Jonah has delivered a severe warning to an exceedingly rebellious people. By the power of God’s spoken word, the sin-filled people of Nineveh whole-heartedly repented. As they turn to God for mercy, Jonah exits their company quicker than a cockroach and turns to isolation and selfish anger.
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. ~Jonah 4:5
It’s likely a people so grieved and hurting over their past failures would be extremely grateful for the prophet who corrected them. Doubtless, they not only listened to his instructions, but also respected him greatly. Surely they welcomed him to their own homes and tables.
But Jonah wasn’t interested. Jonah was angry. He had an arrogant chip on his very religious shoulder. He refused any kindness or invitation shown by the ones he thought spiritually inferior and socially undeserving of his time. He avoided any additional contact post-wrath and condemnation pontification with any of the very people he was sent to minister to. In fact, he acted as though they didn’t even exist. Like a spoiled, unbelieving brat, he perched himself in a place they were not and proceeded to pout. All the while likely hoping they’d still be destroyed.
Looking from the outside, one can easily see how Jonah’s anger, pride, and selfishness with God’s grace could have greatly hindered his message. I mean, how would you feel if the dude who was yelling at you to repent day after day claiming to be sent from God clearly despised you, not just when you were in sin, but even when you were seeking God in repentance? Jonah’s pettiness could have dissuaded Nineveh from obedience. His hypocrisy could have led to their dismissing of his true words as lies and given them another excuse to justify their own sin. Then again, perhaps that’s what Jonah really wanted anyway…to be the only one possessing God’s favor in the world…obviously he deserved it more than they did, right? And all the good church people of the world said, “Hell no!”
Fortunately, Nineveh didn’t base their repentance on their feelings or on their preacher’s failures. They based their repentance on heeding God’s word alone. I guess it just further proves how God alone works salvation and men are but broken tools in the process. (If you’ve never had a broken tool, talk to my husband. He can tell you a thing or two about the frustration and aggravation those babies bring.)
Jonah may indeed have been a godly man, raised and groomed in proper pious service to God. He’s not in the temple anymore, though. Jonah is in the real world now. It’s time to grow up, get over himself, and allow God to work in ways he’s never imagined. Jonah must begin to trust God’s word more than he trusts his own work. I’m pretty sure that was the plan all along anyway.
Ironically, God is about to use a tiny worm – a trifle, a nothing, a no one – to show him his error.
Fellow gospel-sharers, who is Nineveh to you? Is there someone out there to whom you’re unwilling to extend grace and mercy? Are there those to whom you’ll preach and provoke but never prefer, play nice, or participate practically with? Get the religious superiority, social class, preferential prejudice chips off of your shoulder now lest God humble you by using a worm, a fool, or even…*gasp*… a little girl, to shame you who think yourselves so very wise.