“But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine 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.’ But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?’ ‘I do,’ he said. ‘I am angry enough to die.'” — Jonah 4:7–9 (NIV84)
Now that’s more like it! Enough of the grace and mercy! How about a little judgment. Jonah has been a royal pain in the neck and needs a whack across the back of the head (Gibbs style – for those who watch NCIS). But, in closer review, God was not dishing out retribution by sending the worm to destroy the vine. Once again, He was teaching the prophet Jonah. Once again, God was trying to dig into Jonah’s hardened heart with an object lesson.
Here is what I think the Lord was trying to get across. “Jonah, you didn’t create the Ninevites (I did), but you are mad that I had mercy on them. You didn’t create the vine (I did) and now you are mad that I destroyed it. If you are mad when I save and mad when I destroy what I create, what do you want from me?” Jonah’s only possible answer: “Let me be Lord of what You make. I want You to save those I think deserve to be saved and I want You to destroy those I think deserve to be destroyed. Lord, I want to be in control. I want You to be my puppet. I am not interested in seeing it Your way. You need to see things my way.” So, Jonah got mad and cried out that it would be better if he were dead (again, if I were God I would have given him his wish). But, thank God, He is not like Jonah or me. He is Himself. He is the God of all truth and grace. And so the object lesson that was an attempt to reach Jonah’s heart was deflected once again by Jonah’s hardened, angry heart.
Is there some anger, resentment or judgment that you are holding onto that is distorting your view of things? Is God using your experiences like object lessons? Is He trying to dig into your heart? Soften up and let Him in. It is His grace we need, not His judgment. We need to let Him be God. He is Creator. We are creatures. We should never forget that. God has shown His love and mercy upon the entire world by sending Jesus to redeem and save us. May we be as willing to share that salvation as we are to receive it.