Kia Ora Gramps.
Could you please help to understand what lesson the Lord wanted to teach Jonah about the Gourd and the Worm? I’m having trouble understanding the story. I’ve read that the Lord wanted to show Jonah that He loves all His people. How does that show through the story? What did the Lord mean in Jonah 4:10-11? Many thanks.
Jonah is an interesting story. Jonah was a prophet who supported Israel at a time when Israel was threatened by Nineveh. So when the Lord told Jonah that Nineveh was wicked and ripe for destruction, it would be easy to see why Jonah would be pleased by this; and why he would be less pleased to be called by the Lord to call the city of Nineveh to repentance.
Jonah would know that if Nineveh repented, the Lord would not destroy it, and it would remain a threat to Israel. Whereas if they did not repent, then the Lord would destroy them, and they would no longer be a danger to Israel. He would also know that if he disobeyed the commands of the Lord, he would bring down the wrath of God on himself.
With this understanding, Jonah’s choice to flee makes sense (in a very short-sighted kind of way) . He gets on the boat and flees Jerusalem. When the ship is threatened, he tells them to throw him over, willing to give his life to do what he thinks is best for Israel.
The Bible states that the Lord had Jonah caught by a ‘giant fish’ for three days and then vomit him up (presumably near Nineveh). During this time Jonah humbled himself to do what the Lord wanted. So he goes to Nineveh and calls them to repent or be destroyed.
Now there is potential for a bit of Irony here. Had Jonah gone to Nineveh just as an enemy Israelite, he would have most likely been ignored, maybe even killed. His failure would have resulted in the destruction of Nineveh by the Lord due to their wickedness. Yet he rebelled, and Nineveh accepted him as a messenger and quickly repented when he got there. Why would they do that? It seems that at this time Nineveh had a sea-oriented religious system and sea-themed Gods. Image what some of the Nineveh locals would think and say if they saw Jonah get vomited up out of a fish onto the beach. Image what they would be thinking when he started telling them that God had a message for them, and they needed to repent or be destroyed. Clearly the Lord knew what Jonah would do, and it seems the Lord was prepared to use that to further His own ends.
But the Lord is also working with Jonah trying to get him to see the value of every soul, not just the Israelites. That is where the Gourd and the Worm come in. Jonah is depressed and miserable due the the fact that the city would not be destroyed. He had prophesied doom and destruction in the name of the Lord, but due to repentance it wasn’t going to happen.
Jonah is mad at the Lord, so the Lord tried to teach him. The Lord provided a gourd or plant that protected Jonah. The next day he sent in a worm which destroyed the gourd leaving Jonah open to the elements. When Jonah adds that to his list of complaints the Lord uses it as a teaching moment.
The Lords states that Jonah mourns the loss of the Gourd which came up in a day and was lost in a day–a nothing and trivial thing. Yet the city of Nineveh had sixscore thousand people (Jonah 4:11) who didn’t know any better and Jonah thinks their preservation is a bad thing? By so doing, the Lord is showing Jonah that his priorities are more then a bit messed up.
The record of Jonah ends there, so we don’t know what happened to Jonah after that, but we can hope that he learned what the Lord wanted him to learn and that he repented of his attitude and actions. This is something we all need to be careful of, not to let our own wants and desires blind us to what is truly important.