I have spent the last few weeks studying the book of Jonah for our series at Soma, Chasing Rebels…
The first week we kicked things off with the notion that God pursues rebels like you and me. Today I want to jump forward to the end of the book – after Jonah has complained about God’s compassion and mercy towards the Ninevites God gives him an object lesson. Basically God causes a vine to supernaturally sprout up and give Jonah shade, the next day God causes a worm to eat up the vine and a hot eastern wind to scorch it. And boy is Jonah pissed! His anger burns and he exclaims that he is angry enough to die because of this vine (its sort of an expletive in Hebrew). The lesson worked – it got the reaction from Jonah that God wanted all along. Here is how commentator Leslie Allen paraphrases that conversation in NICOT. (God is the one talking here:)
Let us analyze this anger of yours – it represents your concern over your beloved vine… but what did it really mean to you? Your attachment could not be very deep, for it was here one day and gone the next. Your concern was dictated by self interest, not by genuine love. You never had for it the devotion of a gardener. If you feel as badly as you do, what would you expect a gardener to feel like, who tended the plant and watched it grow only to see it wither and die, poor thing? And this is how I feel about Nineveh, only much more so. All those people, those animals, I made the, I have cherished them all these years. Nineveh has cost me no end of effort. They mean the world to mean. Your pain is nothing to mine when in contemplate their destruction.
God’s compassion extends to rebels like the Ninevites and surely it extends to us. Its our responsibility to extend it to others who don’t know God.