From the Covenant Reformed News, May 2015 Issue (the full issue is attached here in pdf form)
The Lessons of Jonah’s Gourd (4)
The lessons of Jonah’s gourd (Jonah 4:10-11) point to three important biblical truths regarding Jehovah’s glorious covenant of grace in Jesus Christ.
First, God’s covenant is with believing Jews and Gentiles. This is a major theme throughout the book of Jonah, explaining why the prophet did not want to go to pagan Nineveh in the first place (he was afraid that God would convert them) and why he was very angry at their repentance (he saw God’s turning to this heathen city as His turning away from Israel) (1-3).
Right from father Abram’s call in Ur of the Chaldees, “all families of the earth” were to be “blessed” in him (Gen. 12:3). God explained His changing his name to “Abraham” as indicating that he would be “a father of many nations” (17:5; Rom. 4:16-18). In the New Testament age, the church has become catholic or universal, as the prophets had predicted in many places (e.g., Ps. 117; Isa. 2:2-4; Jer. 3:17; Mal. 1:11) and as the book of Jonah foreshadowed.
Second, God’s covenant is with believers and their children. In Jonah 4:11, Jehovah could have simply said that there were, say, some 750,000 people in greater Nineveh. But He did not. Instead, the Lord stated that the city had over 120,000 infants: “more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand.”
Clearly, there were some elect infants, who were the children of Ninevites converted through Jonah’s preaching, whom God pitied. Therefore, the salvation of Nineveh must have been at least two generations. Even in this Gentile city, even in the Old Testament, even in a city which was to be destroyed some decades later (cf. Nahum), God’s covenant was with believers and their seed!
In this regard, too, Jonah 4:11 is part of a strong current of biblical teaching. God’s covenant was with Noah and his seed (Gen. 6:18; 9:8-9) through Abraham and his seed (17:7; 18:18-19), right from the Old into the New Testament age, as Christ taught and demonstrated (Mark 10:13-16) and as Peter preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:39). Since, according to apostolic Christianity, the children of even one believing parent are “holy” (I Cor. 7:14), whether they be ethnic Jews or Gentiles, we read in Scripture of the baptisms of Lydia, the Philippian jailor, Crispus, Stephanas and their households (Acts 16:14-15; 31-33; 18:8; I Cor. 1:14, 16).
Third, God’s covenant is with the creation. Genesis 1-2 describes His creation of the beautiful, sinless universe in six days. Thousands of years later, Jeremiah speaks of the Lord’s “covenant of the day” and “covenant of the night” (33:20; cf. 25), referring to the alternation of light and darkness from the first day onwards (Gen. 1:3-5) which was regulated three days later (and since) by the sun and the moon (14-19).
The Bible’s history of the worldwide flood (Gen. 6-9) emphasizes that God’s covenant of grace embraces the creation (Gen. 6:18f.; 9:8-17; Isa. 54:9-10). Though the earth was totally covered with water and most animals were destroyed, yet Jehovah restored the dry land and saw to it that the representatives of the various creatures were preserved in Noah’s ark to multiply and fill the earth on their release.
In the patriarchal age, Eliphaz the Temanite declared, “At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth. For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee” (Job 5:22-23). This “league” or “covenant” relationship with “the stones of the field” (23) would mean that the earth would produce crops for penitent Job without any “famine” (22). Likewise, there would be “peace” between him and the animals (23).
Hosea also speaks of God’s covenant of grace with His people and the brute creation: “And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground” (2:18; cf. 21-22). All this is integral to Jehovah’s covenant marriage with His people (16, 19-20).
God’s covenant with the creation is perfectly fulfilled in the “new heaven” and the “new earth” (Rev. 21:1), pictured in the last two chapters of the Bible (Rev. 21-22), after its purging with fire on the day of the Lord’s return (II Pet. 3). Romans 8:18-25 speaks of the longing of both believers and the creation for this glorious renewal.
Of the Old Testament prophets, it is Isaiah who speaks of the “new heavens” and the “new earth” (65:17-25; 66:22), with a prophesy of this glorious new world (11:6-9) sandwiched between predictions of the coming of Jesus Christ the King (1-5) and His salvation of both Jews and Gentiles (10-16). The manifestation of the covenant Christ’s headship over creation (e.g., Col. 1:15-17) is the eternal purpose of God: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him (Eph. 1:10).
Jehovah’s pitying and sparing the “much cattle [or livestock]” of Nineveh (Jonah 4:11) must be understood within this scriptural framework. Some of the various types of livestock and even the vegetation type of the gourd (6-10)—whatever it may be—will be in the new heavens and the earth where the covenant God will tabernacle perfectly with redeemed mankind in Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:3).
God’s covenant of grace in Jesus Christ embraces both believers and their (elect) children, out of both the Jews and the Gentiles, and even the brute creation—these are three lessons adumbrated in God’s last words to Jonah in his book. Rev. Angus Stewart, pastor of Covenant PRC, Ballymena, N.Ireland
- Volume: 15
- Issue: 13
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851