The End – Jonah
The sixth and final message in our Jonah Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
It’s been so long ago that I don’t remember which book it was, but I remember when I was a boy reading a book that didn’t have a “happy ending” and thinking, why would the writer do this? Why would he write a story that doesn’t have a nice tidy ending where everyone lives happily ever after?
We’ve probably all experienced an ending that wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for or expecting. Maybe your’s was when your favorite TV show ended…
Today we are covering the ending of the book of Jonah in our 6th message in the series. The ending is pretty abrupt and not what you’d expect, but nothing in this book has been as expected, so in a way I guess it’s fitting.
As I mentioned last week, the most natural ending for the story would have been chapter 3 when the people of Nineveh turned from their sin to God after Jonah delivered his late message to them…However, chapter 4 comes along and shows us that Jonah is upset that the people have turned toward God. He wanted them to be destroyed. We are going to read all of chapter 4 to get the full weight of this temper tantrum that Jonah throws.
If you are a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or even if you’re just a person, you’ve witnessed a temper tantrum. A temper tantrum has been defined by parenting and pediatric literature as “a meltdown or hissy fit that is an emotional outburst, usually associated with children or those in emotional distress, It is typically characterized by stubbornness, crying, screaming, defiance, and even in some cases loss of physical control.”
When was the last time you saw a temper tantrum? I would bet that most of us are thinking about the last time we saw a kid blow up over not getting their way- but the truth is that we’ve probably seen some recently from adults at sporting events or on News Talk Shows.
There are few points I want to make about Jonah’s actions because I believe they are incredibly applicable to our lives and they are the driving force of this book. You see, the book of Jonah was written to Jews who thought they were morally superior because of their heritage, race, and tradition. This book gives them numerous situation where the hero or noble character is not the Jewish Jonah, but the Pagans. The book of Jonah is calling out their hypocrisy, and it ends with subject matter that could strike them all between their eyes- their emotions and most specifically, their anger.
Emotional maturity is often incorrectly measured by our ability to mask our emotions.
Pretending nothing is wrong – denial
Numbing our emotions – medicating
Spiritual maturity is marked by God’s redemption of our emotions.
Think about the verses that Eric read to us earlier.
4Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
5Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
Moderation means suitable, what is the appropriate amount or measure.
The NASB translates this,
5Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.
The ESV translates it:
5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The scriptures don’t teach us to be numb or cold or indifferent. They teach us to feel deep emotions fully, but in a manner that is suitable and appropriate.
In Ephesians 4 Paul would say, Be Angry and Sin Not.
Because of this moderation of emotion, Paul could go on to say in Philippians 4
6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
11b for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
In Galatians 5 Paul would tell us that the evidences of the flesh and evil in a life are among others: hatred, wrath, strife, envy, murders,
He then would tell us that evidence of the Spirit’s work in us would be: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, & self control…
I tell you all of this to say, I never feel less godly than when I consider that God’s redemption of my life is to touch every part of me including my emotions…
I most realize how much work God still has to do in me when I see the work yet to be done in my emotions…
SO, if that is the case, we can all benefit from a look at Jonah’s temper tantrum just as the morally superior Jews could benefit from it as well.
I believe there are 3 lessons we can learn from THE END of Jonah.
- Our Anger over small problems points to our big predicament.
Let’s talk for a moment about what had Jonah so upset.
Jonah goes out to the outside of the city to watch and see if his dreams will come true and God will go ahead and destroy Nineveh.
God sets Jonah up.
6And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
So God sends a gourd. Now when you hear “gourd” you’re probably thinking of something like we have in the fall like squash and pumpkins, etc. However, the idea here is a plant with broad leaves and a soft stalk. It would be excellent to wind around the little booth that Jonah had setup to sit under and it would have made for a good deal of shade from the sun.
If you have ever been out on a sunny day working in a field, you know the relief that can come from getting the hay truck over near the edge where the woods are and for a little while you are in the shade. In verse 6, God brought about this plant that gave Jonah shade. Jonah loves it.
The end of verse 6 says “So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” This is the happiest we see Jonah in this book. This is when things are the very best they have been.
Jonah had is “made in the shade.”
7But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
The shade was gone. Then verse 8 tells us that the Lord prepared an East Wind, and that the sun beat upon the head of Jonah.
Again, when the sun beats down on you, it can be brutal, and if there’s a hot wind blowing on you… Jonah was miserable, so miserable that he said, I wish I were dead.
Timeout. That escalated quickly. Jonah loses the shade, the shade that he didn’t even have 24 hours before, and suddenly he wishes he were dead?
Like I said, I know how great the shade can be, but this seems to be an over reaction, doesn’t it?
Like very few places in scripture, we have a clear connection between what is happening to Jonah in this moment and what’s really bothering him. You see, this wasn’t the first time that Jonah had said he would be better off dead, he said it at the beginning of the chapter, when he was upset that God was going to spare Nineveh.
Jonah loses his cool over something small because there was something much larger going on… Jonah was this upset about the shade because Jonah was this upset about everything.
Nothing was as it was supposed to be- the death of the gourd was just a another disappointment in a series of disappointments for Jonah.
Friend, it may be that you find yourself losing your temper over the small things, you may even recognize the ridiculousness of your reactions and ask, why am I so upset about this? And I would say because you’re upset about something else…
Because it’s March Madness season, I thought a Basketball illustration would be fitting. In December of 2016, the middle of last season, on of Duke’s star players got into trouble because once again he tripped someone. It was the third time he had tripped a player. He was put on the bench and then he went balistic. He had a temper tantrum. He banged his hands on the chair next to him screaming. The coaching staff tried to get him to calm down but he wouldn’t stop.
Greg Doyle, a writer for the Indy Star wrote in the following days that what he saw when he watch that game was himself. He was a man angry in life and expressing it through sports radio and sports coverage. He would say something borderline libelous about a prominent sports figure and then argue with the fans that would react to it… he was warned, but he couldn’t stop.
Doyle said, I don’t see someone who is angry in a game, I see someone who is angry in life…
When we see children who throw a tantrum, we know that it’s not really about the toy, the piece of candy, or the game, it’s about something greater, it’s about their belief that the world is all about them…
As we grow older, our selfishness and our anger get’s a little more sophisticated, but that’s still the root cause.
- Our Anger is rooted in selfishness, not circumstance.
Jonah’s problem here with the gourd, and with Nineveh, and even back on the boat when he ran from God, his problem was selfishness.
Some of you are convinced that you wouldn’t be so upset if your circumstances were different,
if you had a better paying job or better managing boss,
a nicer spouse or a nicer house,
a hot body or a fun hobby,
If you could get out of school, get out of debt, or get out of town.
If you could just fall in love already, if you could just get married already, just retire already….
No matter your circumstance, your selfishness will still be there setting you up for failure and disappointment.
God put Jonah’s selfishness in perspective with his direct question:
10Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
11And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
You are not angry because of your circumstance, you are angry because you want everything to go your way.
- Our God is fully committed to redeeming every part of us.
Look at all the occurrences of the word prepared in this passage….
6And the Lord God prepared a gourd,
7But God prepared a worm
8God prepared a vehement east wind;
This word, exactly this word in the original language appears earlier in the book. In Jonah 1:17
“Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.”
Just as God prepared the fish to deliver Jonah from the sea, God prepared the Gourd, the Worm, and the Wind to deliver Jonah from his angry and misshapen heart.
Jonah had a problem, and God was committed to helping Jonah through it. In this moment Jonah felt like God was doing the opposite of helping him because he wanted the shade…
Jonah 1:4 tells us that God sent a storm to meet the ship Jonah was on….
God worked through the wind, the sea, a fish, a gourd, and a worm to work on Jonah.
God worked through all the details of Jonah’s story to bring Jonah in line with God’s will. The great big fish and the tiny little worm were both under the direction of God for Jonah’s benefit. Throughout the book of Jonah, every element of nature bends to the will of God, every single one except for Jonah.
God is clothed with infinite and majestic power and He brings that power to bear to bring us into redemption, to make us more like Himself, just as He did for Jonah.
Throughout Jonah, every element of nature bends to the will of God, every single one except for Jonah.
God never gives up on Jonah, even until the very end He’s working on Jonah.
Earlier this week we were riding in the car when Lincoln said,
“Dad, I want a horse.”
To which I responded, “No you don’t.”
His response that was huh?
I said, where would we keep it?
Who would feed it?
Who would clean up after it?
I knew that a horse was not a good gift for my son…
Then in discipleship group we covered the verse where Jesus said, if you, having being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall my father in heaven give good gifts?
God didn’t want to take the shade away from Jonah, He wanted to reshape Jonah’s heart.
God wants to shade you from the heat, but He’s more concerned with the shape of your heart.
Romans 8:28 & 32
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
What God did for Jonah, and what He’s done for us, only confirms that He is fully committed to doing what is best for you.