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Jonah - Chapter 4

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We have a very special situation that Kerry and I are seeking assistance with. There are some ladies that are wanting to go to the next session of Hope Ahead, the ministry that gives hope, help and community to Christian women after sexual abuse that Barb Mulvey and Cris Paulson facilitate, but they need child-care. This is a huge exception that Kerry and I are willing to serve for these ladies because of their need to attend. We are asking if there would be anyone else willing to serve on those Tuesday nights from 5:45-8:15. We will use the EHBC Nursery. There are 3 three year olds. We will do a background check, if you do not have one already on file with EHBC KIDS, and make sure that there will always be 2 adults serving each time. Either Kerry or myself will be there each Tuesday to help facilitate the evening as well. We would like to have a contingency plan in case either one of us are tied up with other responsibilities.
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Final Teaching

Let’s pick up where we left off last week and look at the humility of the Ninevite King and compare him to Nebuchadnezzer and Herod.
Jonah 3:6–9 NLT
6 When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. 7 Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. 8 People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. 9 Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”
Now Nebuchadnezzer
Daniel 4:28–37 NLT
28 “But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. 30 As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’ 31 “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. 32 You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’ 33 “That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. 34 “After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. 35 All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ 36 “When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. 37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.”
Now Herod
Acts 12:19–25 NLT
19 Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while. 20 Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, 21 and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. 22 The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!” 23 Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died. 24 Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. 25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them.
Thoughts? Did you notice how God dealt differently with each of them?
The Lord’s response (v. 10)
There has been a change in the heart of the people and a change in the heart of the king.
There is therefore a change in the heart of God.
This is not repentance in the sense of regretting something done earlier, but God’s response to a complete turnaround in Ninevite thinking and acting.
Judgement was lifted when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways.
It was not when he saw their tears or observed their fasts.
It was not even when he heard their cries to him.
Although he could read their hearts, the threat of destruction was only removed in compassion when the Lord could see that their grief was genuine.
This was true heart transformation.
Side Note:
If you want the “rest of the story” read the book of Nahum. Within 150 years, Nineveh had abandoned the fruits of repentance and returned to her previous violence and wickedness. This time there is no repentance and the ‘city of blood’ (Nahum 3:1) is destroyed as prophesied. This does not mean that their repentance in Jonah 3:10 was not genuine. It was—Jesus said so (Matt. 12:41).
Matthew 12:41 NLT
41 “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.
However, it does show that a past act of repentance does not guarantee future safety.
A return to sin needs a corresponding return to repentance.
Truly saved and a complete surrender of the heart is needed.


What rules your heart?
Humility or Pride?

Chapter 4

Do you know the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat?
A thermometer reads the temperature in a room. If it’s hot in the room, it tells you it is hot in the room. If it is cold in the room, it tells you it’s cold. A thermometer tells you the temperature in the room.
A thermostat regulates the temperature. It helps control the temperature in the room by making small adjustments to heat or cool the room. If it gets too cold in the room, the thermostat adjusts and warms it up. If it gets too hot in the room, the thermostat adjusts and cools it down. It’s all a matter of what temperature you want to set.
The reality is that many of us get stuck in thermometer mode. Your temperature just fluctuates up and down depending on who is in the room or what happens day to day. Day by day your attitude is just up and down depending on the temperature of the day.
But, the more excellent way to operate is in thermostat mode.
You are very clear what temperature you are trying to set. You are intentional on what the temperature should be.
When it gets too hot in a situation, you are able to regulate the temperature back down. When there is no life in a situation and it’s way too cold, you are able to breathe life and warmth into the situation.
I state this because Jonah is a Thermometer.
In the space of a few verses, Jonah’s mood-swings take him from Death Valley to Happy Mountain and back again. It is a bewildering journey that leaves him feeling useless and exhausted. It is also a journey on which the Lord accompanies him every step of the way.
Let’s read the last chapter.
Jonah 4 NLT
1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 3 Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” 4 The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 8 And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. 9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” 10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

Jonah’s anger (vv 1, 2)

In verse 1, Jonah’s anger boils over. It had been bubbling up inside him and now comes spilling out when he sees the Lord relenting from the threat of overthrowing Nineveh. It is a depressingly ugly mood. As the Lord turns from his anger at the close of chapter 3, so Jonah turns to his at the beginning of chapter 4. He was happy to be a prophet of doom but only so long as the doom was to occur. When God sees the repentance of Nineveh and lifts his threat of destruction, so Jonah lifts the shackles on his otherwise dormant emotions and gives full vent to them.
It is not just a little irritation that Jonah feels—it is absolute fury. Literally ‘it was evil to Jonah a great evil’. These are shocking words. It is one thing when people rail against God for troubles and calamities in life.
Jonah’s fury is different. He is enraged that there is no calamity. He looks at the kindness and mercy of the Lord and calls it evil. For him, Nineveh had got away with it too easily. Even though their repentance had been genuine enough, surely their violence and immorality was so deep-seated and extreme that it merited some kind of punishment from God. Or so Jonah thinks. He does not use the words ‘cheap grace’ but that is what he means.
Jonah’s prayer
His mood was black and his complaint was out of order but at least Jonah pours out his burden before the Lord. It was certainly better than running away. More than that, it was actually a good response. It is very easy to avoid prayer with the excuse that we need to wait until we feel more in the mood for it. But sometimes it is the very mood itself that needs to be brought before the Lord. There are many instances in Scripture where people are rebuked for their approach to the Lord, but it is usually because of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. We do not find those who genuinely wish to engage with God being turned away. We may cringe at Jonah’s outburst, but God himself seems perfectly at ease with it.
The effect of Jonah’s mood
However, the fact that the Lord does not rebuke Jonah does not mean that his emotional state does not matter. It does. Moreover, Jonah must answer for it. We also see in these verses where Jonah’s mood takes him. It is not a welcoming place.
Jonah is on his own (v. 5). We might well ask ‘why?’ It is clear from chapter 1 that Jonah is a bit of a ‘loner’.
Staying on in Nineveh would have been the obvious thing for Jonah to have done. The Ninevites already appreciated Jonah for his part in bringing them God’s word and would have provided an eager audience for him. But instead of exercising a useful ministry among these new converts, Jonah cuts himself off. It is Jonah’s mood which means he wants nothing to do with them. Isolating himself in this way has led to useless inactivity.
The words ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘my’ occur nine times in the Hebrew in verses 2–3 alone. Jonah is totally wrapped up in his feelings.
Jonah genuinely felt that God’s readiness to forgive proved that his own initial instincts to opt out of this particular mission in the first place had been right all along. The Lord, he told himself, had been far too compassionate. The Ninevites had persuaded him to relent far too easily. Jonah may have repented from his earlier behaviour, but, on reflection, he was coming round to thinking that events had vindicated him. Jonah had been consistent throughout—it was God who had changed his mind.
The flipside to self-justification is condemnation of others. ‘If I am right,’ one reasons, ‘then the other person must be wrong.’ In this case, Jonah believes he is right—so God must be in the wrong. As far as Jonah was concerned, the problem was not simply that the Lord was gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love; it was more that he was always gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.
Jonah’s statement that he wanted to die (v. 4) is an attempt to impress God with just how strongly he feels about this matter. He has been here before (1:12). It sounds as though he has hit the rock-bottom of despair but, in truth, it is more a question of being irrational. A short while ago he had been offering a sacrifice of praise at having been delivered from drowning and from the belly of the whale. Now he wants to die. And what has intervened to make him change his mind? It was nothing other than a city-wide repentance, met by the grace of God. Jonah has allowed his feelings to dominate his thinking. No wonder he becomes irrational.
In verse 5, Jonah builds himself a shelter, presumably from bits and pieces of dry branches lying around in the arid environment. It was probably a somewhat pathetic and rickety affair. There he sits, partly to sulk and partly to blackmail the Lord, telling himself and God that he will not budge until the Lord relents and destroys the Ninevites as promised. It is a sinfully dangerous game that he is getting into.
This point will only become clear in later verses, but the Lord is about to teach Jonah a valuable object lesson through a plant. As Jonah sits in sullen isolation, the Lord miraculously provides a vine that shoots up overnight. He awakens to find that his home-made shack has had a divine makeover. Structurally it has been made secure as the tendrils of the covering plant have bound it together; aesthetically it has been turned into a delightfully cool arbour by the luxuriant leaves.
In kindness, the Lord has provided the vine to give protecting shade for Jonah (v. 6), but Jonah’s delight is wildly out of proportion. Because he has allowed his feelings to dictate his life, he has lost all sense of perspective. Euphoric over a plant and indifferent to the destruction of a city, he stands in need of divine instruction.

The Lord’s question

In the midst of this, the Lord asks Jonah: ‘Are you right to feel this way?’ (v. 4) We as readers would look on and say, ‘Of course he’s not right.’ Even Jonah himself does not seem overly confident in his position and declines to give an answer.
It is an important question because it shows us that the Lord expects an answer. In our culture we tend to the view that moods of whatever complexion are just ‘one of those things’. Partly by temperament and partly by circumstances we excuse ourselves that they just come and there is not much that any of us can do about it. We would therefore dismiss the question as missing the point. However, the fact that the Lord asks it shows that we are responsible and answerable for our moods.
Jonah’s heart revealed (v. 7)
In verse 6, we have seen Jonah deliriously, almost embarrassingly, happy. It is the happiest he has been, despite having been God’s instrument for the most glorious spiritual revival the world has probably ever seen. His delight has been fuelled by the miraculous provision of a plant. Now he can sit in the cool of the shade and watch as Nineveh is destroyed. He knows that the vine is a divine gift, and it is possible that he sees it as the Lord’s reconsideration of his decision to forgive Nineveh in the light of Jonah’s personal protest.
With these delightful thoughts swimming around his head he sits down for a front-row viewing of the coming spectacle. But—and it is a big but—a tiny, insignificant worm is on its way.
Jonah’s temporary home has become his joy but it is about to be destroyed.
It was an act of compassion for the Lord to provide the covering protection for Jonah, but when his heart went after it, it was an even greater act of kindness for the Lord to remove it. In kindness the Lord may allow us our toys, but he can remove them at a stroke to teach us that our joy should be in him alone.
Jonah’s folly revealed (v. 8)
As the new day dawns in verse 7, Jonah is completely oblivious to what awaits him. His anger has gone and there is much in life to delight him. Perhaps his spirits soar even higher as he senses the wind picking up and wonders if this is a harbinger of the storm of destruction about to engulf Nineveh.
But then the joy drains from him as he notices the leaves turning dry and brown before his very eyes. Maybe he inspects the base of the vine and realizes that it has been attacked. Perhaps he sees the worm and even stamps on it in frustrated anger. If so, it is too late. His beloved plant is gripped by death and he knows there is nothing he can do about it.
As the vine shrivels and dies, so the protecting and binding canopy over Jonah’s little shelter drops away. At the mercy of the increasing wind the structure quickly disintegrates.
Jonah is left exposed in the searing temperatures. Just as the worm has attacked the plant, so now the sun gets up and attacks Jonah.
He grows faint as the sun blazes down on his head (v. 8). It is probably a case of severe sunstroke.
At this point Jonah’s folly is revealed. He knows that the vine is dead but wishes to go with it.
In the first storm in chapter 1, Jonah had been brought to the edge of eternity, asking to be thrown overboard in preference to seeking the face of the Lord. Here in a second storm, he once again seeks the relief of death itself. The heat and the wind may have been unbearably fierce, but Jonah’s readiness to opt out of life is becoming a habit.
And it is all because he is not happy about God’s mercy.
Jonah’s emotions revealed (v. 9)
The death of the plant has re-kindled Jonah’s anger. His joy lasted a day—equivalent to the life of his choice weed. But the appetite of a single worm has killed the plant and killed Jonah’s happiness. His fury returns, having gone full circle.
Jonah believes passionately that the Lord has got things the wrong way.
Towards the Ninevites he should have shown the firm hand of justice—after all they deserved it.
The plant, on the other hand, had only done good in its brief life.
There was therefore every reason for the Lord to preserve its life.
The thought that the Lord was playing with him was further provocation—why provide a vine for his comfort, only to take it away again? Nobody likes being mocked.
So when the Lord repeats the question of verse 4 and asks him whether he has a right to be angry, you can almost hear him spit the words out: ‘Yes, it’s right!” he replied. “I’m angry enough to die!”
Jonah’s thinking exposed (vv. 10, 11)
Quiet reason does not always work when someone is in a foul mood.
Having asked Jonah about his anger, the Lord will see the conversation through, wherever it leads.
He could have rebuked Jonah for his discourteous reply or ignored him altogether, but once again the Lord chooses to answer the substance of Jonah’s complaint.
The Lord asks Jonah to compare the vine with the city of Nineveh.
That means a single, unfeeling plant against 120,000 morally illiterate people (although they were blameworthy in their wickedness, they were nevertheless spiritually ignorant).
Jonah had done nothing for the vine, whereas the Lord was behind both the plant and the city, in his role as creator and upholder of life. The vine shot up overnight, but the origins of Nineveh go back to the book of Genesis. The death of a plant may be one thing, but the destruction of human and animal life is another thing entirely.
Now, here is the point: both the Lord and Jonah have shown a tearful pity (as the word translated ‘cared’ in verses 10 and 11 means in the original Hebrew).
Jonah’s emotions have all been directed at the life of the plant.
God’s passion has been directed at the life of Nineveh.
The Lord does not tell Jonah that he is wrong to feel pity for the plant. Instead, he asks the simple question: ‘Jonah, if you feel pity for the plant, why should I not be allowed to feel pity for the city?’
The unanswered question
The Lord has the last word in the book of Jonah, but since it is a question, the final word ought to belong to Jonah. Unlike his hasty response in verse 9, on this occasion there is no answer.
There may be two reasons for the silence.
First, the book is its own answer. In other words, the very fact that Jonah recorded his experience in self-effacing detail is as clear an indication as anyone could want that he understood the lessons the Lord had been teaching him.
The other reason for the silence is that if Jonah had recorded the answer he gave we would have missed the point that, in a sense, the question is directed at us.
All of us who read the book of Jonah are required to give our own response.
In our case, the thing we cherish is likely to be something other than a plant, but the point is still just as valid.
“How does the worth of an immortal soul stack up against our chosen toy, whatever that toy may be?”
The question is asked in terms of the souls of others, but it can also be asked of the individual’s own soul. Jesus asked the same question in a slightly different form: ‘What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Matt. 16:26).
It is a question that is never answered just once, but needs constantly repeating. And it is the question with which the book fittingly closes with.
Thermometer or Thermostat?
Let’s Pray.
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