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 4:9-11
R. Reed Lessing writes:
The strategy of the narrator is to turn the attention away from Jonah and toward us. Yahweh’s penetrating question at the end is aimed not just at Jonah but also at us. The final question keeps us from the smug appraisal that holds Jonah at a safe distance from ourselves. We are meant to walk away scratching our heads, thinking about how the narrative applies to our own unforgiving attitudes toward outsider. This means that the judgment deserved by Jonah is also intended for … me. A Jonah lurks within every Christians heart, whimpering his insidious message of smug prejudice, empty creedalism, and exclusive solidarity. The words of the Latin auth Horace prick our hearts: “Why laugh? Change but the name, and the tale is told of you.” He who has ears to hear, let him hear, and allow the saving love of Yahweh to forgive and refashion his or her heart!
Oh, it would be so much tidier for us who consider ourselves to be “insiders” in the kingdom of God if the “outsiders” remained outside. But the God who is “gracious and merciful” (Jonah 4:2) seeks to bring all [types of] people into His church. Several of Jesus’ parables make precisely this point. The elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son reflects the same attitude as Jonah, and at the end of the parable, Jesus leaves us wondering how the brother will respond to His father’s compassionate generosity, echoing the inconclusive ending of Jonah. Those within the community of believers are continually faced with the challenge of reflecting Yahweh’s compassion for those outside.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 82
Q. 82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No mere man since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word and deed.