God questioning Jonah about things Jonah should already know. It’s God giving Jonah the reality check, the Snickers bar, the second chance of second chances. “You’re concerned about a simple plant, Jonah, so shouldn’t I be concerned about people?”
That’s not surprising.
Go read the book of Job, chapters 38 through 41. You’ll find God reasoning with someone there as well. After Job’s friends have beaten him down for being the unwitting victim in a devil’s game, Job demands an answer from God. God’s answer? “Not so fast, Mr. Big Stuff?” Instead of punishing Job for overstepping his bounds, God questions him, lets Job come to the best conclusion for his insubordination.
That isn’t the only time it happens. Go read up about Moses on Sinai. Or Elijah in the cleft of the rock. Go read up on how God went to Cain when sin was clouding the firstborn’s heart, before he murdered his brother. When man seems desperate, he questions God, even insults God. But God knows man inside and out, so God is willing to get to the nub of an issue to help heal instead of hurt. It’s what love does.
In today’s verses, God is questioning Jonah to reason with him, to give him yet another chance. If Jonah is concerned about one insignificant plant, then shouldn’t God be concerned with the lives of 120,000 people? If Jonah is petulant over losing something free that he valued, shouldn’t God be more concerned about the spiritual destiny of thousands of His very good creations in Ninevah?
The most amazing part of it is that the ultimate answer to God’s own questions is delivered centuries later, on the cross, when Jesus says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Three days after Easter and here at the end of Jonah, THAT is the thing God was trying to get Jonah to understand.
It’s a thing I hope you and I understand today. You have enough information. Next time, we’ll meet one of the major prophets.
For further reading: Genesis 4:6-7, 1 Kings 19, Job 38-41, Daniel 1:1
Lord God, thank You for the account of Jonah, for Your teaching and Your mercy. Teach me to share them today.
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