The Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant.
When I was studying in seminary, we had a worship leader who frequently began our time of prayer together with the words, “O God, we thank you that you are God and that we are not.” As a worshiping community, it helped us to recognize that if we were in charge of making decisions with eternal consequences, we couldn’t be relied upon. We are too shortsighted and distracted by our own self-interests.
It’s a good thing that Jonah wasn’t allowed to call all the shots. God had called him to warn Nineveh to repent of their wickedness, but Jonah did not want them to repent. He wanted God to destroy them instead. They were Israel’s enemies, and Jonah did not want God to show compassion toward them. Jonah had not yet learned that God can pursue, forgive, and bless anyone.
The leafy plant that grew might have been a castor-oil shrub that can quickly grow up to 12 feet and bring relief with its broad, shady leaves. But what a strange turn of events it was when God caused the plant to wither!
Jonah’s reactions revealed his own selfish concerns, and God exposed Jonah’s shallowness. Jonah actually cared more about shade from the plant than he cared about the people of Nineveh. The Lord, however, showed mercy and grace.
Aren’t you glad that God is God and that he shows mercy to us too?
Lord our God, you alone can determine the way things should go. Teach us to be conduits of your mercy and grace for others. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.