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.” – Jonah 4:6-8
R. Reed Lessing writes:
In Hebrew narrative, a report of inward speech gets us as close as possible to the core of a person. Just so, with these direct words of Jonah, we are given an inside look at the prophet’s spiritual state. At the root of Jonah’s death wish is a longing for a God who is partial like himself. “Over my dead body” is Jonah’s cry when he realizes Yahweh is gracious, merciful, and responsive to the cries of all sinners who repent, including the Ninevites. Ironically, Jonah demonstrates in 4:8 his desire for a parochial god, and in doing so, his confession of Yahweh as the God who made heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land appears to be fading fast.
Yet Yahweh is still seeking to forgive and empower Jonah to make a paradigm shift. The paradigm shift from Ptolemy to Copernicus may illustrated Yahweh’s strategy. Ptolemy, a second-century Egyptian astronomer, worked out a systematic presentation of the universe in which the earth was the fixed center, with the sun and all stars revolving around it. Copernicus, a sixteenth-century Polish astronomer, argued to the contrary, namely that the earth revolves around the sun. This was a complete reversal of the way people thought of the earth and the universe.
Jonah is not at the center of the universe any more than the earth is at the center. Events and circumstances don’t revolve around Jonah, nor even around Israel. Instead, they revolve around the One who is at the center: Yahweh, the Creator of the universe. Jonah is Ptolemaic; he has placed himself at the center of the universe. Yahweh seeks to make him Copernican, to live and revolve around the true center: the triune God, who is the Savior of all who believe. This is an ongoing theme of the narrative. There are two truths foundation to human enlightenment: there is one true God, and we are not He.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 80
Q. 80. What is required in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, and all that is his.