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The Lessons of Jonah's Gourd (1)

The following article is from the February 2015 issue of the Covenant Reformed News, a monthly publication of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena, N.Ireland.

The Lessons of Jonah’s Gourd (1)

After God destroyed with a worm the gourd under which Jonah had sheltered from the sun, He expostulates with the huffing prophet in what are probably the least understood and most intriguing verses of the book: "Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:10-11).

Jonah, of course, should not have needed the lesson of our text in order to submit to Jehovah and acquiesce in His destruction of the gourd and salvation of Nineveh. If only he had considered the marvellous providences of God with him! Remember the storm (1:4-16) and the great fish (1:17-2:10). That great beast was in precisely the right place to stop Jonah from drowning; in its belly, he was miraculously preserved for three days; it vomited him out on dry land in just the right part of the Mediterranean.

If only Jonah had really grasped the two key verses in the book: "Salvation is of the Lord" (2:9) and "thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil" (4:2)! Both of these are confessions about God and His salvation that Jonah himself had made.

If only Jonah had heeded God’s two gentle rebukes: "Doest thou well to be angry?" (4:4, 9)! But he did not, so he needed yet more instruction and correction.

At this point, man might propose several hypothetical divine options. First, Jehovah could kill Jonah. After all, that is what Jonah wanted (4:3, 8, 9) and no doubt he deserved it. Second, God could torture Jonah, inflicting more and more pain until Jonah screams out, "Enough, I give in! I’m reconciled to your saving of Nineveh!" Third, God could just let the prophet huff: "Jonah wants to be off on his own; let him stew in his own juice in his booth; he will get fed up with it after a while." Fourth, God could transform Jonah in an instant by greatly sanctifying him so that he immediately rejoices in Jehovah’s wise and holy ways with Nineveh and himself. But these are not the ways God worked with Jonah. Nor are they the ways our heavenly Father (ever or usually) works with His people or with us personally—thankfully!

Next time, we shall explain further these last two, climactic verses of Jonah. They provide the basis for both the condemnation of Jonah’s anger and huffing concerning the gourd and Nineveh, and the justification of God’s mercy and sparing of that city. This fitting and powerful conclusion to the book enables us to grasp its meaning— good reason for paying attention to these articles on Jonah 4:10-11! Rev. Angus Stewart, pastor of Covenant PRC in Ballymena, N.Ireland

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 15
  • Issue: 10
Stewart, Angus

Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)

Ordained - 2001

Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001

Website: www.cprf.co.uk/

Contact Details

  • Address
    7 Lislunnan Road
  • City
    Ballymena
  • State or Province
    Co.Antrim
  • Zip Code
    BT42 3NR
  • Country
    Ireland
  • Telephone
    (01144) 28 25 891851

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