November 11 I Thursday
“Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade...and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered.” —Jonah 4:6-7
The story of Jonah seems to progress from him being angry at God’s way with the people of Nineveh and the people of Nineveh, to being angry at the lack of protection from this vine. Although God attempted relentlessly to work with Jonah, Jonah remained stubborn and angry. Hence, the Lord said to Jonah, “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). In a way, God “drops the mic” by telling Jonah in plain language the reality of his issue with loving the people that God loves the way He does.
The ending of the book of Jonah is like a cliffhanger which concludes with God asking a question and us not knowing what Jonah’s response is to God. We could probably imagine Jonah’s anger with God continued for quite some time, but Scripture is silent on this. Nonetheless, we could interpret Jonah’s response through his writing of the book of Jonah. While the majority of books that make up the Bible were written by prophets to record what God did or what the Lord revealed to His prophets, the book of Jonah is actually an autobiography. Carried by the Spirit of God, Jonah recorded what happened to himself. We could interpret this autobiography as Jonah’s confession of his own hatred, rebellion, sin and unjust anger as God was trying to correct his behaviour and adjust his blind spots, beliefs and biases towards his enemies—the people of Nineveh.
God’s desire is to correct us, to show us where we are wrong, and set us on the right path and to prepare and equip us for good work. The good work that God wants us to do is rooted in loving others and being transformed by the message of love and gospel that we bring.
“The mission of God flows from the love of God. The mission of God’s people flows from our love for God and for all that God loves.” This is an excerpt from The Cape Town Commitment, which was put together by the Lausanne Movement over a decade ago. The story of Jonah shows us that even a prophet of God has blind spots, beliefs and biases that need correcting. But unlike Jonah, our story can have a happy ending as we yield, surrender, and lean upon God in His ways.
What’s our story like?
Prayer: Lord God, I yield my life to You, surrendering my own desires and leaning upon You. Teach me to love my enemies and use me as a conduit for Your good works. Thank You, Lord.