But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.Matthew 20:15). He prefers his own conceited credit and esteem before the lives and beings of six score thousand persons. All God's denunciations against sinners are to be understood with a clause of reservation. He always excepts this ease — if the sinner repent. If he forsake his iniquity he shall surely live. That which makes the wonder the greater is that Jonah, whom we find in this distemper, is of all the prophets the type of Christ. In his temper and disposition he is no type of Christ. That temper admits of no apology.
1. Nothing is more unreasonable in itself.
2. Nothing is worse for Jonah himself, and the whole world besides him. For what would become of us all if there were no place for repentance? And how should Jonah himself be pardonable for his present distemper if God should not allow place for repentance?
3. Nothing is more unnatural in respect of his office as a prophet. Was it not his very work to promote repentance and reformation among sinners?
4. Nothing worse can be put upon God than to be represented as implacable and irreconcilable.
5. And this would render men hopeless and desperate in the world. This is not the first distemper that we find Jonah in. At first we find him in great refractoriness and disobedience. Then we find him stupid and senseless, and more blockish than the idolatrous mariners. Then we find him in a case of desperate insolency. For we have no reason to think his wish to be cast into the sea came from the greatness of his faith. Then we find him in a state that is unnatural, barbarous, and inhumane; for he desired the destruction of others just to save his own reputation. All these distempers are aggravated by his late deliverance in the belly of the whale. Moreover, he is not overcome by the declaration of the reason of things, when it comes out of the mouth of God Himself. The story leaves Jonah without any account of his returning to himself, and to a due temper.
1. Learn to consider in how sad and forlorn a condition we are, if God be not for us and with us.
2. How sin multiplies and grows upon us if once we fall into a distemper.
3. Notice the great danger of selfishness.
4. Let this be for caution and admonition. Persons acquainted with religion, if once out of the way of reason and conscience, prove more exorbitant than others. What great care a man should take to preserve his innocence and integrity! For our better security let us consider —
(1) (2) 1. That our mind be in a praying temper. 2. That we offer to God in sacrifice prayer-matter.Consider the person with whom Jonah is displeased. None other than God Himself. Consider the cause of his offence. He is offended with God's goodness, and with sinners' repentance. He is offended that repentance takes effect. See, then, that you keep out of passion, if you would not shamefully miscarry. Remember your own weakness and infirmity, and be modest and humble. Let us preserve our innocence, and beware of running into such heat of temper and mind. Take care of selfishness and narrowness of spirit. (B. Whichcote.)
(2) 1. That our mind be in a praying temper. 2. That we offer to God in sacrifice prayer-matter.Consider the person with whom Jonah is displeased. None other than God Himself. Consider the cause of his offence. He is offended with God's goodness, and with sinners' repentance. He is offended that repentance takes effect. See, then, that you keep out of passion, if you would not shamefully miscarry. Remember your own weakness and infirmity, and be modest and humble. Let us preserve our innocence, and beware of running into such heat of temper and mind. Take care of selfishness and narrowness of spirit. (B. Whichcote.)
1. That our mind be in a praying temper.
2. That we offer to God in sacrifice prayer-matter.Consider the person with whom Jonah is displeased. None other than God Himself. Consider the cause of his offence. He is offended with God's goodness, and with sinners' repentance. He is offended that repentance takes effect. See, then, that you keep out of passion, if you would not shamefully miscarry. Remember your own weakness and infirmity, and be modest and humble. Let us preserve our innocence, and beware of running into such heat of temper and mind. Take care of selfishness and narrowness of spirit.
1. Beware of a spirit of selfishness.
2. Beware of the peril of approaching your Creator in a peevish and discontented mood.
3. Rejoice that under the Gospel the true efficacy of repentance has been explained to you. You know how and why it can be effective.
(W. H. Marriott.)
I. JONAH'S SELFISHNESS. Selfishness is one of the last evils that is rooted out of the nature of man, and it is hardly possible to limit the extent of the evil that selfishness works in us; it is the great hinderer of good. Selfishness is at the root of that exceeding anxiety lest our fellow-men should undervalue us. The great fear on the part of Jonah was lest his dignity should suffer by the repentance of the Ninevites, and lest, therefore, he should lose his character as prophet, and should be spoken of as an utterer of falsehoods. We see connected with it a slight estimation of the life and comfort of others. Thus the selfish man is continually violating the spirit of the second table of the law. We find selfishness existing in a very prominent way whenever men are found to be murmuring at God's will, if that will is opposed to their own.
II. THE LORD'S LESSON TO HIM. Now Jonah was disposed to show the same rebellious spirit as before, in objecting to the manner in which God was dealing with Nineveh. In dealing with him, God gave him comfort to prevent his suffering, and then removed the comfort. God thus deals with us constantly. We all need to be taught that creature comforts are but vanities, and that our only real comfort and consolation is in the Lord Himself.
III. GOD'S UNCHANGEABLE LOVE. We might have expected that such a man as Jonah God would have chastised and banished from His presence. What condescension we can see in His dealings with him! What a contrast between Jonah's selfishness and God's love.
(Montagu Villiers, M. A.)
I. THE ORDER OF JONAH IS THE TYPE OF UNRIGHTEOUS PASSION. Its sin consisted in —
1. Its selfish nature. It was his own honour he feared for, not the glory of God.
2. Its unjust character. He would have had God repudiate His justice and mercy and love to gratify a sinful prophet.
3. Its uncharitable folly. It was vindictive. It was not against the evil, but the good.
II. THE ANGER OF CHRIST AS A TYPE OF RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION. "He looked round about on them in anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." Contrasting it with Jonah's, observe the following points.
1. It was sinless.
2. It was just.
3. It was merciful.Severity is no token of hatred. Kingsley says: "The highest reason should tell us that there must be indignation in God so long as there is evil in the universe." Hazlett says: "Good-natured people there are amongst the worst people in the world. They leave others to bear the burden of indignation and correction."
I. JONAH'S BAD TEMPER WAS SHOWN BY THE WAY IN WHICH HE DISPUTED WITH GOD. Jonah was neither willing to leave to God the results of his mission to Nineveh, nor ready even to go to that city. When God asks for that implicit obedience to which He has a right, He does not make an unreasonable demand. Some seem to think they display a human and rightful prerogative when they question God's ways and authority, forgetting that by a thousand ties we are bound to accede to the Divine wishes, and that our wills are never in a more normal condition than when they are subjected to the One who never errs. "Our wills are ours to make them Thine," said Tennyson, and when they will not be subservient to God a curse is pronounced upon them such as that uttered by Isaiah when he exclaimed, "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker" — the woe of a conscience ill at ease, of a soul insensitive to the Divine love, and a heart shut out from that blessed communion which is accorded to those in harmony with God. And this penalty fell upon Jonah when he argued and disputed with God, who had an absolute claim to an unquestioned obedience.
II. THIS BAD TEMPER NARROWED JONAH'S VISION AND OUTLOOK, Intensely national, patriotic, and partisan, he could not see why Jehovah should display His saving mercy to another nation, and that so wicked as Nineveh, when He had made Israel His chosen, and the sole depositary of His will. Why take the children's bread and give it to dogs? Was not salvation of the Jews? He was against a missionary Gospel, just as the Pharisees objected to the Gospel being proclaimed to the publicans and sinners; and as Peter was opposed to opening the door to the Gentiles, but about which his eyes were opened when he saw the sheet let down from heaven, and was sent to the house of the devout Cornelius. Believing that God is a gracious God, slow to anger, and repents of the evil when He sees a heart contrite and penitent, Jonah, like the elder son of the parable, was angry when he saw there was a possibility of the Ninevites being saved from destruction. Oh, how passion will narrow one's vision! Scarcely anything will as surely exclude a wide, impartial, and generous view of things. Just as it is said that a frightened horse can see little and becomes almost blind, so an irritable temper will narrow the creed and sour the life. Just notice the way which God took to enlarge Jonah's vision and soften and mollify his disposition. Sorry for the gourd? Yes, though it was but a plant, but not sorry for the souls against whom he had cried, that they should be overthrown and destroyed, nor was he glad when they repented. What a lesson! Men grieve over the loss of property, but not over the loss of souls. They repent over the loss of a cargo, the burning of a house, or destruction of a church, but, how pitiable! there is so little anxiety for the eternal loss of that which is beyond the price of rubies, so that to-day many a man can say truly, "No man careth for my soul."
III. MOREOVER, JONAH'S ILL-TEMPER DIMINISHED HIS AFFECTION AND LOVE FOR HIS FELLOW-MEN. We draw artificial distinctions of soul values, by esteeming the soul of an educated, wealthy, and refined person of more value than that of the downtrodden and humanly forsaken one. But to such a man as Jonah, the prophet of God, or to any Christian worker, no such distinction should be made. And no such discrimination will be made if the right temper possesses the Christian. We must learn to love men, love them broadly, largely, comprehensively. But you say there is nothing lovable in the vast majority of men. Even so; yet, Christian workers, you must love men, for there is no other force that will carry you through, and inspire you to the accomplishment of your mission.
IV. THROUGH THIS ILL-TEMPER JONAH FAILED TO KEEP DUE AND NECESSARY CONTROL OF HIMSELF. "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city." Our trouble is not in having strong, impetuous, fiery, passionate natures, Who can measure the fire and passion in such natures as Luther, Whitefield, Spurgeon, or Moody? They were volcanoes, Niagaras of passion, but made serviceable to God and humanity. "What a waste of power," said Edison, as he looked at the most magnificent falls in the world; and when I see deep, strong, fiery natures spending their vitality in petulant anger as did Jonah, I feel like saying, "What a waste of power." Bring the stream and electricity of your nature, and harness it in the service of God. It is little that the manufacturer cares for a small trickling stream running through the meadows, but he does value a torrent that leaps from rock to rock, and crag to crag, and rushes with furious energy through the valley. Smother your passion, crush your anger, quell your wrath? No; pour them out upon sin. Let them come down upon evil in high and low places, and switch them on to the waggons on the King's highway. "He was very angry." Is it unusual for the soul to be angry with God? Here is a man to whom God gave a child which was deformed in body, defective in mind, and an object of care day and night, which was freely given by a loving mother. Some years, after another child was given, handsome, plump, and the pink of perfection; but, strange to say, in a short time it was taken, and folded in the bosom of a safe keeping God. Far from saying "Thy will be done," a spirit of petulance arose in the father's bosom, in which he denied the existence of God, and turned his back upon love and hope, running a swift course to business ruin and moral failure. "He was very angry." Shame! Pity! Keep the fiery steed in hand; or, better still, give God the reins.
V. THIS BAD TEMPER UNFITTED HIM TO PASS INTO THE PRESENCE OF HIS MAKER. Jonah was not backward in talking about dying. "O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live," and when the sun's rays beat upon his head he wished in himself to die, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live." Angry people are apt to wish they were dead, for when the fog of passion and disappointment weighs upon the spirit the ill-tempered man speaks unadvisedly with his lips. Is a man fit to die in such a temper as this?
(T. M. Fothergill.)
I. THE NATURE OF JONAH'S DISPLEASURE MAY EASILY BE MISUNDERSTOOD. There are two kinds of displeasure. One is wrath, the other is grief. The word used of Jonah may mean either angry or distressed. Perhaps grieved is the proper idea here. Notice the impotence of mere external experience in relation to a person's inward disposition. Jonah had passed through trying experiences, yet he was the same man.
II. THE INTENSITY OF JONAH'S DISPLEASURE. "Exceedingly, and he was very grieved." It was deep distress in the prospect of calamity to his own country. Sparing Nineveh involved the future destruction of Israel. The prophet may have foreseen this. No doubt the destruction of an impenitent heathen community would not have appeared to Jonah so terrible as such a thing must appear to ourselves. And if Jonah was grieved at the escape of the Ninevites from death, he was himself anxious to die. He did not desire a worse fate for them than for himself. Of some men it is said, "their bark is worse than their bite," and Jonah might have been one of these men.
III. THE EXTREME DISTRESS OF JONAH FOUND EXPRESSION IN PRAYER.
1. The prayer contains a reference to a former saying of the prophet himself.
2. The prayer contains an account of his flight.
3. It contains an account of Jonah's conviction concerning the Divine character. He knew that the Lord is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness.
4. It contains a petition on the prophet's part for death. An unbecoming, as well as unusual, prayer; but the petition of a noble-minded man. He knew the sanctity of his own life too well to commit suicide. The prayer was caused by his despondency in relation to the cause of God.
(Samuel Clift Burn.)
Jonah's threatenings, and not those of the Most High, when he said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed." Having put himself in the place of God, he vainly concluded that his own credit was concerned in the execution of the threatened judgment. But whosoever exalteth himself, though it be in the exercise of even a Divine commission, shall be humbled; — and the sooner he is effectually humbled, the better for himself. With respect to the Divine veracity, the vindication of that may safely be left in His hands whose "word is truth." As for the credit of His ministers, it is, indeed, a very light matter; but that, too, may be committed to Him who has the hearts of all men in His hands, and who has said, "Them that honour Me, I will honour."
(Matthew M. Preston, M. A.)
1. Extreme selfishness. There is no principle in fallen man that does so much mischief in the world as that of selfishness; none dishonours God more; none produces so much injury to mankind; it prevents more good, and produces more evil, than any other temper of mind. Indeed, every sin and every suffering seem to have their origin in selfishness, and to proceed from it in one way or another. Selfishness is sin essentially. Self is the fountain of evil, and all sorts of sins are but as so many streams that issue from it. What is self-will? It is a contest between man and his God who is to have his way. What is the real cause of so much discontent and restlessness in the minds of men? It is striving with God whose will is to be done.
2. Jonah was a very peevish, quarrelsome, and fretful man. He retains his unhappy temper of mind wherever he goes, and however he is treated. Whether you strike or stroke him, he snarls. Guard against this miserable temper of mind which must be painful to one's self, disagreeable to others, and offensive to God. Learn that this peevish, fretful, and discontented temper is a stubborn sin, difficult to subdue, and a disease which is seldom cured.
3. Jonah betrays the greatest ingratitude to his kind, indulgent God. Not one expression of thankfulness do we hear from him. He is sullen and silent, full of anger and displeasure. The ungrateful man has a bad soul, unhappy in himself, and disagreeable to others; he enjoys nothing of what he possesses, let him possess ever so much. Possession and enjoyment are distinct things. True and lively gratitude is one of the most amiable and pleasing of all dispositions. May our wills be swallowed up in the will of God; may our spirits be satisfied with all that God does; and may our hearts be thankful for all His gifts, which are numerous, free, precious, constant, and eternal!
And he prayed unto the Lord, and said.
(Samuel Cox, D. D.)
It is better for me to die than to live.? —Jonah's mission, though in some respects strange and terrible, was one of mercy, to lead the Ninevites to repentance; and Jonah knew this from the first. The Lord could have found another messenger, but He had chosen this man for His purpose; so He brought him back, and commanded him for the second time to go to Nineveh, and "cry the cry that I bid thee." The mercy shown to Nineveh displeased Jonah exceedingly, and made him very angry. It was not merely that he seemed to be discredited by the issue, and made a fool of, but he was vexed and chagrined at what took place, and boded no good from it. He would have let the doom fall without a warning. As Jonah sat in his booth there is still some lingering hope in his mind that the threatened overthrow may yet take place. He shows no sign of brotherly-kindness; he does not sympathise with the Divine philanthropy that has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. And so, when mercy rejoiceth against judgment, he thinks it well to be angry, even unto death. He counts that for him "it is better to die than to live." It is the fretting of a wounded and disappointed spirit. His words bring up a question that has been asked again and again — Is life worth living? The question is a vague one, and really covers a wide diversity both of meanings and mental moods. Life is very different to different men. The problem of life will be viewed differently by men according to their different standing-point. We must find some standing-point which does not shift with the century, or with the changing conditions under which we pass. Such is furnished us by the revelation of God's purpose of grace in Christ Jesus. What we see in Christ is the very life which is the gift of God for man's possession. If we would only cease trying to fit theological notions into a perfect system, and set ourselves to view this revelation of God's gracious purpose, the problem of life would be wonderfully cleared and simplified.
(J. Culros, D. D.)
Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE, AND THE TEMPER OF THE PROPHET UNDER THEM. Jonah was displeased exceedingly because God had accepted the repentance of Nineveh; that He exercised mercy, and turned away His wrath from that numerous people. We cannot acquit him of much that was wrong on this occasion. He was off his guard. He was greatly influenced by a proud and rebellious spirit. Henry observes of his prayer, — It is a very awkward prayer. Indeed, what could we expect from a man agitated with such a temper? How unhallowed is the petition, "Now, O Lord, take, I beseech Thee, my life from me." We cannot but notice the long-suffering goodness of God, the tenderness of Divine compassion, in the expostulation with Jonah.
II. THE TEMPER OF THE PROPHET WAS EXTREMELY CENSURABLE. Is anger, then, in no case allowable? It may be directed against sin, in ourselves or in others. It was not allowable in Jonah. Every emotion of displeasure with the dispensations of God is extremely censurable; for —
1. Each of them is just.
2. Most of them are merciful.
3. All of them work together for good.Then, "in your patience possess ye your souls." Self-possession is a great and most desirable attainment.
1. That in the end God's purpose of grace in the salvation of sinners will be justified.
2. Want of sympathy with God's purpose of grace and salvation to sinners is a common sin.
3. This want of sympathy betrays itself, in selfishness like Jonah's, in self-seeking, self-pleasing, self-indulgence.
4. God is still rebuking this sin of selfishness, or want of sympathy, as He rebuked Jonah here, both in His Word, and in His providence.
I. THE REASON OF JONAH'S PETULANCE. Why was Jonah angry? The highest and noblest success of preaching is in its constructive and saving effects, not in its destructive results. But Jonah thought otherwise. To him destruction meant success, but salvation he thought failure.
II. THE RESORT. Whither did he flee in his petulant fit? "Unto the Lord." Can a man in a passion pray? Jonah's prayer was a perverted privilege. He made it the medium of access to God for self-vindication and Divine vituperation. This is the first attempt at excusing himself for going to Tarshish. The greatness of God's mercy was his present grievance. Jonah's prayer closed with —
III. A REQUEST. It was as unreasonable as it was unjustifiable. Self-will prompted it, and peevishness uttered it. "My reputation as a truth-speaking prophet will be slain, therefore I prefer being slain myself." What cowards disappointed expectations make us.
IV. PETULANCE DIVINELY QUESTIONED. The question has a sting which enters deeply into Jonah's soul. Physicians probe wounds before they heal them. Temper is the shadow of the tempter.
V. PETULANCE IN RETIREMENT. Temper generally seeks solitude when its tide is ebbing. Sulks like to mope by themselves in seclusion.
VI. PETULANCE SUBJECTING JONAH TO INCONVENIENCES. Petulance is the parent of manifold discomforts — physical, mental, social, moral, ecclesiastical. It is the multiplier of life's sorrows, the inventor of ghostly troubles, the despotic subjector to manifold inconveniences.
VII. PETULANCE UNDER DIVINE SYMBOLIC CORRECTION. The gourd is to be the means of physical amelioration, and then the medium of symbolic spiritual correction. Jonah learned this lesson. If the perishing of a mere gourd was a source of great grief to him, how infinitely more painful to God would be the destruction of multitudes of intelligent beings.
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)
(T. T. Carter.)
1. There is a feeling to which we give the name of moral indignation. We thus distinguish it from other kinds of anger, more or less selfish and self-asserting, such as anger at an inconvenience, at a slight, at a disappointment, or even at a providence. Of this kind are all those broodings over the superior advantage or happiness of other ranks or other people, over the circumstances of the station or the education or the success in life, over the events which make a home dreary, or over the natural temperament which makes a heart gloomy, or over the peculiar predispositions and tendencies which make it doubly difficult to be good, — all of which, when thoroughly sifted, are a "replying against God." Moral indignation is characterised chiefly by this, that it is quite unselfish. It is the feeling that rises in the breast of a man on seeing the ill-treatment of an animal, a child, or a woman. To stand by and see these things without remonstrance or without interference is no forbearance: it is cowardice, it is unmanliness, it is sin. In such cases to be angry is a virtue. It is a higher exercise of the same virtuous indignation, to feel where it does not see — where it only reflects and meditates upon the misery and the wickedness and the living death which hangs so heavily and so hopelessly upon the world.
2. There is place also for anger, not only in the contemplation of wrong, but in the personal experience of temptation. There is aa indignation, even a resentment, even a rage and fury, which may be employed without offence to the Gospel, in repelling assaults upon our peace and virtue. "Be ye angry and sin not" has often been exemplified, in its truth and power, in the experience of the man, young or old, who would none of the tempter's enticements, or of the companionship of the profligate.
3. There is a place for moral indignation in connection with the great personal tempter.
(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
So Jonah went out of the city.
I. JONAH'S DISPLEASURE. He went out, and sat on the east of the city. He made himself a booth, a mere hut of branches. There he sat and watched the city to see what would become of it. tie had hoped, perhaps, that fire would come from heaven and destroy Nineveh, as Sodom was destroyed of old. But no such hope was to be realised. The fortieth day arrived, and no destruction took place. Why was Jonah so displeased at this grand exercise of God's mercy, at this triumph of mercy over judgment? In some measure it may be accounted for on natural causes. He may have been experiencing that depression of spirit which is the natural result of physical weakness, produced by bodily or mental toil. Mistaken zeal for God may also in part account for the prophet's displeasure. He may have fancied that the Ninevites were not in a fit state to appreciate mercy. Personal pride also had some share in it. It is hard for a man, even when a prophet of God, to forget himself in doing God's work. He was afraid that the Ninevites would despise him as a prophet of lies. A more satisfactory reason than these must be found. Jonah's displeasure resulted from the fact that his exclusive love for his own country and his own people caused him to have no sympathy with this extension of God's mercy to a Gentile people. To his way of thinking, Nineveh's. being spared, was like the strengthening and prospering, of his country's greatest enemy. Taking such a view of the case, he had no sympathy whatever with God s mercy being extended to them. In God s dealings with Nineveh there was a glorious revelation of many mercies yet in store for the Gentiles. If Jonah saw that vision, that "first fruits" of mercy to the Gentiles, he turned away from the sight and shut his eyes. It did not agree with another vision, a picture of his own fancy — the lasting greatness of the Jewish people as the exclusive people of God. Jonah came to a better mind afterwards. His heart was enlarged, and his sympathies widened, when God spoke to him. It was then that he wrote this story.
II. GOD'S PLEA IN VINDICATION OF HIS SPARING MERCY. There is something wonderful in this condescension on God's part to argue with the prophet and to justify Himself. He shows him the folly and the wrongness of his displeasure. But He has to prepare Jonah's mind first of all.
1. He begins by taking away Jonah's displeasure. An angry man cannot look all round a question; he takes a one-sided view, and keeps to that. And Jonah, before he can see the full meaning of God's mercy, must become calm, and rid himself of all his vexation. This God did when He prepared the "gourd," and caused it to overshadow the prophet. This plant is of exceedingly quick growth. It is chiefly remarkable for its leaves. Only one leaf grows on a branch, but, being large, sometimes measuring more than a foot, and spread out in the shape of an open hand, their collective shade would afford excellent shelter from the heat of the sun. There was nothing miraculous in the fact of this plant springing up beside Jonah's resting-place, but if the words be taken literally, the development of the plant so quickly is certainly miraculous. The Ruler of nature is here working, not contrary to, but in harmony with, and yet above, natural law. Under the shelter of this plant Jonah's spirits revive, displeasure vanishes, and he who yesterday was exceedingly displeased is now found "exceeding glad." Jonah is now in a better state of mind to listen to God.
2. But God has something more to do before He speaks to Jonah. Comfort is to be followed again by discomfort. The gourd withers, and a "vehement east wind" arises. This was not as our east winds. It was the sultry and oppressive wind which blows in the summer months across the vast Arabian desert, and produces universal languor and relaxation. Thus exposed, the prophet sinks down into weariness and languor. Sorrow comes over him, and he longs to die. Now the voice of God comes to him. "Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?" Let us have a clear idea of the point on which God's argument turns. It is neither the gourd nor the worm that God lays hold of in His plea, but Jonah's sorrow for the gourd. The gourd was a loss to the man, for which he grieved. But it was more and better than a selfish regret. Man has a sympathy with all life, not only in the animal, but also in the vegetable world. Jonah pitied the gourd, with its short life. Then came further sublime Divine pleadings. In the light of heaven Jonah now sees his unreasonableness. All his fault lay in not allowing God to have the same sympathies as he had himself. What was a gourd compared with the great city of Nineveh? Yet Jonah pitied the one, and was angry because God had pity upon the other; Jonah was all wrong, and he sees it now and is silent. Silently and in shame he rises and goes home to his country and to his people, to tell them how wrong he was, that they might know how right God was.
And the Lord God prepared a gourd.possible in miracles, we may remark that there is an economical propriety in selecting this vine rather than any other, and for several reasons. It is very commonly used for trailing over temporary arbours. It grows with extraordinary rapidity. In a few days after it has fairly begun to run the whole arbour is covered. It forms a shade absolutely impenetrable to the sun's rays, even at noonday. It flourishes best in the very hottest part of summer; and, lastly, when injured or cut, it withers away with equal rapidity. In selecting the gourd, therefore, there is not only an adherence to verisimilitude, which is always becoming, but there is also an economy, if we may so speak, in the expenditure of miraculous agency. The question is not about power at all. The same God who caused the gourd to grow in a night could make a cedar do so likewise; but this would be a wide departure from the general method of miraculous interposition, which is to employ it no further than is necessary to secure the result required. Is there any reason to suppose that, after all, it was not a gourd, but some other plant — that of the castor-bean, for example, as many learned critics have concluded? Orientals never dream of training a castor-oil plant over a booth, or planting it for a shade, and they would have but small respect for any one who did. It is in no way adapted for that purpose, while thousands of arbours are covered with various creepers of the general gourd family. As to ancient translations, the Septuagint gives colocynth, a general name for gourd; and the Vulgate, castor-bean.
(Thomson's "Land and Book.")
1. That all our comforts, small and great, come from God.
2. As our comforts, so also do our trials, come from God.
3. Every gourd of earth, every enjoyment here, has a worm at its root.
4. There is a plant, better than any gourd of earth, under the shadow of which we may live in peace and die in hope.That plant is Christ.
(E. Blencowe, M. A.)
1. A spirit once broken and embittered with troubles is easily grieved and stirred up.
2. The Lord, in healing the infirmities of His people, uses first to lance their sores, and discover more of their putrefaction, before He apply any healing plasters; there. fore is Jonah's passion more kindled ere the former distemper be healed.
3. God in His holy providence may ensnare men who are wilfully given to passions, with more occasions to vent more of their corruptions.
4. From this sending of the gourd and the worm, and the effects of it in Jonah, we may see —(1) The vanity of all earthly delights, in that they all carry a worm of instability in their root, which in short time will turn upside down all the expectations which men have from them.(2) Much delight in earthly contentments is ordinarily a fore runner of much sorrow in their removal.(3) Passion given way unto will soon turn men furious and absurd. So little are men themselves in their passions.
I. NOT TO PRIZE EARTHLY COMFORTS TOO HIGHLY. Jonah finds comfort in life only from the gourd which God had suffered to grow up. Improve this.
1. Let us remember that all our comforts spring but from the earth.
2. Earthly comforts are only gourds; they rise up suddenly, and aa suddenly decay.
3. Earthly comforts have a worm at their root. They carry in themselves the seeds of their own dissolution. The very means by which we are supported in life have in them the seeds of disease, decay, and death.
4. Earthly comforts are short in their duration. As they rose like the gourd, so, like that, they may wither in a night.
II. NOT TO BE GRIEVED OVERMUCH AT THE REMOVAL OF EARTHLY BLESSINGS.
1. Consider their real character.
2. We should believe that there is much wisdom and mercy in their removal.
3. Remember that God can either restore these things to us, or give us better in their stead.
4. We should look forward to a better and more enduring substance.
III. LEARN FROM OUR OWN TROUBLES TO FEEL FOR OTHERS.
1. Learn to pity those who have not such comforts as we have.
2. To mourn on account of those who are losing their souls. Let the people of God seek resignation to His will.
I. EMBLEM OF MAN'S EARTHLY GOOD. The gourd represents this. It was like it in its development, its decay, and its destruction. It came out of the earth. It came out by Divine agency. The decaying agent was mean. The decay was prompt. The work was done in secret.
II. EMBLEM OF GOD'S DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE.
1. God disciplines man by facts.
2. These facts are varied in their character.
3. These facts are adapted to their end. Learn —
(1) (2) (Preacher's Finger-post.)
(2) (Preacher's Finger-post.)
I. THE SPRINGING UP OF THIS GOURD. This took place under very remarkable and truly affecting circumstances.
1. Learn that a gracious God sometimes visits us with mercies when we have reason to expect judgments. Rage drives Jonah out of Nineveh into the scorching heat of an eastern sun, and there, while he is quarrelling with God and asking for death, springs up suddenly a wide-spreading plant to shelter and comfort him. In seasons like these faith is weak, and a compassionate God stoops to its weakness. He gives the soul sensible indications of His love, recalls it to its duty and happiness, by mercies which it can feel and understand.
2. There is no want of His servants too small for God to notice, and no suffering too light for Him to relieve. Jonah's worthless head is as much an object of His concern as Jonah's guilty soul. In no point do we mistake more than in this. "This matter," we say, "is too contemptible to be taken to God." We limit, we dishonour God when we say, "This is too small for Him." The care He invites us to roll on Him is, all our care.
3. The Lord often reveals His greatness by the mode in which He imparts comfort and manifests compassion. Refer to those dispensations of Providence, those unexpected deliverances, and blessings and comforts which every servant of God occasionally experiences: things occurring so that he must be blind who does not see in them the Divine hand. We have not to run after goodness and mercy.
II. THE EFFECT PRODUCED ON THE PROPHET'S MIND BY THIS INTER-POSITION OF GOD ON HIS BEHALF. Jonah rejoiced in the gourd with great joy
1. Well may we wonder at the folly of that heart which could take so much pleasure in so mean a thing; but there is still greater reason to wonder at its amazing selfishness. This history is like a libel on human nature.
2. The ingratitude of the human heart. We too have often' forgotten God in the comforts He has given us. Those very comforts have been the causes of our forgetting Him. They have separated between Christ and our soul.
III. THE WITHERING OF THIS OVERVALUED GOURD.
1. All earthly comforts are short-lived; they are frail and perishing. They often die while we are rejoicing in them.
2. The comfort that most delights us is generally the first to perish. The mercies we lose the soonest are those we love the best. This is the testimony of fact.
3. Our comforts are often taken from us when they appear to be the most needed. Our prop gives way when we are the weakest. The gourd withers in the morning, just when the sun is beginning to scorch.
4. Our comforts often perish from unforeseen and very inconsiderable causes. A trifle — a worm — destroys them. Such is the history of this miraculous plant — it sprang up, it gave delight, it brought into sight the baseness of the human heart, and then it withered. Is not this the history of every comfort the earth yields? It speaks to us all. It bids us care less about a passing world. It calls us to seek after that refuge and comfort of which no creature, either small or great, can rob us. Is there such a refuge? Yes. It is in Christ Jesus, in a manifested, incarnate God; in His cross and righteousness and spirit, in union and intercourse with Him. And it is nowhere else. A crucified Jesus is the one only remedy for all human ills, the one only source of all solid happiness.
one dealing of God. We must not think there is failure because one part of a dealing is, to all appearance, not doing its work. Though one mean and another has apparently come short in your hand, view God in combination, and do not despair. God taught Jonah by a combination of facts, by personal experiences, personal suffering. The incidents of our lives are instinct with educational power. Only, we must see God in them. Alas! that life's facts are so barren of teaching to many. Men fail to read their own lives. By this education of facts God's teaching is very penetrating. Observe also the grouping together of opposites — of pleasure and pain; God reproduces in daily life — the gourd, the worm, the wind. Often we see light and darkness; or conversely, darkness and light mingled in our homes, our business, our relationships, and our only way of being at peace, and being helped heavenward by all that comes, is by seeing in them the preparations of the Lord. The same thoughtfulness by which God arranged the prophet's teaching arranges ours, if only we will learn. The same sovereignty which has the gourd, the worm, and the wind at command has things great and small, all ready to do us good. The same patience in waiting while His combination of circumstances were doing their work is waiting on us now.
(P. H. Power, M. A.)
So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd
Homiletic Monthly.The sequel shows clearly that the prophet had not one spark of gratitude to God for His merciful interposition in his extremity. He was "glad of the gourd," which, springing up in a night, sheltered him from the burning rays of a fierce sun, but not thankful to God whose goodness had provided it; the feeling was purely selfish and sensual, destitute utterly of piety. Glad of the gift, but not a thought of the Giver; for as soon as the gourd "withered away" he was angry," and "wished for death, and bitterly complained to God, and justified his folly and petulance.In all this, Jonah is a type of multitudes of nominal Christians — "glad" because of God's great mercies, but never grateful; the temporal gift, but not the Divine Giver, is thought of.
But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day.
I. GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF AFFLICTION. God asserts in His Word, that all the losses in the world are sent by Him. By evil is often meant calamity, not wickedness. God is the Author equally of prosperity and adversity to His creatures. He uses agents, but we must not forget that He is behind them. He is the Author of affliction, whatever may be the agencies He uses in the course of His providence.
II. HE USES THE NATURAL LAWS OF THE WORLD AS HIS AGENTS IN AFFLICTING. The worm merely followed the impulses of its nature. That is all science can say. But God has made all things, however great, however small, for Himself. The things which we call laws are only the methods of His activity, Nature is a forlorn object to study unless we find it a mirror to reflect God.
IV. GOD IS JUST IN AFFLICTING US. Simply as the Maker and Owner of His creatures, God has a right to afflict. But He has entered into a covenant with us. lie has said, "Do ye according to My commandments, and ye shall live." What is the record of our race since? Have we obeyed, or have we disobeyed? Surely we have come into the need of affliction. If God would be just in casting us down to hell for our disobedience, surely He is just in laying upon us disciplinary afflictions.
IV. GOD AFFLICTS US IN HIS LOVE. With all Jonah's sins against God, it was not to punish him that God prepared a worm. God's aim in affliction is our restoration, our improvement. There are uses of adversity. However harsh the voice of God may seem to us, it is yet a Father's voice, with a Father's heart behind it. Inferences —
1. If God afflicts, how foolish it is to go to the world for relief.
2. God's worms for us prove an interesting study.
3. When our gourds wither it is proof that God is near.
(Howard Crosby, D. D.)
Homiletic Review.I. GOD HAS A RIGHT TO RECALL HIS GIFTS.
II. GOD MAY RECALL AT ANY TIME. He has placed Himself under no obligation.
III. GOD MAY RECALL THE GIFT WHEN IT IS APPARENTLY MOST NEEDED. "When the morning rose " the gourd was smitten.
IV. GOD MAY RECALL THE GIFT WHEN WE ARE BEGINNING TO APPRECIATE IT MOST. When "Jonah was exceeding glad because of the gourd," it withered.
V. GOD MAY RECALL THE GIFT BY ANY INSTRUMENTALITY HE MAY CHOOSE. "A worm" smote the gourd. Some apparently insignificant thing may be God's agent for our deprivation.
VI. GOD, AFTER RECALLING THE GIFT, CAN COMFORT THE SORROWING, AND CAN COMPENSATE FOR THE LOSS.
(A. Roberts, M. A.)
1. Point out some things in which people are apt to promise themselves great pleasure and satisfaction, but which in the event evidently appear to be no better than Jonah's withered gourd. Such as riches, self-indulgence in food, children, human esteem, connections in social life. Trust in mere outward ordinances. Too high expectations even from relation to a gospel church.
2. At the root of every gourd there is a canker worm, whose envenomed bite smiteth it that it withereth. Apply to the above-mentioned human pleasures. God will by no means have creatures dignified with any dignity besides that with which He Himself is pleased to invest them. Now point out a certain antidote against the poison of this canker-worm which is the thing to be attended to.(1) The vanity, emptiness, and uncertainty of worldly riches.(2) All temporal honours vanish in the grave, where distinctions are no longer known.(3) Children are certain cares, but very uncertain comforts. Cease, then, O believer, cease from temporary gourds. Call back thy wandering affections from transitory objects, and sit down under the "shadow of thy only Lord and Saviour."
(D. L. Ritchie.)
He fainted and wished in himself to die.
1. The longer a sinner continues in his sin, the more wretched does he become. Jonah was obviously sinking deeper from hour to hour.
2. Suffering and sin are inseparably linked by the appointment of the holy God. It is the sinner himself who brings sorrow on the sinner.
3. God in holy sovereignty may punish sin by sin. When His creatures go astray His restraining grace is sometimes withheld, and then sin follows sin in rapid succession, until the wanderer at last perhaps stands appalled at his own iniquity, or else is proved to be hopelessly degenerate. See in Jonah's case how transgression followed transgression, lie is offended at the mercy of God to Nineveh. He refuses to acknowledge his waywardness, — he would rather die. Then he withdraws from all intercourse with those whom God had in mercy spared; their proximity was a source of pain to Jonah. Then he pines for death; then he tries to justify his waywardness, and comes at last to declare that he did right in sinning. It is thus that sin deludes the very conscience, darkens the understanding, and enslaves the will. Blinded by passion, resolute in self-defence, determined to acknowledge no fault, but to vindicate all that he had done, Jonah makes a confession which justifies the ways of God with Nineveh. If the prophet lamented the loss of the gourd, and pitied it when it perished, surely much more might the compassionate One pity the city which had repented.
(W. K. Tweedie.)
1. His impatient grief was inconsiderate. It was passion, not reason, which dictated the prayer that he might die. No sooner were his wishes crossed than he broke out into discontented complainings. In our own case, reflection would silence many of our complaints. We should especially beware of expressing weariness of life in such cases.
2. His impatient grief was rebellious. He was not willing to have his Maker's will done.
3. It was extremely selfish. The saving of so many thousands gave him no pleasure unless his word was honoured.
4. It was unbelieving. Could he not trust God to take care of his reputation? And which of us can say that he is not often impatient and repining? The habit of re cognising the hand of God in little things that try our temper would repress many a peevish exclamation.
(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)
1. The first element in Jonah's character was moral cowardice. In what lay his sin? Simply in his unwillingness to discharge a plain positive duty. Learn —(1) When you are called to discharge a painful duty, the quicker you set about it the better.(2) The discharge of duty is always less difficult than we anticipate.(3) Neglected duty, if you are a Christian, will always follow you till it is performed.
2. The next element was, imperfect views of the Divine character and government.(1) Jonah had discharged his duty in proclaiming the burden of the Lord concerning Nineveh.(2) Jonah, having discharged his duty, thought that God ought to take the same view of things as he did.(3) Notice the practical but gracious manner which God took to reveal His mind to Jonah.(4) Observe the ominous silence of the sacred Scriptures concerning the end of Jonah. God will justify His own mercy and love.
(W. G. Barrett.)
Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?I. JONAH'S THEN MOOD. "God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry?"
1. Observe the point of this appeal. To be grieved for the gourd was to be grieved for himself.
2. The compliment involved in this Divine appeal. God made Jonah judge in his own case.
3. Note the response of the prophet to this appeal. "I do well to be grieved, even unto death." Candid, if somewhat passionate.
II. THE PROPRIETY OF THE DIVINE PROCEDURE. Note the correspondence between the words "pity" and "spare." God did not contradict the prophet. There is a double contrast presented in this branch of the appeal. The contrast between Jonah and Jehovah; and between the gourd and the city.
1. The labour expended on the city was one reason why God should spare it.
2. The growth of Nineveh was another reason.
3. The antiquity of Nineveh was another.
4. The commodiousness and magnitude of Nineveh was another.
5. The presence of the children and cattle was another.
(Samuel Clift Burn.)
Homilist.The amazing interest God takes in mankind is shown —
I. IN HIS REASONING WITH A MAN WHO IS IN A BAD TEMPER. Jonah was angry, and the intensity of his anger became so intolerable that he wished to die. Why was he angry?
1. Because of the Divine compassion shown to the Ninevites.
2. Because of the loss of a temporal blessing.
II. IN HIS REASONING IN ORDER TO IMPRESS THIS MAN WITH THE REALITY OF HIS COMPASSION. The comparison between the plant and Nineveh may be expressed in three questions.
1. What is this plant to the men that inhabit Nineveh?
2. What is this one plant even to the unconscious infants at Nineveh!
3. What is one plant to even the irrational creatures in Nineveh!
I. THE SINFULNESS OF ABSORBING PASSION.
1. The sinfulness is seen in Jonah's contempt of life. A man's worth may be measured by the reverence he has for his life. The Gospel, which delivers us from a coward fear of dying, was never intended to foster an equally coward fear of living.
2. The sinfulness is seen in that it works insincerity. Even after Jonah has recognised that God is sparing the city, he still affects to believe that it will be overthrown. He hastens out of it lest he should be partaker of its plagues. Under his booth he pretends that he is awaiting its destruction. What hateful affectation and insincerity! But is it very uncommon? How much of life is wasted because of our refusal to acknowledge that we have outgrown the expectations of the past, or that time and change have swept us far beyond them!
3. The selfishness of an absorbing passion is illustrated in Jonah's contempt for the men of Nineveh. He will not share in their repentance, nor encourage them to hope in God's mercy; he shuts himself up alone to brood over his anger. All passion tends to arrogance. Self-absorption means scorn of our fellows. A single passion may arrogate to itself the whole sphere of life, and constitute itself the be-all and end-all of existence. It is well for us to be aware of this. Our holiest emotions may become overweening.
II. GOD'S CURE FOR ABSORBING PASSION. Notice the exceeding gentleness with which God reproves and seeks to restore the angry prophet. The disobedient are constrained by a force too strong for them; but even the ungracious doing of duty brings the spirit into fitness for gentler discipline. The Lord cares for Jonah in his self-will. When God smites the gourd, and sends the vehement cast wind and burning sun to beat on Jonah's head, it is that tie may speak his words gentler than the gourd-shade, and reveal Himself to the stricken spirit as "the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." How different is this from man! We should have been glad that the self-absorbed man should be his own tormentor. God seeks to restore the prophet by awakening love in his heart: awakening his interest, and making him tender over the gourd. Over the wretched, gloomy Jonah, sprung up the wondrous plant, and its leaves and tendrils drew off his thoughts from himself, and as he watched it grow, a new interest was awakened in him. His heart softened to the plant, and he becomes strangely tender and reverential over a gourd. There is something wonderful in life, even though it be the life of a common weed. Jonah loves his gourd, and "has pity" on it when it is smitten. The first result of Jonah's tenderness would seem to be a deeper gloom. Another wrong is added to his suffering; and again he cries for death. But it has not all been in vain; for he is prepared to listen to the voice that once more sounds in his ears. His reply, "I do well to be angry," was bad and bitter; but perverse and sullen silence before God is far worse than perverse and sullen speech. How wonderful is God's answer. The tenderness that was in Jonah, poor as it was, mingled with selfishness as it was, was yet, in its dim and partial way, an emblem of the tenderness of God for every creature He has made! Thou canst not bear that what has lived, and lived for thee, should die. And shall I be careless of the great city? "There is this sacred energy in love, however poor it may be, however mixed with selfishness, that it admits us into the secret of God's counsel, helps us to bear Divine mysteries, and understand God's ways. Since on every hand God has put the tokens and witnesses of His Divine care and tenderness, do we not hear on every hand the voice that calls us from our absorbing passions, from our griefs, our angers, and our woes? Life is worth living when every human creature is felt worthy of our love: the voice of duty will sweetly beckon us to human sympathy and human helpfulness. And so the dark mystery of your life will be read. In God's care for all men you will find yourself surrounded by God's care for you. The wise and blessed purpose of the individual destiny is seen in the one eternal purpose of love to men.
(A. Mackennal, D. D.)
1. That the mind of man, being prone to gratify every passion which it feels to the utmost possible extent, therefore gives the object for which it is conceived that figure and importance in its own imagination whereby it is fitted to afford the most extensive and complete gratification.
2. That the mind of man, being thus disposed to magnify the object of every passion beyond its real nature and extent, it is hereby equally disposed to justify the passion it conceives, however excessive and unreasonable. What use ought we to make of Jonah's example? It ought to put us on our guard against that fatal self-deceit which leads men to give themselves a false description of the objects of their several passions, and as false a description of the innocence and justice of the passions which they have conceived. Being of a passionate and peevish nature, his pride and anger being raised, by what Jonah apprehended might hurt his interest and reputation as a prophet, every pious, every tender and humane consideration was entirely overlooked. We should learn to put ourselves upon our guard against the influence of this pernicious self-deceit, and to make it, as far as possible we can, the invariable measure of our conduct.
1. To proportion the degree of our affections to the real merit and importance of the cause by which they are produced; and
2. To exclude the false, artificial apologies by which the most unjust and criminal attachments in the heart of man are ready to conceal, or justify their own excess. This conduct will, indeed, require a careful attention to ourselves and much self-correction and command. To enforce this instruction the following reflection ought to be attended to, namely, that the artifice by which the mind of man imposes on itself, in the indulgence of its sinful and irregular desires, whatever present ease or pleasure it may give, must become, ere long, the source of anguish and remorse. We have reason to believe that the consciences of men will hereafter punish them in the same manner for those iniquities which they now commit calmly and without remorse. Without great vigilance and much inspection of ourselves we are in the utmost danger of misapprehending our own character and of justifying ourselves. This dangerous self-deceit proceeds from two causes.
1. From the self-love and vanity which is natural to every man.
2. From the artifice of sinful passions.By the first, men are laid under a general partiality in favour of themselves, and are disposed to form a more favourable opinion of their own character than it is entitled to. By the second, they are hindered in a more particular manner from perceiving the iniquity and guilt of those parts of their character and conduct which are directed by the influence of their sinful passions. When these two causes of self-deceit meet, they must betray a man into a total ignorance and misapprehension of himself.
(W. Craig, D. D.)
Thou hast had pity on the gourd.
(E. W. Shalders, B. A.)
And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city.
1. The great thought which these words suggest to our minds is' God s great compassion for the helpless and ignorant.
2. A comparison between the view which God takes of great masses of human beings, and that with which we sometimes, in carelessness or pride, are disposed to look upon them. We live, in fact, on the outside of our fellow-creatures; we exercise little sympathy with them. Jonah's fault was his heartless selfishness. How could a man that knew anything of the soul's value express himself as Jonah did but under this fatal influence?
3. What are our thoughts and feelings and views in similar circumstances? What do we feel when contemplating great masses of human beings in helpless innocence, or in degraded ignorance? There is nothing more impressive than a great city. If we are true brethren of the God-man, if the manhood of Christ is more than a name to us, if it is a word of real sympathy, then it must unlock the chambers of our hearts to our brethren. Then every man we deal with, every servant, every neighbour will be an object of interest to us. The watchword of the whole creation now is the name of Jesus Christ.
(C. E. Kennaway, M. A.)
1. The first and broadest teaching regards the character of God as the God of nations.
2. Another aspect of the book is its bearing upon the popular mind at the time it was written, its teachings as to the character of God as the God of Israel.
3. It was a direct and very powerful protest against mere priestism and ceremonialism. Jonah had nothing to do but preach repentance. And God spared Nineveh simply on their turning from their wickedness and confessing their sins.
4. What can be said of "God's repenting Him of the evil"? The proclamation to Nineveh carried an implied condition. It meant that the same God who pronounced the sentence was ready to recall it on the repentance of the people. The unconditional form of the proclamation is merely the tribute which is paid to the justice of God, which is absolute, which can never be changed as justice, which is honoured even in the remission of punishment, and which must be proclaimed as the foundation on which all true repentance is made to rest. But the prophet's appearance was an invitation to repentance and salvation. God morally regards us at any moment just as we are. Of course He has considered our future and provided for it all. What we are now God regards us as being, and treats us accordingly.
(R. A. Redford, M. A.)
1. The warning furnished by this history, to beware of allowing expected results to interfere with present and pressing obligations.
2. Another reflection respects the spheres of greatest usefulness for the servants of God, and admonishes them to watch for the leadings of providence, rather than give way to their own desires and inclinations. Men are not always the best judges of the department of service by which they can do most to glorify God, any more than of the particular stations they can most successfully occupy.
3. The benefit which may be derived, both for direction in duty and for the profitable study of His Word and ways, from a connected and orderly view of His dispensations.
4. Whenever and wherever God is pleased to manifest of His grace and goodness, it is our part to acknowledge and rejoice in the manifestation.
1. He is first of all shown in association with the rough heathen Phoenician sailors, and their humanity is seen in gracious contrast with his own temper. For he is now endeavouring to put the whole Mediterranean sea between himself and his duty, which, if faithfully performed, may save a vast city from its doom, and it is because he foresees this as a likely result that, instead of going to Nineveh, he is trying to flee into Spain. But these poor sailors will save this foreigner, bird of ill passage though he is, if they can. But Jonah emerged from the dread experience that followed, when he "went down to the bottom of the mountains. and the earth with her bars was about him for ever," unsoftened in feeling. He is as austere and pitiless as before, and thinks himself more righteous than God. It is infinitely strange that men can come forth from dark seas of peril and judgment, and, after deliverance, deny one morsel of compassion to their fellow sinners!
2. But Jonah, unreconciled to the thought of God's clemency to others, goes on his sulky way to Nineveh, "that great city, great unto God," wherein were "six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand" — little children, and, as it is humanely added, "also much cattle." He cries aloud in the broad thoroughfares and beside the massive temples his message of doom, "Yet forty days." It is said that four years before the siege of Jerusalem an unknown man traversed the city continually crying, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the Holy Place, a voice against the bridegroom and the bride! Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" But this voice was more immediate, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed." Now, it says a great deal for the tolerance of the people that they suffered a foreigner thus to denounce them. People do not always care to be told of their sins, and the judgment to come. "Am I therefore become your enemy," says Paul," because I tell you the truth? "Ah, there is often no surer way! But these heathen not only permitted the message to be spoken in their midst; they allowed it to resound in their consciences. They repented, after a godly sort, "they turned from their evil way." And so theirs was a repentance unto life, not to be repented of. How salutary is this grace — this turning of the mind from sin, this honest regret and resolve!
3. "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry." It is the littleness of man, which everywhere in this book is confronted by the majesty and the magnanimity and the philanthropy of God. The prayer of Jonah that follows is the most remarkable prayer on record. Here is this narrow, parochial, inadequate man presuming to speak to the Almighty as if on level terms with Him — nay, as if he spoke from a superior eminence of wisdom and virtue! "I pray Thee was not this my saying," he cries, "when I was yet in my country?" It has all turned out, he declares, as he knew it would. But when his prayer returns into his own bosom, Jonah now becomes a spectacle unto angels and unto men. He went out of the city, and built himself a booth and waited to see what would become of the city. Perhaps the clock had not struck; perhaps there was something wrong with his chronology; perhaps the people would lapse again into sin, and the doom fall after all. Ah, how different from the spirit of Him who, when He beheld Jerusalem in its sins and foresaw its coming ruin, wept over it!
4. But Jonah did not weep over the city: He wept over himself. In his mortification and mental and physical exhaustion he thought that he wanted to die; though, when death was very near him in the deep seas, he was of another mind. But just as when his great predecessor, Elijah, in the wilderness, "requested for himself that he might die," God took no notice of the request, but inquired about his duty once and again: "What doest thou here, Elijah?" So God took no notice of Jonah's request, but inquired once and again about his temper: "Doest thou well to be angry?" And, as God taught Elijah by a nature parable, the whirlwind, the earthquake, the fire, and the still, small voice, so He taught Jonah by the parable of the gourd. "Thou hast had pity on the gourd," said God. It was a form of self-pity, no doubt; but, then, how much of our sympathy starts from a selfish root! It is a great thing when feeling splits away from a purely personal reference, and puts forth an altruistic branchlet. Time and grace may make much of a sentiment not so pure and lofty in its beginning as one would wish. Think, Jonah, think! "Thou hast had pity on the gourd." You did not make it; it was not yours; yet its short-lived glory touched you with some regret. I have made both plants and men. Ought I not to have pity on men failing and passing? Think! till you, too, pity them with Me.
5. Did Jonah learn the lesson of charity, and take a larger and a gentler mould? There is some reason to think that he did, for as the story leaves him he is still under the hand of God, and God is still speaking. The inference is that he receives the Divine admonition. He has no answer to make, and God is still with him, and not failing nor forsaking this cross-grained servant of His. We love the amiable. What a mercy it is that God loves the unamiable also, and the awkward and ignorant and dim-sighted, and is kind to the unthankful and the evil. But there is perhaps another reason for hoping that God's teaching was not in vain. In 2 Kings 14:25 we learn that Jonah prophesied with reference to the re-conquest of Moab under Jeroboam II., who "restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath to the Sea of the Plain." Now, in the oracles contained in Isaiah there is one concerning Moab, not by Isaiah, but spoken, it is said, " in time past" (R.V.). By a number of eminent critics this is supposed to be the substance of Jonah's prophecy during the reign of Jeroboam
II. If we can take this view we may well consider how different the tone of this prophecy is from that which we should expect from the accuser of Nineveh. It is full of tender feeling and humane regret. "I will weep with the weeping of Jazer for the vine of Sibmah: I will water thee with my tears, O Heshbon and Elealeh: for upon thy summer fruits and upon thy harvest the battle shout is fallen...Wherefore my bowels sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kirheres" (Isaiah 16:9 and Isaiah 16:11). We cannot recognise in these words the voice of the Jonah who went to Nineveh; and, indeed, it may be the voice of another Jonah, whom God's gentleness had made great. And, whether Jonah learned his lesson or not, the story remains — a poem, in which man is humiliated and God only exalted. "For My ways are not your ways, nor your thoughts My thoughts, saith the Lord: for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts."
(A. H. Vine.)
Luke 19:41): — These texts from Jonah and the Gospel by Luke are selected that their light may fall upon the subject of the attitude of God toward the cities of to-day. I have not often found myself in agreement with Bismarck, but with his views of cities I perfectly agree: "Great cities are great sores on the body politic." The crowding of populations into great cities is never conducive to the development of individualism, nor does it make for the ideal socialism. The Divine attitude toward the city has never been that of aloofness from failure and sin, but rather that of keen interest, profound pity, ceaseless activity. Nineveh was a city outside the covenant of the chosen people, a city steeped in heathen customs and wrong-doing. Yet God sent Jonah, and proves in the language of the text this love and care. Jerusalem was the city of privilege and blessing, which killed the prophets and stoned the messengers. The city which Jesus wept over. The Divine attitude toward great cities is one of com passionate interest and love. Every city is known to God. Every part of it is known to Him, the rich and the poor parts. In this city "all things are naked and open to the eye of Him with whom we have to do." But beyond the infinite knowledge is this other thought, He cares. There is no sorrow that God does not feel. He has abandoned no part of what He Himself created. All the physical disability has His sympathy — the dwellings of the poor, the workshops of our men and women; all the mental sufferings, the misery of mystery and the mystery of the misery; all the spiritual death — "the cursed mountain of sorrow lies heaviest on the Divine heart." God has not forsaken the city: He is still sending His prophets, His messengers, His Son. Moreover, He is, by His Holy Spirit, the actual and ever-present force for the relieving of every condition of evil and sorrow. No problem is too complex for His wisdom, no opposing force too mighty for His power, no darkness too dense for His light, no trifle too trivial for His notice. He is working for its regeneration. What, then, is the responsibility of the city? What does the Church of Christ exist for? For the select few who to-day worship within the buildings called by His name? Then in God's name close the doors! Such churches have no mission, and should cease to exist. The Church of Christ exists to reveal God and to act in concert with Him. Would that I could startle you into Christian activity! The sorrow of the city awaits your sympathy, and the saving force and grace of Jesus Christ. How is the city to know that it is not God-forsaken? Through the Church. We have here no continuing city; we seek one to come, whose builder and maker is God. The centres of the Christian life and the civic life are diametrically opposite. The first principle of the Christian life is self-death; that of the civic life is selfishness. The second element of the one is sacrifice; of the other, self seeking. The third law of the one is, "I believe in the salvation of the unfit"; that of the civic life is the survival of the fittest. We seek a city which hath foundations. Many are trying to find it by star-gazing. They thank God for their comfortable lot in life, and wait. Seek the city that is to be here. We must take part in the government of the city. Whether the factory is to be occupied so long and so closely that life and comfort are neglected is not the question of the manufacturer's profit, but of the worker's health. If you do not care you are not a Christian. You cannot live near to Christ and be indifferent. We must press forward all the time in our distinctive work of setting men and women into personal contact with Christ. The law of adaptation is one law of progress. There can be no failure in God; if there be any, it is in us. I call every Christian man and woman to attention. Concerning the Divine attitude there is no question. You believe that God loves the city. A boy asked his Sunday-school teacher, Do you think God loves wicked boys?" "Certainly not," was her reply. Oh, the blasphemy of such an answer! Of course, God loves wicked boys. If He had never loved sinners there would have been no saints. Concerning our relation to God's attitude toward the city there is room for much heart-searching. We must know the city. Contrast, in conclusion, our texts. Jonah was angry because God forgives. Jesus wept over the sins of the city. I am in sympathy with Jesus rather than with Jonah. Christian am I if I am Christ-like; Christ-like am I if, like Christ, I weep over the city and give myself for it even unto death.
(G. C. Morgan, D. D.)
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