Jonah 4:5
Then Jonah left the city and sat down east of it, where He made himself a shelter and sat in its shade to see what would happen to the city.
Jonah's GriefG.T. Coster Jonah 4:1-5
Divine Mercy Formulating its Own ApologeticJ.E. Henry Jonah 4:5-11
God's Expostulation with JonahDavid Couper.Jonah 4:5-11
God's Remonstrance with JonahW.G. Blaikie Jonah 4:5-11
Out of Sympathy with GodJames Menzies.Jonah 4:5-11
God is patient and persistent to a marvel. He sticks to men whom we would unhesitatingly cast off, and bears with them when, to our mind, patience has ceased to be a virtue. His keen eye sees ground for hope where we should utterly despair; and he goes on dealing with cases that we should regard as quite beyond treatment. The case of Jonah was one in point. He displayed a mulish obstinacy, and a tenacious and assertive self-will, on which anything short of the strong arm seemed only labour thrown away. Yet God is neither disgusted nor discouraged. He does not cease to strive; neither does he restart to the violence that would seem so fitting. His mildly suasive measures go on, and go on calmly and confidently, as to infallible success. Verbal expostulation has failed, but that is only one agency of exhaustless Divine resource. The symbolic method of teaching still remains, and may prevail, and God mercifully tries it on the refractory prophet before he will either say, "Cut him off!" or, "Let him alone!" We learn here -

I. HOW TENACIOUSLY A SERVANT OF GOD MAY CLING TO A MUTINOUS PROJECT. (Ver. 5.) Jonah's leaning toward the destruction of Nineveh was not mere caprice. It was largely selfish. That event would have been to him equivalent to a new credential of office, The heathen abroad and Israel at home he could have referred to it as a miraculous authentication of his word, and a new feather in his official cap. Accordingly, his preference went and his influence tried to work in that direction. In this mind he left the city. He would not mingle with the people. Their abject attentions while dreading death, and their possible ridicule if it did not come, would be alike distasteful. His mission, moreover, was practically fulfilled, and he had no very definite business to detain him longer; whilst there would be a natural desire to be out of the city when its fateful hour should arrive. There was, however, a reason for his departure a good deal less to his credit than any of these. He went to see "what would become of the city." Here was watching for souls in hideous, baleful travesty. He was watching for their salvation, it is true, but watching for it in protesting anger and fear. He cannot bring himself to believe that it will take place; and he climbs the hills overlooking the city from the east to watch developments with a mind divided between anger, curiosity, and misgiving. And here he displayed the deliberation and resource that we observed on other occasions. Anticipating inconvenience from the burning heat, he built himself a rustic arbour in which he could sit in the pleasant shade and comfortably await the end. It is humiliating to think that questions of earthly interest, questions even of personal convenience, will compete successfully at times with the question of men's salvation, for the first place in the attention of God's people. Words have, for some paltry personal consideration, been left unspoken, interviews unsought, measures unattended to, on which, humanly speaking, the question of some one's eternity hung. Those who know God and speak for him want to realize that their doing so is the paramount consideration, with which there is no other matter that may for a moment come into competition. A Paul "counts not his life dear unto him that he might finish the ministry received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). On no lower level can we, as regards the perishing, "walk in love as Christ also loved us."

II. HOW GOD IN PROVIDENCE BLESSES SINNERS AGAINST HIS GRACE. (Ver. 6.) Jonah had just complained of the great lenity of God. But he is only quarrelling with his own mercy. He is the very first, as he was the very last, to profit by that lenity himself: The God who offended him by pitying penitent Nineveh gave him unmingled gratification by pitying his rebellious self, and bringing him in his self-made discomfort prompt relief. And the gourd that grew so timely and served so well may be taken as a type of the Divine compensatory arrangements in connection with human life.

1. These always come. God does not forget his people, and cannot disregard their troubles. He heeds and he helps them. Wherever there is the burning sun of calamity there is the gourd of some ameliorating circumstance. They do not intermit; if they did our well being, our very life, would intermit also. They do not fluctuate with our allegiance; if they did they would be at the ebb perpetually. They flow down in a continuous steady stream. "No father like God; none feel for his children like him; none so forgiving and ready to relieve; when none else will pity them, he will; and in the face of manifold provocations the Lord remembereth mercy. When they become sufferers, the Father's bowels of compassion melt over them. We have a High Priest that is soon touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Jones).

2. They always suit. Appropriateness must characterize a "good and perfect gift," such as all God's are. They are not at right angles to our need, but along the line of it. There is a destroying angel to rout a besieging army (2 Kings 19:35), a flowing spring to quench a dying woman's thirst (Genesis 21:19), an earthquake to shake open prison doors (Acts 16:26), and "sufficient grace" to make a thorn in the flesh endurable (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9). In fact, God's helpful action bears directly on our sufferings and their alleviation. We get sometimes what we ask for, and always what we need. And we get it too at the moment we need it most. "The sea is opened when Israel is hemmed in on every side; the manna comes down when they have no bread; and the water flows from the rock when they are ready to die with thirst (Psalm 27:10)" (Jones).

3. They do for us what our own skill and contrivance have failed to do. Jonah's booth proved insufficient shelter, and in the hour of its proved inadequacy the gourd grew. God allows us to build our own booth first. We try our hand at improving our earthly lot, to find that we cannot command success. We lay deep plans and put forth stupendous efforts, and then flounder and stick fast. At last, God, who has been awaiting such a juncture, steps in, and, by some unthought of incident, the blocked path is opened, and the thing is done. The testimony of God's people everywhere has been that, not their own brain or arm, but "the good hand of the Lord," has opened their path and made their life's prosperity.

4. They are often appreciated without being traced to their source. "Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd." And well he might. It intercepted the broiling sunshine, and converted physical distress into luxurious ease. Yet he rejoiced in its grateful shade without considering it to be God's gift or a blessing to thank him for. It is so that many of our mercies are received. They are welcomed and prized and rejoiced in. We are exceeding glad of them, and more than enough are exercised about them. "I become exceeding glad of my gourd. My heart entwines around it. This pleasing prospect; this budding hope; this successful movement; this welcome visitant, the golden-haired little one within my earthly home, crowing in my arms, searching my eye for the kindling glance of joy and love, and dancing gleefully on finding it; - ah! in many a form my gourd may grow; and I am exceeding glad of my gourd, even when I quarrel with God" who gives it (Martin). But our best of blessings we do not trace to their heavenly source. We take them unheeding as to whence or where they come. It is a fault of our life, and a chief cause of our ingratitude and lack of love, that God's gifts are treated often as our own gains, and so are godlessly enjoyed. They are understood only when God is seen in them, and rightly used when used as from his hand; but, received with the dry eye of ingratitude, or with the shut eye of insensibility, they are deforced of their Divine element, and to us are God's gifts no longer.

III. HOW GOD CONFERS SOME GIFTS ONLY TO TAKE THEM AWAY AGAIN. (Ver. 7.) Jonah got his time of the gourd, but it was a short time.. For one day he reclined luxuriously beneath its shadow; the next came the worm, and his shelter was gone. It is so with many comfortable earthly things. God gives them in mercy, and seeing them either inappreciated or idolized, he in further mercy takes them away. They "perish in the using." At best they could only last a lifetime; often they do not last so long. They are flowers that only bloom to wither, mists that melt away as soon as the sun is risen. And, whilst this is true of them as a class, it is specially true of some varieties. "When things come to us in haste, they as hastily part again; when riches come too quickly they quickly take their flight; sudden glories decay suddenly; the fruit which is soonest ripe is found to be soonest rotten" (Abbot). There is in the sudden removal of valued blessings a needful assertion of the Divine control. The things we have are not our own. We hold them at God's pleasure. And he emphasizes this fact occasionally by taking away the thing or the good of it, when we are just settling down for a whole life's enjoyment. Then we make idols of our mercies sometimes. We put the gift into the Giver's place. The most effectual cure for this is to be left without it. Our Father bestows his favours "not with a view to make man happy in the possession of them, but to win upon man, and to allure his heart w himself by his gifts. Abraham's servant did not bestow the jewels of silver and jewels of gold and raiment on Rebekah to make her joyful in a heathen land, but to win her heart to Isaac" (Jones).

IV. CALAMITY SHOWS MEN HOW BADLY THEY COULD DO WITHOUT GOD'S GIFTS. (Ver. 8.) The withering of the gourd and the rising of the hot sirocco were timed to synchronize. And there was disciplinary value in the adjustment. The loss of a gift becomes a lesson by emphasizing what and how much it means. Had the gourd remained, the heat would have been little felt. Had not the sirocco followed, the withered gourd might never have been missed. The concurrence of the two events and their obvious adjustment to each other reveal the hand of God, and point the lesson of the providence beyond mistaking. So misfortunes often march on us in companies, and support each other. One trial prepares the way of another, and lays bare the breast for its darts to penetrate. The discipline of grace is a lengthened process, and advances stage by stage to its lofty end of lust killed and a transfigured life.

V. FROM OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD OUR LOVED OBJECTS WE MAY ARGUE UP TO GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS HIS. (Vers. 10, 11.) Our creation in the Divine image involves this, and all parabolic teaching takes it for granted. The soul is a miniature of God. and the order of coming to pass in it is "after God." Hence the unanswerableness of the question with which the parable and the book both close.

1. The things we love are paltry. A gourd against a city, a worthless plant against half a million of immortal souls. Such is a sample of the contrast between the objects of God's Compassion and of ours. May we not argue that the compassion itself in the one case and the other is in still profounder contrast? God's love and mercy have reference to a lost race. Ours, unless in so far as we are God-like, refer to some trifling earthly object. Let the fact be realized, and the lesson is learned - a lesson of admiration and awe, and lowly gratitude and love.

2. We have but a limited interest in the things we prize. The gourd did not belong to Jonah. He "did not make it grow." He got the use of it for a while, but that was all. So the things we have are not our own. They are left with us as a loan, and held as a brief trust. Our attachment to them has no element of ownership in it, and is therefore destitute of a fundamental excellence. But God loves souls as his property and portion, and with a view to the fruition of them through all eternity. His is indeed a sublime affection - a "love which passeth knowledge."

3. We have done but little for them. (Ver. 10.) "For which thou hast not laboured." We love what costs us something. It is to the sickly child, which has cost her years of anxiety and care, that the mother's heart cleaves in most intense affection. Labour and sacrifice for an object bind us to it by a special tie. Created by our skill and effort, it is our offspring in a sense, and dear accordingly. This tie was absent in the case of Jonah. He had not produced, nor contributed to the production of, the much-lamented gourd. But what had God not done for Nineveh? His were the lives forfeited, his the blessings menaced, his the repentance which led to the reprieve. In pitying Nineveh God was pitying the work of his own hands, an object in which he held, as a vested interest, all that he had done for it and meant to do.

4. They are of brief endurance. "Which came up in a night, and perished in a night." The time element is an important one in all attachments. The longer they have been growing the firmer they are. Jonah's gourd was lost almost as soon as found, and could not have been the object of any settled regard. But Nineveh had been in God's heart since before the world began, and many in it were to be his joy after time had ceased to be. His love had in it the incomparable strength of continuance, an aspect of "the power of an endless life." What an overwhelming argument for acquiescence in the Divine purpose of mercy! And how often, in the giving and taking away again of some form of earthly good, does God press home the argument on men who are quarrelling with his will! My gourd, like Jonah's, may have grown and flourished, "to the end, perhaps, that it may wither and droop and die; and that my heart, untractable, may at last, by losing it, be taught to feel that, if the object which my poor foolish love fastens on be hard to part with, how infinitely wrong in me to desire God to abandon those purposes which his infinitely wise will hath cherished from eternity, and which he hath bound in with and wrapt around my destiny at once to bless and train me!" (Martin). Learn from this how to conceive of the value of the souls of men. They are the priceless things. God's masterpieces as to their origin, they are unparagoned as to intrinsic excellence; whilst, as to their place and function, they are the crown jewels of Christ, and the objects for which all heaven is a place prepared. Let saint and sinner mark this well To barter away our soul is a transaction which will not profit us, though we "gain the whole world" instead. To love our neighbour as ourself, and in doing so supremely to love his soul, is "more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." To love God supremely is to combine in ideal ratio the love of self and the love of souls. They are the "children of the Highest," whose hearts are the home of such affection, and they have in its presence the fruition of their inheritance begun. - J.E.H.

So Jonah went out of the city.
We may presume that Jonah had two reasons for going out of Nineveh. One was, that he might provide for his personal safety. The other, that he might witness the execution of Jehovah's threatening, and be a spectator of the ruin which he had himself predicted. With this view he went to the east side of Nineveh, perhaps because there was an eminence where he would be secure from danger, and from which he could survey the wide extent of the devoted city. Whatever were the images of ruin which presented themselves to the mind of Jonah, it is certain that he looked, nay, that he longed, for the destruction of the city. What a contrast to our blessed Lord looking down upon Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. What forbearance and condescension Jonah had experienced at God's hand! The very mildness of the Divine expostulation ought to have made him ashamed of his folly and perverseness. But God's reproof was disregarded, and we have now to notice the other method which God adopted in order to bring him to a better mind. The gourd relieved Jonah from much physical suffering, and by diverting his attention from the bitter disappointment over which he had been brooding, it helped materially to tranquillise his mind. Brief, however, was the stay of the gourd, and of his tranquillity. A worm ruined the gourd. Afflictions seldom come single. Sun and wind followed loss of gourd. Jonah felt his very life a burden. When men set their hearts upon earthly treasures, and forget their obligations to the Giver of all good, they are ill prepared for encountering adversity. Then their days are days of darkness, and they become weary of life without being prepared for death. What was the design of the peculiar trial to which Jonah was subjected? The trial was sent to convince him of his sin in wishing the destruction of Nineveh in opposition to the will of God, and for the sake of maintaining his own credit as a prophet. Instruction had to come to him by the way of chastisement. But pride perverts the understanding, and passion darkens it; and when these unhappy influences are at work, men, when visited with trouble, are slow to perceive the end for which God afflicts them. Thus it was with Jonah. See God's reproof of the prophet, as given in ver. 11. He had sighed very bitterly over the premature decay of the mere gourd; should he not have had pity on the populous city? Thus God reproved Jonah, and condescended to vindicate His own procedure. With His solemn and touching expostulation the book closes. Learn from the case of this prophet the indispensable necessity of cultivating an humble and self-denying spirit, and of guarding with holy jealousy against any such feelings as would prompt us, on the one hand, to arraign the equity of Jehovah's dispensations, when they seem to be averse to our personal comfort or our fancied honour, or would prevent us, on the other, from cherishing compassion for any of our fellow-creatures, or even for the beasts that perish. And let us be encouraged, by the view here given us of the character of God, to approach Him, in the exercise of faith and penitence, by the way of His appointment. He delighteth in mercy. Beware lest we should be found to despise the goodness and forbearance of God.

(David Couper.)

From first to last, in this book, we have an exhibition of God's mercy in all its greatness and heavenly grandeur, and, as contrasted with this in the most forcible way, an exhibition of man's littleness. The exhibition of mercy on God's part is of the richest and most gracious kind. Jonah in his conduct was but a representative of his nation. What he did and felt as an individual, they would have done and felt as a nation in like circumstances; and the one great purpose of the book seems to be to prove how wrong he was in his unwillingness to appreciate God's mercy towards the Gentiles, in order that his fellow-countrymen, who had exactly the same ideas, might take a warning from him, and give up their exclusive spirit and haughty bearing towards other nations. We are often in danger of sinning in the same way as Jonah and the Jewish people. There are times when we are inclined to take narrow and exclusive views of God's mercy.

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.

(James Menzies.)

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