Finally, (maybe), the conclusion to this saga: “The Prophet And The Plant”. Sounds a little bit like a Disney movie, does it not?
I hope you’ve caught the main theme of the story throughout this series. To this point, it has been all about repentance. Think about it: Jonah disobeys, Jonah repents, Jonah goes to Ninevah, Nineveh repents, God sees their change, God repents of the evil he had intended against them. It’s about repentance from the first, unfortunately, the theme of repentance ends in Nineveh.
So, Jonah wanders around the city of Nineveh for forty day, stinking like a fish’s stomach and looking like he’s been to hell and back. I imagine the digestive juices of the whale were not the greatest things for Jonah’s skin. He probably looked like a monster walking around the city and proclaiming, “Thus saith the Lord, turn and repent or in 40 days your city shall be destroyed.”
The King of Nineveh hears of Jonah and his message and immediately calls the city to a state of fasting and praying. God sees the hearts of the people, that they are sorry for what they have done and he forgives them. Now, this was not Jonah’s plan for how things would turn out. Even after God gave him a second chance Jonah was still unwilling to give a second chance to Nineveh.
When all Nineveh repented, Jonah cried out to God with his great, “I told you so.” Jonah says:
And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
He begins to point his finger at God saying, “I told you. This is exactly what I said would happen when I was in Gath Hepher before I fled to Tarshish. I knew you would forgive them. I knew you would give them a second chance!” Jonah is getting angry with God because he still believed that he was right, that Nineveh should not have been forgiven. So, Go responds with a simple question.
Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
I believe God likes asking question that He knows we can’t answer. Question that cause us to examine ourselves and realize that we are wrong and He is right.
Now, even though God has forgiven the Ninevites, Jonah still thinks they will be destroyed, so he leaves the city and finds a vantage point from the east side of the Nineveh to watch its destruction. He still had no forgiveness in his heart even after his time in the whale.
Yet, God still has pity on Jonah and causes a plant to grow over Jonah, shielding him from the sun. The scriptures say that Jonah was exceeding glad of the plant. But, in the morning of the next day, God prepared a worm to smite the plant, (to eat it), that the plant would wither and die. And when the sun came up, God sent an vehement east wind and the sun beat down on Jonah so that he fainted, wishing he was dead.
Jonah said, “it is better for me to die than to live.”
Then God asked him again, “doest thou well to be angry for the plant?”
Jonah replied, “I do well to be angry, even into death.” Here we see his pride breaking through, he couldn’t admit he was wrong even in defeat.
Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
Jonah was so self-centered, so engrossed with his will and his form of justice that he couldn’t see the plain truth of mercy and grace. This is the reason why I believe Jonah was only given to prophesies to perform. He was not only an unworthy prophet, (for no one is worthy to speak God’s words), but he was disobedient to the end. He loved his pride too much, and he allowed himself, rather he chose to be blind to the truth.
Jonah’s story is written by the man himself, but in third person, probably long after the fact. The reason I think that he wrote his book much later after the events of Nineveh, is because of how he ended it. God had the last word, there was never a reckoning in the end with Jonah’s pride and hate. He may never have completely given them up. That is why I said the the theme of repentance ended in this part of the story, Jonah’s heart was the final item to be reckoned with. There was not a repentance that occurred in Jonah’s heart; to the end he held on to his innsecurity and his anger.
That is why I find that his story is not only compelling, but it is also very thought provoking for me. It causes me to make and interospective perusal of my life and examine my heart. Do I want to be like Jonah, and wait until it’s too late to make things write, leaving me with only a pen and parchment to detail my failures? Or do I let go of my pride, my hatred, and my selfishness to follow him and simply obey.
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist