I've found the story of Jonah to be a helpful starting place for the North American church when it comes to exploring our attitudes and actions toward people from groups other than our own - Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists or the LGBTQ community.
Jonah is at best, the reluctant prophet. His reticence to go along with the mission of God to save the Ninevites becomes almost a distraction to the main message of Jonah's book: the heart of God to save. But God does save the Ninevites who repent and believe and turn from their wicked ways.
Meanwhile, Jonah heads out to a hill beside the city in hopes that fire will still fall. It's there that the curious event with a shade plant growing and then dying occurs.
Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then 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. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
Jonah was concerned about the plant and the comfort that it afforded him.
The heart of God however was to save.
The heart of Jonah was somewhere else, focused on something he thought he was loosing. Something he thought was important but that God didn't think was important. At least not as important as saving the Ninevites.
This particular point in the story has had me thinking lately about the plants in my own life that I elevate above the mission and purposes of God -- the old wine skins that Jesus is inviting me to let go of in favor of new wine skins.
Jonah is not a Bible character that we should emulate. His is not an example to follow. God seems to place the story of Jonah in the scriptures first and foremost to demonstrate His heart for the nations - even nations bent on evil.
But there is an important opportunity in the story of Jonah to reflect on our own hearts.
Take fifteen minutes to read or listen to the story of Jonah and then answer the following questions:
Feel free to interact with these questions and the E2E community in the comments below.
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