“Jonah: Living in a ‘Me-First” World” (Jonah 3-4)

Scripture reading – Jonah 3; Jonah 4

Continuing our study of the book of Jonah, today’s devotional concludes the brief biography of that reluctant, disobedient prophet. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian nation, and was an enemy of Israel in Jonah’s day. Located about 500 miles northeast of Israel, with a population of 120,000, Nineveh was described as a great and wicked city (1:2).

Jonah 3 – A Recommissioned Missionary

We read, “and the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (3:1-2). In spite of his disobedience, and half-hearted repentance, once again Jonah was called and tasked with the responsibility of urging the people of Nineveh to repent of their wickedness.

Though not a perfect man, there is no doubt Jonah was a changed man. Without hesitation, “Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD” (3:3). There are scholars who speculate his appearance had also changed, supposing the acid within the belly of the fish might have bleached his skin and hair white. If so, he was quite a sight as he entered Nineveh, and began preaching (3:4a). His message was simple and direct: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (3:4).

Remarkably, the people of that great and wicked city believed the word of that unwilling prophet and repented (3:5-9). From the king to the poorest of the city, 120,000 souls called upon the LORD and He was moved with compassion and repented, setting aside His judgment (3:10).

Jonah was angry with God. (Jonah 4:1-4)

Jonah was angry that God had spared the city – a city known to be the enemy of Israel, and he prayed to the LORD with a bitter heart: “O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country [northern Israel]? Therefore I fled [ran away; bolted] before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious [showing favor] God, and merciful[full of compassion], slow [patient; longsuffering] to anger, and of great [many; abundant] kindness [mercy] , and repentest [moved with compassion] thee of the evil [judgment] (4:2).

The prophet was so embittered he prayed, “Therefore now, O LORD, take [lit. take away; lay hold of; seize], I beseech thee, my life [soul; person] from me; for it is better [good; well; favorable] for me to die than to live” (4:3).With patience and compassion, God reasoned with Jonah, and said, “Doest thou well [good; pleasing; right] to be angry [burn with anger; incensed]?” (4:4)

Jonah abandoned his place of ministry for a second time. (4:5)

“So Jonah went out of the city, and sat [dwelt; abide; remained] on the east side of the city, and there made [created; fashioned] him a booth [temporary shelter], and sat [dwelt; abide; remained] under it in the shadow [shade], till he might see [look; behold; observe] what would become of the city” (4:5). Tragically, the prophet held out hope the LORD might still destroy Nineveh!

Jonah is a portrait of men who abandon their calling. (4:6-8)

Sadly, Jonah typifies the character of some whom God calls to serve Him, but who then abandon their call for other pursuits.  Jonah was more interested in temporal comforts than he was in lost souls (4:6). 

God exposed Jonah’s temporal, “Me-First” attitude on life, and “prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow [shade] over his head…So Jonah was exceeding glad [rejoicing; joyful; cheered up]of the gourd.”

The LORD then sent a worm that destroyed the gourd and its leafy vine (4:7), and “the sun beat [smite] upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted [exhausted; swooned], and wished [asked; desired] in himself [soul; life; mind] to die, and said, It is better [good; well] for me to die than to live” (4:8).

The LORD admonished Jonah. (4:9-11)

“God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry [incensed; burn with anger] for the gourd?” (4:9a). Jonah dared to answer, “I do well [good; please; better] to be angry, even unto death” (4:9b).

Reminding us of how longsuffering He can be toward sinners, rather than fall upon Jonah in His wrath, the LORD challenged: “Thou hast had pity [to regard; have compassion] on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored [ie. severe, hard work], neither madest it grow [to nourish; promote growth]; which came up in a night, and perished in a night” (Jonah 4:10).

“And should not I spare [show compassion; regard; pity] Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand [120,000] persons that cannot discern [know; understand] between their right hand and their left hand; and also much [plenty; great] cattle?” (Jonah 4:11)

Closing thoughts – Perhaps someone reading this devotional has drifted from the LORD and forsaken God’s calling on your life. Maybe you have taken your own ship to “Tarshish,” and tried to escape His presence. It is tempting to run when we face difficult people, harsh criticisms, and have little encouragement. Maybe your “gourd” of comfort has dried-up under the heat of trials. Say to the LORD, “I have sinned,” and turn your heart to Him.

Remember: God orders the starts and stops in our lives! 

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith