Killing Plants Changing Hearts - As Seen on Sunday
Oh my God,
Why do you care for us?
Why are you concerned with us in our sin?
Why don't you leave us alone to die in our ignorant misery?
I will never understand why you would be so gracious toward us, why you love us, why you spare us.
Let me be always thankful that you are.
At the end of the story the city is saved. Nineveh was spared and the people, at least in some expression, acknowledged their wickedness before Jehovah God.
But Jonah. Oh my, but Jonah.
Chapter 4 opens up with some unbelievable words,
Jonah spouts his frustration to God. "I told you this would happen! I knew it! That is why I ran away in the first place!"
And in, perhaps, the oddest phrase in the Bible, Jonah uses God's characteristics - the ones that we cling to in hope - and uses them for some pretty venomous character assassination.
Can't you just hear his complaint?
"How dare you, God, be so good to us sinful humans? How dare you be gracious. How dare you forgive us! Let me tell you something about being God, ok!?! You are supposed to be vicious and cruel. You are supposed to squash the sinners and turn their cities to dust!
But NOOOOO, you love them too much! I tell you what, if I were you I'd release some holy hellfire on that bunch of ninnies. That's right, you heard what I said, I called them NINNIES!
THEY SINNED! WHY WON"T YOU KILL THEM? Is it too much to ask that you tuck the mercy card away just once in your life?
This is too much for me, just kill ME and get it over with. I just can't live in a world where God is gracious and merciful and LOVES the people that I hate. Just kill me and get it over with."
Do I do well to be angry!?! DO I DO WELL TO BE ANGRY!?!
Well, someone around here better be angry. And if it is not gonna be you, it might as well be me!
When God Doesn't Act Like You Want Him to.
Jonah's problem with the people of Nineveh was rooted in a problem he had with God. Jonah's problem with God is that God acts differently than how Jonah wants him to act.
Jonah wanted God to pour out judgment on the people of Nineveh. He wanted the people wiped out. But Jonah knew that God was kind and good. Jonah knew that if the people heard the God's word that they would be spared.
So he ran.
Jonah ran because God's ways were not his ways.
God, as sovereign ruler of all, will choose to act as he wishes. And that means that there are times when God's ways do not mesh with our rebellious hearts.
At that point, we have a choice. Just like the choice in the garden of Eden. Will we do as God says or will we rebel and do it our own way?
Jonah, just like Adam and Eve, decided they would do it his own way.
But God was not done with Nineveh, nor was he done with the rebellious heart of Jonah.
The Fate of a Plant
In the aftermath of the Great Nineveh revival, Jonah found himself seething in the overwhelming heat of the day. In a self-made covering, he moped and watched what would become of the city (Jonah 4:5).
God in his mercy caused a plant to grow and provide shade to Jonah that, "saved him from his discomfort." For the first time in this story, Jonah is happy. This plant was Jonah's personal salvation from the heat and it made him exceedingly glad.
But the good times didn't last long. God appointed a worm to attack the plant and kill it. Jonah's comfort was gone and it was about to get worse. God kicked up the wind and turned up the thermostat. Jonah was left suffering in the sun.
And he asked God to let him die.
Why is it that we feel like we should die when things get tough? The moment our comfort zones are destroyed we react as if the world is going to end and that it would be better that we die.
We are creatures who are addicted to our comforts - our personal peace and affluence. When they are threatened we fall apart.
But it is at the point that we are able to get to the real heart of the matter and perhaps even discover the heart of God.
The Heart of Jonah vs. The Heart of God
The final scene in this story of Jonah reveals the difference between the heart of many people and the heart of God.
Jonah was completely focused on the loss of his comfort. So much so that he had forgotten who gave him the plant in the first place.
Jonah did nothing to bring that plant into existence. He did not plant, water, or prune the plant. It was not even around long enough to create some deep emotional attachment. It was there for less than 24 hours. It just grew and he had reaped the benefits.
Yet he mourned when it was gone. He wanted to die because it no longer existed. He pitied himself and the plant.
But he could not spare an ounce of pity on the great city of Nineveh.
God spoke to Jonah about his heart. He revealed to Jonah how deep the rebellious sin had rooted itself around Jonah's heart. Jonah cared only about what benefitted him. To hell with everything and everyone else.
But God reveals his heart - not just for his chosen people, the Jews, but for all people. Even those who do not worship him.
The story of Jonah teaches us that God will go out of his way to reach the depths of our evil hearts with his love. God knew from the very beginning how Jonah would react. God knew he would run and rebel.
But God used a whale, a revival, and a plant to reveal Jonah's true sin. Why? To destroy Jonah?
No. To reveal God's loving heart to him.
We asked why would God send Jonah to the people he hated most? Because the lesson that Jonah desperately needed to learn was that God's love is not bound to the single: a single zip code, ethnicity, or heart.
The life of Jesus reveals the same lessons to us. Jesus brought the gospel to all regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, gender, and spiritual "position."
God's love abounds to all. Sometimes we must get pushed out of our comfort zones to have this deep truth sink into our rebellious hearts.