|But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" |
"I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."
10 But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" (Jonah4:9-11)
Jonah's still fuming over Nineveh's reprieve, the demise of a vine that should never have grown in the desert anyway and a God who loves outside the box and paints outside the lines.
Do remember as kids we were taught to colour or paint inside the lines? (Maybe Jonah's teachers were too strict and this is where all his issues came from...)
God's love goes outside the lines of race, culture and history.
Jonah doesn't get it.
God's concluding question is one of the most beautiful pictures of the heart of God:
- 120,000 clueless people
- and many cattle as well
This is the beautiful contrast that Jonah's story offers us:
Jonah wants to colour inside the lines of strict kosher Judaism.
God colours outside the lines.
Jonah understands the theology:
"I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."
But he doesn't get it in practice.
And so God asks: "Should I not be concerned...???"
It's a no-brainer question. And it's left hanging.
We don't know what Jonah answered!!
But maybe that's the point...
I mentioned yesterday that the only person who could recount what happened in the fish-belly and in the desert under the vine is Jonah himself. We could only have this story because Jonah told it. The telling of it doesn't leave a flattering picture of Jonah and I can only hope that the "pouting prophet" came to a place of recognising his pride, anger and elitism (it's more than racism) and decided to tell his story - warts and all - as way of shocking stubborn Israelites out of their arrogant pride.
The conclusion leaves the book open-ended because the question still hangs there for us today: What do we believe about God's love?
Jonah's story is a powerful appeal to us to understand that God's love "paints outside the lines" and that grace is available to us all, no matter what we have done.
When we are paralysed by elitist pride, religious arrogance and a terminal "holier-than-thou" attitude, God's question comes to us:
Who are your Ninevites?
Who would you like God to zap?
What happens in your soul when you realise that He is concerned about them?
I hope you've enjoyed the series on Jonah.
October is Missions Month in the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa and so, starting tomorrow, there are 31 different ministers writing devotions on this theme. I believe it will be an exciting journey.