Reflections on Jonah: God’s Mercy

Jonah Under the Vine, Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd .... should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more then sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand 280-290 CE, marble, late Roman, Asia Minor, Cleveland Museum of Art,  thoughtsofgod, thoughts of God, mythoughts, David Reese

I recently went though the book of Jonah to see what God might have to say. I have started by simply drawing the story down to an outline of text.

God, יְהוָ֔ה – Yhvh, begins the story by speaking to His servant, Jonah, telling him to goto Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Jonah flees in the opposite direction. God causes a storm to clarify Jonah’s position. Jonah’s action end up endangering the crew of a boat, on which Jonah had fled. The crew throws Jonah into the sea after Jonah declares that he fears the Lord, God of Heaven who made the land and sea. God has mercy on Jonah and a fish swallows Jonah. Jonah spends three days in the belly of the fish, a sign of Jesus, before God caused the fish to vomit Jonah up on the shore…

So God wanted Jonah to do something for Him and Jonah, well lets just say, Jonah had his own plan which led to an unpleasant adventure.

After Jonah repents to God, God places Jonah safe as can be on dry land. Under any metric Jonah has failed in his task up to this point. At this point God does not give up on Jonah, He calls him again, . This time Jonah obeys, the people in the city of Nineveh hear and accept that their wickedness has offended God. The whole city, from the king down, repent of their wickedness. God sees that the city had turned from their wickedness and He has mercy on them all and does not destroy the city.

God wanted Nineveh to have a chance to turn to Him and live. This is what God always desires. All the turmoil of the chase scene was a result of the servant of God failing to act in faith according to the word of God given. God starts right back up where the story began and calls Jonah, “and 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.'”

Then we have a teaching time for Jonah, and for us if we can hear. Nineveh was taken care of, so to speak, it was time to deal with the prophets heart. Jonah was angry that the lord would have mercy on such a wicked people and sulks off to east side of the city to see what would take place. While Jonah sat indignant that God would have mercy on Nineveh, God shows mercy to Jonah causing a vine to grow and shelter him from the heat. After Jonah is rested, God causes a worm to eat the vine and Jonah is left without shade. Jonah laments the passing of the shade and God asks how Jonah could have compassion on a plant while God had compassion on the 120,000 people were about to perish.

annotated outline:

  • Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah….
    • Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
      • But Jonah rose up to flee
        • The LORD sent out a great wind into the sea,
          • The mariners were afraid…. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
          • And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
          • The men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
        • Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
          • Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,
          • And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
  • And 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.
      • So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.
        • And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
        • So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
  • And 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.
  • It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
    • And he prayed unto the LORD …. I fled before unto Tarshish:
      • for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
    • So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.
      • And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
      • But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
      • Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
      • And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more then sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

More to come, I assume.

This version of the text is from http://www.gutenberg.org/ This eBook was produced by David Widger [widger@cecomet.net] with the help of Derek Andrew’s text from January 1992 and the work of Bryan Taylor in November 2002