The Strange Ways of God
God’s conviction comes in different ways. Odd ways even. Yet all of them accomplish their purpose: to expose our sin and turn us back to him.
Such was the case for Jonah.
Nineveh had just experienced revival, and Jonah was outside the city angrily and jealously conversing with God about exactly that: Nineveh’s revival. He knew God would be gracious in response to their repentance, and it bothered him that God would show mercy and forgive. So he constructed a small tent for himself and asked God to take his life (Jonah 4:1-4).
Instead, God saved his life.
God ordained three things to turn Jonah’s perspective around and rescue him physically: a plant, a worm, and wind. The plant actually shielded him from the sun during his pity-party, until the worm overcame the plant the next day. As soon as the plant withered, a scorching wind came and “beat down on the head of Jonah” (Jonah 4:8). Jonah found himself angry once more, but this time over the fate of the plant. And his own! So he requested once again to die (Jonah 4:9).
It was in the middle of this arrogant self-pity that God showed Jonah the irony of his anger through a penetrating question. It’s recorded in Jonah 4:10-11. Here’s the gist of it—You’re upset about the withering of a plant because it was your shade, yet you were upset that I didn’t destroy over 120,000 people?Really Jonah? What’s up with that?
Interestingly, that’s how the 4-chapter book ends—with that staggeringly convicting question from God. And no answer is recorded. Talk about a cliff hanger.
We don’t know what happened next; we can only surmise. My opinion? I think Jonah repented of his pride and prejudice and returned to the Lord. I think that because when previously convicted by another strangely sovereign circumstance—being swallowed by a big fish—his response was repentance. I personally believe he did the same thing again after considering the plant. And the worm. And the wind.
Ah, the plant and the worm and the wind. Three unlikely things sent by God to expose Jonah’s sin and turn him back to God. No doubt a strange way to work in Jonah’s life. But strangely effective.
Such is God’s sovereign control and steadfast love. Nothing is outside of his control and no one is outside of his reach.
Not a plant. Not a worm. Not the wind. And not Jonah.