18 September 2021Jonah 4:1-11
But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, 'O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country?' (vs 1-2)
It is in this last chapter of Jonah that I think we get a true picture of the man. It begins with the anger he feels. He has taken up the challenges he was set, despite his initial refusal. Having seen the wickedness of the city he was being sent to, he waits to see its punishment, which of course does not occur, as the people have heard the message he has pronounced and have turned to God.
Jonah sits and waits in comfort under the bush the Lord has kindly provided and then despite his obedience, the worm comes and destroys his shelter leaving him feeling sick and wishing to die. The chapter then goes on with the profound message from the Lord reminding Jonah, that he himself did not plant the bush and therefore had no control over what happened to it. He also points out to him that he, the creator, has a concern for the people of this vast city and their animals rather than wanting to wipe them off the face of the earth. We do not have any words of reply from Jonah but he is truly rebuked as the writer comes to the end of the narrative.
In many ways this chapter is the one which is perhaps the most profound in its teaching for modern readers. Sometimes we and our fellow believers work extremely hard to bring about change in a situation, sometimes far away. We have people in our prayers, as well as providing them with what they need to survive. We hope that they will learn to love God in the way we do. We watch waiting for them to prosper but it would seem nothing changes, despite our impatience for it to happen. As we come to the end of the book we can perhaps see a story with a beginning and a prophet who does the will of God but is disappointed at the result. Perhaps there is a message for us all.
- Have you ever seen a situation you knew was destructive to the people and the nation involved, and prayed hard, and then saw that the outcome was the opposite to what you hoped? What do you make of that?
- In our personal lives do we often pray for a solution which will make us feel comfortable and able to see the light through the darkness, and find a result that seemingly does the opposite?
- Does the Book of Jonah have anything to say to us in our modern times?
Lord, as we consider the story of your prophet Jonah, help us to hear your voice in our own place and times and fulfil what and who you would have us be. Give us the strength we need to be people of love, first of all loving you with all our hearts and minds and strength and then loving our neighbours, whoever those neighbours should be, as we ourselves would wish to be loved. Amen.