God’s Word for You
Jonah 4:9-10 God and the Lord
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 11, 2019
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Are you right to be angry about the leafy vine?” He replied, “I am. I am angry enough to die!” 10 The LORD said, “You are concerned about that leafy vine, even though you did not work for it or make it grow. It grew up overnight and perished after living only one night.
Earlier, when the Lord asked Jonah whether he was right to be angry (verse 4), Jonah said nothing at all. Now, when God asks whether he is right to be angry about the vine, Jonah vents his fury at God.
First, let’s notice the way the prophet remembers who it was who was speaking to him. In verse 4, Jonah calls him “the LORD,” the name that reminds us of God’s faithfulness and his grace, the name that God uses to make and keep his promises and covenants. He has given us his name, “the LORD,” to use when blessing one another (Ruth 2:4), and to teach us about his mercy from wrath when we seek after him (Zephaniah 2:3).
Now, when the subject is a plant created by the Almighty, Jonah calls him “God.” “God” means “mighty one,” and calls our attention to our Creator, the one who preserves us through natural means and, sometimes, supernatural means. Thinking of the people of the city, the prophet remembers that the Lord is the LORD, the one who has mercy. Thinking of a created thing, the prophet remembers that the Lord is God, the mighty creator, in whose hands we are all held and kept. All the growing things are his, for “he makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth” (Psalm 104:14). The worm that attacked the vine was God’s to command: “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground” (Hosea 2:18). Even the night during which the plant grew belongs to God, for “the day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and the moon” (Psalm 74:16).
Jonah worked for the city of Nineveh, and it was spared, but the Mighty God points out (so patiently!) that he did nothing for the vine, and is angry about it. God is inviting the prophet to remember his own labor. Normally, the work of the church is shared by many, as Paul said: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). But here in Nineveh, who else was at work? Who were the other parts of the team, like a body with each ligament and joint doing its bit (Ephesians 4:16)? Jonah had no Apollos. It was Jonah alone, Jonah by himself, with no partner but the Holy Spirit as he proclaimed the word of God to a hundred and twenty thousand souls. He carried God’s truth, “the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 2), and it was enough. He spared them from the wrath of the Son of God, which would have destroyed them (Psalm 2:12). The Lord God was the one with “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,” but “his love endures forever” (Psalm 136:12). Nineveh, whose wickedness had gone up before the Lord (Jonah 1:2), was to be spared. And God in his compassion was showing the same patience with the messenger, the foolhardy and headstrong Jonah—just as he is patient and compassionate with us.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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