He Gives and Takes Away

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Jonah 4:6-8
6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. 8 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.”

God is teaching Jonah a lesson about his anger. Jonah isn’t very happy that Nineveh should receive the Lord’s mercy, grace, and redemption. We see here that God shows His ultimate control and power over everything. In Matthew 5, Jesus explains this same principle:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

Jesus is imploring His audience to be perfect like God in our love for one another, even our enemies. God’s lesson here is that He loves all equally and their life circumstances do not dictate His love. After a relaxing day in the shade, Jonah suffered under the sun and wind to the point of death…and God was in control of that! How often do we find ourselves scorched by the sun and wind? How many times do we wish that our suffering would just end? The scorching sun and wind represented the inner tormenting anger that Jonah was holding against God. God still loved him. God still kept him alive. God still had a purpose for his suffering.

This time of isolation and brooding God intended to use to help grow Jonah and mature him in the love Jesus was talking about. Jesus’ brother, James, wrote about the importance of pushing on through our afflictions, whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual:

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

God wanted Jonah, despite his hatred for the Ninevites, to trust God’s plan. He certainly didn’t understand it because he didn’t feel that they deserved what God gave them (and they didn’t). But God was trying to show him that His love covers all, despite their struggles and circumstances. If God loves them, then who are we not to love them? Who are we not to have compassion on the brokenness of mankind, since we too are broken? We need and want God’s love and compassion just like anyone else, although sometimes we struggle to admit it because of our brokenness. Jonah’s internal struggle was just as evil as the people of Nineveh were, so Jonah had no reason to be angry with God.

Do you trust God regardless of your circumstances?

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