But why is Jonah so worn out again? First, it's because God is steadfast in love to the enemies of Israel -- to the Assyrians, whose king lives in Nineveh. But as if that wasn't bad enough, Jonah also had this vine that God "appointed" (what a curious word) to give Jonah shade, and God "appointed" a worm (again -- curious) to kill the vine, and then God made it even hotter than before with a wind hot with the hotness of hot that He controls because, of course, God is God -- sovereign, omnipotent, holy, just God. So Jonah is twice-vexed (that's "vex-ed" for those who cannot read the KJV) over God -- first for not killing the Ninevites (whom Jonah hates), and then for killing the vine (for which he was exceeding glad, again from the KJV).
Now, this is God Jonah is talking to and mad at. Jonah is mad at God because God proved His love for sinners by sparing the repentent Ninevites and then killed a vine which God appointed in the first place. God. The God for whom we ought to have the highest view, and always keep His glory in sight. Yahovah God. Elohim. El Shaddai. Addonai. Yahovah-Tsidkenu. Yahovah Sabaoth. Kadosh. Shaphat. El-Gibhor. "Sh'ma-Yisrael-Adonai-Elohaynu-Adonai-Echad" God.
And Jonah is mad at Him. You'd think that Yahovah would have something to say about that -- because when Job is mad at Yahovah-Tsidkenu, He (God) makes a little bit of a scene and makes Job -- the righteous man Job -- give an account for himself.
But Yahovah has something else in mind here, because He says this instead:
- 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 than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
Listen: Jonah didn't build his booth under a shady spot and God took it away in a kind of tug-of-war. Jonah was sitting there skulking over the Ninevites in repentence, and God grew a vine up there -- if we take the text seriously here -- overnight one night to give Jonah a little respite, and Jonah "had pity of the gourd". That is, this thing which appeared out of nowhere, and like the grass it withereth, and the flower thereof it falleth away, Jonah got attached to the vine. But somehow, Jonah can't get excited about the sinners in the city. He's all angry eyebrows at God for being steadfast in love.
That's sort of jarring, if you're reading this story with me. Jonah, says God, cares more about the weed than he does about people -- because the weed makes him feel good (or better, anyway), and the people make him mad. And listen: God says that Jonah's "pity" is a pity for something which he never raised a finger to see come to this place. The weed came out of nowhere, and Jonah thought it was dandy, but Jonah had nothing invested in the weed.
But God doesn't stop there. He says to Jonah, listen, little fella: it's one thing for you to be attached to the weed which you didn't do anything to nuture, but look at that city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand. (For you who cannot count in King James, "sixscore" is 6 x 20 = 120, so 120,000 people)
The implication is not that this city sprung up out of nowhere and suddenly God pitieth it: the implication is that there are 120,000 people in there, and God has been working on them a long time. The contrast is that Jonah can have pity on this thing which is just hay waiting for the baler, but then shouldn't God -- who has been working on this city a long time, because He's El Shaddai, Addonai, Yahovah-Tsidkenu, Yahovah Sabaoth, Kadosh, Shaphat, El-Gibhor, "Sh'ma- Yisrael- Adonai- Elohaynu- Adonai- Echad" God -- have some kind of pity on these people upon whom He has been working a long time.
You know: steadfast in love kind of working. The kind of work Jonah accuses God of doing in the first place. God's mouth is here telling Jonah -- and us -- that we ought to check ourselves if we think that God doesn't have enough love. We are the ones who do not have enough love -- because let's face it: we are like Jonah. We are the ones who are somewhat enthralled with the idea that God is coming to knock over the idols in everyone else's temple, that God is going to pour out the winepress of His wrath on the unjust. We think we will be his Beautiful feet, and everybody else is going to get under the footstood of the Lord.
But God says, "I have spent a lot of time -- which I created, btw -- in steadfast love for these people. For the ones you think are ready for the threshing floor." Somehow Paul was willing to say
- in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God
And for what? Seriously -- what is the issue? That God is not Holy? That God is not Just? That God is not Creator and can do as He sees fit? Dude: what God sees fit to do is offer an appeal to all men, and that appeal is to be reconciled unto Himself. It is exactly equal to and demonstrative of the same principles inherent in declaring, "repent and be saved!" Be reconciled to God!
Those people over there in that city which has historically tried to kill us and trash the name of God. Those people over there who think that think pornography is a valid form of entertainment. Those people in that city where sin is named as a virtue. Those people who are no different than us, except that God has sent us to them.
We can sit here, with God asking us, "so is that anger good for you? How about that weed that is dying which you thought was cool -- being angry about that is good for you, too?" Or we can throw our arms around this God, this Lord our Righteousness, the Lord of Hosts, The Holy One and Judge, Mighty God, -- and one more who for the ones who don't have a full scorecard yet: this resurrected Lord and Christ, born of a virgin, who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and who humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross -- and say to Him, "you're working that long and hard, but I'm not gonna tell them you love them. You only love me -- well, us. You only love us, the ones who are already saved to eternal life."
Can you do that? I can't do that. I'm going to be in the Lord's house on the Lord's day with the Lord's people -- including the ones which are in church right now, who got baptized by accident, but don't actually have the Gospel. Because God loves them, and to say otherwise sounds like I care more about the leaves I still have to rake up in my yard than it does about the appeal God is making to people.
That's not an argument, btw: that's what I'm going to do. You choose for you, and when Jesus comes back, we can ask Him whether we should have been more cautious about whether we could tell people that the Cross is a sign of love to all people.