Disturbed by God’s Grace

KEY VERSE: “Should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein me more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” —Jonah 4:11

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 4:1-4, 10, 11

WE READ: “THE word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.” (Jonah 3:1,2) Here we see that God gave Jonah a second opportunity to go to Nineveh. This time Jonah showed that he had learned well the lesson God had given him. The Scriptures do not tell us how Jonah traveled to Nineveh, but because it was inland and northeast from Israel, it is likely that he joined some caravans traveling there. Such a journey would have taken many weeks, but finally Jonah came to that huge city.

“Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4) The announcement to the residents of the city, as recorded above, is rather meager. It is likely that as a prophet of God, Jonah would have had a great deal more to say to his listeners concerning a call to repentance, as well as some exhortations for them to turn from their evil ways. As Jonah’s message was spread abroad, the people of Nineveh began to believe in Jehovah God. They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth. The king removed himself from his throne and followed the Hebrew custom of sitting on ashes.

“God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (Jonah 3:10) Here we see that Jonah had threatened; the Ninevites had heeded; and God had displayed his grace and love.

Jonah’s response to this was inappropriate and unreasonable! He became very angry! He had expected a great destruction to come upon the wicked city, but because the Ninevites were penitent, God did not overthrow the city. And because of this Jonah was thoroughly disappointed! He turned against the Lord and complained. But the Lord did not debate or argue with his Prophet. He replied in the form of a simple question, leaving Jonah with his own thoughts to ponder: “Doest thou well to be angry?”—Jonah 4:4

Jonah then left the city and erected a booth for himself. There, to the east of Nineveh, Jonah watched to see what would befall the city. (Jonah 4:5) When a gourd plant miraculously grew to provide shade for Jonah, the prophet was very pleased, but this rejoicing did not last long. During the night a worm injured the plant, causing it to dry up. Deprived of its shade, Jonah was subjected to a parching east wind and the hot sun beating down upon his head. His response to that situation was that once again he wanted to die.—Jonah 4:6-8

By means of this gourd, Jonah was taught a lesson in mercy. He felt so sorry for the poor gourd, wondering why it had to die. Yet he had neither planted it nor cared for it. On the other hand, the Creator of life, our Heavenly Father, had much more reason to feel sorry for Nineveh. The value of people’s lives was far greater than that of one gourd plant. Therefore “God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the Lord, Thou hast pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night: … and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand, and their left hand; and also much cattle.”—Jonah 4:9-11

Dawn Bible Students Association
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