Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” Jonah 4:5-11
Let’s do an imaginative exercise today. If you don’t view yourself as a very creative or imaginative person, no problem. Let me paint the scene for you. Imagine Jonah going out of the city and sitting in the dust and the dirt. He then begins to construct a shelter for himself – what’s it made out of? Wood? Branches? Some other material? Now imagine a plant growing instantaneously to be tall enough and large enough to give the pouting prophet some shade. What must have that been like to witness the growth of a plant that large within a less than 24 hour period? Think about Jonah’s response to the plant, how glad he was for the provision of comfort. Now, picture night falling and the sun rising the next day. With the new day comes a completely opposite experience for Jonah. Destruction rather than comfort. A gnawing little worm to destroy the plant. Picture this scene and Jonah’s reaction to it. As if that disappointment isn’t enough, think about what it would have been like for Jonah to have a scorching wind beating against him as well as a sun so strong it sapped his strength. These situations combined with Jonah’s inner turmoil over God’s treatment of the Ninevites leads Jonah to desire death. He wishes for an escape from the reality of his circumstances and the reality of the character of God.
Now, take a few moments and relate this scene to your own life. What could be compared to a plant in your set of circumstances? What seems comforting? What are you treasuring right now? What would it feel like to have it suddenly taken away? What could be compared to a worm in your life right now? What feels like it is eating away at your happiness, your comfort? What is your stance toward that “worm”? How about the howling wind and the beating sun – can you relate these to any circumstances in your own life? As you ponder these questions ask yourself how similar or different your reaction is to Jonah’s. Pause for the Holy Spirit to speak to you and direct your heart into repentance of any anger or jealousy or fear or bitterness. Call out to Jesus to speak life to you and bring you out of destruction and into gratitude and peace.
By Ellen Rosenberger