by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions
Jonah 4:6-11 And the LORD God prepared a plant [fn] and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it [so] damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah's head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, "[It is] better for me to die than to live." Then God said to Jonah, "[Is it] right for you to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "[It is] right for me to be angry, even to death!" But the LORD said, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. "And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left–and much livestock?"
When Jonah left Nineveh and set up his shelter waiting to see what God would do, he was not expecting another object lesson. But he needed one. The Lord caused a plant to grow up under which Jonah could sit in the shade awaiting the “fireworks” he hoped would take place. Perhaps he was thinking, "Wow this is great – a cool plant for shade…the Lord is hearing me now!" But then God sent a worm which destroyed the very plant that He had given for Jonah's comfort. And as the sun rose and the heat of the day bore down on him, Jonah found himself more miserable than ever.
What a roller coaster ride for a man who has already been through such extremes! Running away on a ship, thinking he can outsmart God, thrown into a stormy ocean, eaten by a fish, rescued from near death…one day he's ecstatic thinking he's out of God's reach, next, he's fish food…now, because of the plant God provided, thinking that maybe He is hearing him again, then, next day as the plant is destroyed wishing that he was dead! Now the Lord says to Jonah, “Why are you so concerned about the plant?" The Lord so wants Jonah to realize his selfishness. The plant gave Jonah shade. It made him feel better. How can he fail to understand God's concern for an entire city?
What will it take for us to realize our selfishness? How many difficulties will God lovingly put us through to help us stop putting ourselves, our interests, our desires, our comfort…first ??? How and when will we come to care even for our enemies…the way Yeshua (Jesus) did?