Jonah’s Vine/The Lord’s Compassion on Nineveh

The story of Jonah is a quite fascinating one. It can also bring a lot of conviction to myself personally at times. Now Jonah was commanded by the Lord to go preach to the Ninevites, but he was very reluctant. Nineveh was a major city in Assyrian region. The Assyrians and Chaldeans were a very savage and barbaric race of people at that time that were known for many cruel practices. Some sources I have read have led me to believe that it was not just the Romans who practiced crucifixions.

However, inspire of such savage people the Lord said to Jonah:

Jonah 1:2 ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.

Jonah ended up doing the exact opposite of what God called him to, and the book itself seems to imply it was not out of fear he tried to avoid the task but he wanted Ninevah to perish and come under judgement. Jonah deep down feared that these people would be shocked into the terrible reality that their wickedness would bring God’s wrath.

If you read below you will see exactly how Jonah felt toward these people, fast forward a few chapters and you can peer in the heart of God’s prophet:

Jonah 4:2-11 He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ But the Lord replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.

The truth is many of us like Jonah forget how unworthy we are of God’s grace daily as well, and we have a hard time loving those who are lost and desperately stuck in sin themselves! It is incredibly easy to get angry at another person’s evil behavior and lifestyle of sin, and think we are actually better off. Indeed as Christians we are in a way but this was nothing we did. We were merely recipients of God’s unmerited grace and forgiveness that we received when we put our faith in Jesus Christ.

The passage goes on to say: Jonah 4:6-11 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, 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. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live.’ But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’‘It is,’ he said. ‘And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.’ But the Lord said, ‘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 got mad that his plant died but the Lord basically said, “Jonah, do you care more about this mere plant that you invested nothing in, but you have no concern for a large city full of people who are about to die in their ignorance?”

We too like Jonah sometimes get angry when we see the world and the evil around us these days, the vine that we did not cause to grow may begin to slowly die, a nation slowly compromising all sense of morality and life as we have known it for many years is possibly withering. We often fear more so losing our comfort and convenience than getting involved in someone else’s mess, we should not, because God is far more concerned with people’s eternity than His own people’s comfort and luxury or creature comforts. We must be willing to get down and dirty if we are going to love like Christ desires. Jesus is the perfect picture of God’s perfect messenger, he not only loved sinners but died in agony for them. He got down on their level and walked through their pain, sin, and struggles in order to be able to free them from the bondage of sin.

The good news is God is still saving people “who cannot tell their right from their left” God loves even the worst of sinners and will forgive them if they admit to their sin and cry out for mercy. God delights greatly in the repentance and salvation of people, Jesus said,  “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7

The gospel is the hope for this country and unless the hearts and eyes of the people are opened to the good news only Jesus has to offer, no political campaign or moral code will do a thing, Christ is the answer and the only solution to the problem we know as sin and selfishness.

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