A Bible Exposition of Jonah 4:1-11
So far in the book we have watched a showdown unfold. And it has presented a contrast between the mercy of God and the pride of man.
The Lord calls his prophet to carry out a task that is unpalatable. Namely, to go proclaim a message that could bring salvation to an enemy.
The prophet goes rogue, and leaves his post in an attempt to run from the Lord. The majority of the narrative so far has really encompassed this time period from Jonah’s rebellion, and God humbling him and bringing him back to Himself.
It has been a marvelous display of God’s sovereignty over even the smallest details.
And in the progression of the narrative this is all heading toward a crescendo that we will encounter next week in Chapter 4. The climax of the book is Jonah’s heart getting exposed before God and a showdown that takes place outside of Nineveh.
But in the meantime along the journey, we are going to witness today God’s salvation reaching the most unlikely places. In fact, there is no partiality with God. No favoritism. No prejudice.
This is a lesson that Israel has not yet learned. Who does the Lord regard?
Isaiah 66:2—“For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
What we will see today is a people who would have seemed too far gone. In high school when everyone votes on the most or least likely, they would have been voted least likely to ever get saved.
They were a hardened people in Assyria. They loved iniquity and false gods. They were famous for their wickedness.
And yet when the Word of God came to them, they responded in humble fear.
Nineveh stands even today as a timeless testimony to God’s mercy to save even the most unlikely and least deserving sinners. And it also stands as a testimony of what it looks like to respond to God in a way that He desires.
Nineveh had an Isaiah 66:2 response. And as a result, God granted this wicked people, salvation.
It is possible for you to be a part of a church that stands for expository preaching, and not tremble at God’s Word.
You might have a rich family pedigree of those who fear God and tremble at His Word, but your family heritage doesn’t accomplish anything before God.
Perhaps you have a distant memory of a time when you trembled at God’s Word. It’s your go-to example of something that happened a long time ago, but there isn’t anything coming to mind freshly.
Nineveh stands a testimony for all time of the people to whom God looks.
4 Developments in God Reconciling Nineveh to Himself
- A repeated assignment (1-2)
- A reluctant preacher (3-4)
- A shocking response (5-9)
- A profound pardon (10)
With that said, here is our text for today:
Jonah 4:1–11—1 But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” 4 The LORD said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” 5 Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. 6 So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” 9 Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” 10 Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”