Among these so-called Minor Prophets, Jonah is the only one which, in the ordinary sense of the word, does not contain any prophecy at all, except his announcement of the threatened destruction of Nineveh within forty days, which was not fulfilled. Yet the book is distinctly prophetic, and as such is twice referred to by our Lord Jesus Christ. No spiritually-minded person can read it without discerning the fact that Jonah’s whole history, or at least that part of it here recorded for our instruction, is in itself a prophecy, setting forth, as it does, the course of Israel, of whom Jonah was a type, or picture, and likewise exhibiting beforehand the wondrous mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection.
Yet this truly sublime and heart-searching book has often been the butt of the ridicule of the worldly-wise rationalist and the puzzle of the un-spiritual religionist, who have never learned the importance of bowing to the authority of the Word of God. Time was when it was fashionable for men of science, themselves unconverted, to sneer at “Jonah’s whale” that could devour a man, on the ground that the anatomical “structure of the creature forbade such a supposition. But added light has revealed the fact that even if the Bible had declared the “prepared” fish to be a whale— which rightly read, it does not—still, the sperm whale, which in early ages frequented the Mediterranean, could have fully met the requirements of the case. Thus once more it transpires that rationalism is Irrational, and the Scriptures in every way worthy of credence.
No thoughtful and conscientious child of God could think of questioning the inspiration of a book upon which the Lord Jesus has set His seal in the particular way that He has on this one. Indeed, it is a significant fact that Deuteronomy, the last part of Isaiah, Daniel and Jonah have been preeminently the books that the critics have sought to dispute the genuineness of; and these four portions of the Word of God have been authenticated in a most remarkable way by Him who could not lie. He who knew all things quotes Deuteronomy as the very word of God when meeting Satan in the wilderness; and when He reads from “the great unknown” in the synagogue of Nazareth, He finds in the words of “Isaiah” the message of the Holy Ghost. In like manner He warns of the “abomination of desolation” spoken of “by Daniel the prophet,” and declares unhesitatingly that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites after having been in the belly of the great fish. How great is the blasphemy of those who, in the face of all this, sit in judgment on these solemn portions of the God-breathed Scriptures, and profess to be wiser than the Omniscient Himself!
Just when Jonah flourished we have no means of positively deciding. We learn that in the reign of Jeroboam the Second over Israel, a prophecy of Jonah’s was fulfilled; but whether it was made during Jeroboam’s lifetime or not, we are not informed. We are simply told that “he restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He spake by the hand of His servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gath-hepher” (2 Kings 14:25). But this, though it would seem to indicate that Jonah lived and prophesied at that time, does not necessarily prove it, as he might have uttered his prophecy at an earlier date, only to be then fulfilled. Either way, as God has not been pleased to state definitely the time of his birth and death, we can leave it as, for us, a matter of small moment. But the fact that he was born in Gath-hepher is of moment, refuting, as it does, the self-confident words of the Jewish doctors, “Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” Gath-hepher was in Galilee, and this is but an instance of how easy it is to carry the day by mere assumption, when disputing with those ignorant of Scripture, without proving one’s position by the Word of God. Needful it is to “prove all things,” holding fast only to that which is good.
Unquestionably the great theme of this book is the divine sovereignty. The expressions “The Lord prepared” and “God prepared,” frequently repeated, would manifest this. Throughout, however man may plan, and whatever he may attempt, it is God who is over all, and working all things in such a way as to bring glory to His own name.
With these few introductory thoughts, we turn directly to the record itself.
The Unwelcome Message
Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me” (vers. 1, 2). This was a most unexpected and uncongenial mission for an Israelite to be sent upon. Like the nation for whom he stands, Jonah was called to be the bearer of a message from God to the Gentiles. Israel had been separated from the nations, not to dwell in a cold, formal exclusiveness, in utter indifference to the fate of the peoples about them, but to be a light in a dark world, making known the mind of God and manifesting the character of Jehovah to those who were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. In Jonah’s subsequent history we see pictured their failure in this respect, and the disasters that came upon them because of that failure, as also the foreshadowing of the day when, restored and brought again into blessing, they will once more be entrusted with a commission from the Most High. For that Jonah was really restored in soul at the end, whatever the unhappy state portrayed here to the last, we can have no manner of doubt; as, evidently, he himself it is who narrates, for our learning, the experiences he had undergone; but the very manner of the relation of them manifests the fact that it is as a recovered and chastened man he does so. It would not be God’s way that he should dwell upon this side of things himself. He simply lets us know something of his own pride and self-will, and the manner taken by the Lord to humble and bring him into touch with Him once more.
For that it was pride and bigotry that was at the bottom of all his wilfulness and waywardness is clear enough. He knew that God was long-suffering, and that He delighted in mercy. He tells us that in the end. He therefore feared for his prophetic reputation; and his thoughts were so far from those of the Lord that he could not endure that grace should be shown to a Gentile power. He knew that of old Jehovah would have spared the cities of the plain had there been found but ten righteous. If Jehovah had so acted then, how could he depend upon His now pouring out His wrath upon Nineveh if its wicked inhabitants should bow to the word and fall before Him in repentance?
In all this, what a picture we have of the deceitfulness of the human heart, even in a saint of God! And how often have we had to reproach ourselves for the same evil propensities being allowed to act! How much easier is it to insist upon judgment of a brother, for instance, if he have in any way hurt or injured me, than if it be against others, or against God only, that he has sinned I My own reputation must be maintained at all cost, and I must be cleared of all imputation of blame, whatever it may mean to others! Have we not seen whole companies of the people of God thrown into sorrow and confusion in order that one self-willed man might have his way and be justified in his course?—let others suffer as they might. It is just the working of that same miserable pride of heart that is so strikingly portrayed for our admonition in the book before us.
Rather than go to these Gentiles, and risk his reputation, “Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (ver. 3). To get away from the pathway of obedience is invariably to go out from the presence of the Lord; that is, so far as the reality of it is concerned in one’s own soul. Actually, it would be impossible to get where the eye of God was not upon him; but in his own consciousness of communion and enjoyment, the moment that Jonah made up his mind to act in disobedience, he lost the sense of the Lord’s presence in his soul.
As he flees, what a lot of going down there is! He went down to Joppa; he went down into the ship; he went down into the sides of the ship: and in the next chapter he has to confess, “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains”— down till he could go no deeper, unless he had sunk into the pit of woe: but that could not be; for, whatever his failure, he was a child of God still and the Lord was about to restore him in a marvelous manner.
Oh, that we all might lay this to heart! The path of the one who acts in self-will is always a downward one, let the profession be what it may. One may boast of acting for God, and talk of having His approval; but if self is served instead of Christ, the feet will soon slide, and the steps will be down, down, down—till humbled and repentant, the soul turns back to God, and is ready to own the wrong of its behavior.
From the next few verses we learn that God loved His poor, failing servant too well to permit him to prosper as he took his foolish and sinful course. “The Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken” (ver. 4). God has begun to act. Now, let man try as he will, he will have to learn that all his power is as nothing when it is with the Almighty One that he has to contend.
All on the ship are at once aroused—at least all save the miserable man for whose sin the storm has come. He is sound asleep, having gone down into the sides of the ship—insensible to the anxiety and distress he has been the means of bringing upon so many others who had no share in his evil way. What a picture of one who has taken the first wrong step, and, though discipline has begun, is sleeping on in self-complacency, utterly unconscious of the fact that the hand of the Lord has been stretched out against him! This is the hardening through the deceitfulness of sin, concerning which the apostle warns us.
Awakened at last by the ignorant heathen shipmaster, who has exhausted every device known to him to appease the fancied wrath of his gods, Jonah is put to shame before them all. The earnest question, “What meanest thou, O sleeper?” followed by the rousing command, “Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us that we perish not,” brings him to a realization of the terrible circumstances in which all are placed, but does not suffice to open his lips in confession. Accordingly, the sailors cast lots, and God deigns to use this means to” point out the guilty man. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). “The lot fell upon Jonah.” But even then it is only in reply to the queries of the affrighted men that “he said unto them, I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.” On his part, the confession seems to have been coolly enough made. He knows that his case is desperate. His feelings are no doubt aroused; but there is no evidence as yet that conscience is really in exercise. He is like one who has hazarded all on a false expectation, and now finds that he must lose, and so determines to lose like a man, as people say, philosophically reminding himself that it cannot be helped.
The terrors of the heathen, when they realize the true state of affairs, might well have gone home to his conscience. “Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.” Even natural consciences will view with alarm what a backslidden child of God can survey with a measure of equanimity. This is the awful effect of trifling with God and grieving His Holy Spirit.
In desperation, seeing that all their efforts are unavailing, the mariners inquire of Jonah as to what they shall do, in order that the storm may cease. He accordingly directs them to throw him into the sea, owning that he knows the tempest was sent for his sake. Conscience is evidently rousing now, but to what extent it is hard to say. The men hesitate to carry out his word; but when at last all their efforts to bring the ship to land proved unavailing, they prepare to do as he has directed them. Crying to the Lord not to lay it to their charge, and owning that sovereignty which Jonah had virtually denied (“Thou, O Lord, hast done as it hath pleased Thee”), they took up Jonah and cast him into the sea. Immediately the waters became calm, and “the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.” Dark and ignorant though they were, their hearts responded to the mercy of God who had thus granted them so signal a deliverance.
As for His unworthy servant, for him too there was mercy; but nevertheless government must have its way, though the final result shall be that God will magnify Himself in the deliverance and restoration of the wanderer. “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (ver. 17). Dispensationally, it is Israel who, because of their failure as God’s witnesses in the earth, have been cast into the sea of the Gentiles, but who, despite all their vicissitudes, have been marvelously preserved by the Lord, and are yet to become His testimony-bearers to the whole world.
Out Of The Depths
When the scribes and the Pharisees hypocritically requested a sign that they might know for certain of the Lord’s Messiahship, He significantly replied: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here” (Matt. 12:39-41). In these solemn words He does two important things for us. He authenticates the story of Jonah, and He unfolds a marvelous typical line of truth set forth in that record, which we might otherwise have overlooked. Jonah’s experience is sober history. We have the word of the Son of God for it. Moreover, the prophet’s entombment in the great fish and his subsequent deliverance were intended as a sign to the Ninevites, and a type of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that Jonah found his suffering in the path of disobedience, and in Christ we contemplate with adoration the ever-faithful One who suffered to accomplish all His Father’s will; but this is only a proof of the fact that God ever causes the wrath of man to praise Him, and what would not do so He restrains. To the Ninevites Jonah was a man who had passed through death and resurrection. In this he portrays the glorious mystery of the gospel. He who is now set forth as the object of faith, is the One who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification. He went into death, but could not be holden of it. In a fuller sense than Jonah ever knew, He could say, “The waters encompassed Me about, even to the soul.” But God has raised Him from the dead, thereby testifying His satisfaction in the work of His Son. This is the only sign now set before men. All who trust in the risen Saviour are forever delivered from wrath and judgment—that judgment so rightfully theirs.
But in Jonah’s experiences we likewise have to trace God’s dealings with his own soul; and this has a moral lesson of the deepest importance for us. There is also, as previously intimated, the fact that Israel, the unfaithful witness-bearer, refusing the thought of grace going out to the Gentiles, is here pictured. Their present condition answers to this second chapter, as declared by the apostle Paul when he writes of “the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost” (1 Thess. 2:14-16). By and by their deliverance shall come, when they are ready to own that salvation is of the Lord, all undeserved by them. In that day they will become the messengers of the same boundless grace to heathen millions, once hated and despised.
But we turn now to trace out, as intimated above, the exercises of the prophet’s soul when in his living tomb.
In his affliction he cries to Him from whom he had been seeking to hide. Divine life, like water, seeks its proper level, or sphere. Because, whatever his failings, Jonah is a child of God still, he turns instinctively to the very One he had been grieving, in the hour that he is brought to realize that he is the subject of divine discipline. A man is a long way on the road to recovery when he is ready to own the righteousness of his chastening, and when he sees that he is under the hand of God. Having already acknowledged to the mariners that such is the case, he now cries to Him who hears him even “out of the belly of hell.”
The floods have compassed him about, even to the soul; the weeds are wrapped about his head; all God’s waves and billows have gone over him; yet he will look again toward Jehovah’s holy temple (vers. 1-5). It is blessed indeed when the soul does not faint beneath the discipline of the Lord, nor yet despise it, but looks up to God and counts upon His grace, however the sense of merited affliction may press upon the conscience.
But for deliverance there must be more than this, and for a time Jonah seems to fail to attain to it. He goes down to the bottoms of the mountains, but is able in the anticipation of faith to say, “Yet hast Thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.” His soul would have fainted within him, but he remembers the Lord, and is assured that his prayers shall be heard, and shall penetrate His holy temple. He is here in the place that the future remnant of Israel shall be in, in their experience, when the blindness of the present condition has passed away; afar off, yet, in accordance with the prayer of Solomon, looking toward the temple of Jehovah, though in ruins, as in the day that Daniel opened his windows toward Jerusalem (vers. 6, 7).
He exclaims, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.” He had forsaken his own mercy when he sought to flee from the presence of the Lord. He knows therefore the condition of the heathen by his own experience. Now, however, he is confident that he will wander no more; though, as we well know, his confidence was as yet misplaced. His heart was no more to be trusted in after he had been in the belly of the fish than before. When he cries, “I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving,” and when he adds, “I will pay that that I have vowed,” there is still no response on the part of God. He is not yet at the end of himself. As in the conversion of a sinner, so it is with the restoration of a saint: he must get to the end of himself before the Lord will undertake his case. The sinner must learn that he is without strength, and the erring saint must learn that in himself he is not a whit better or stronger than other men, ere God can manifest His grace.
So it is here, that after prayers, pledges and vows have availed nothing, the crisis is reached when he simply owns, “Salvation is of the Lord!” Then, and not till then, “the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land” (vers. 8-10). Jonah has thus, in figure, passed through death and resurrection. He is now ready to go to the great and godless city of the Ninevites and declare the word of God to them.
That he has not yet fully done with self is evident later on; but he is now in God’s school, and he will have a patient and gracious Teacher.
Death And Resurrection
It is of all importance, in studying the typical characters of the Old Testament, to distinguish between a man in his individual and in his official aspect. In other words, one may be a type of the Lord Jesus, if looked at officially, who, if viewed morally, may be a most marked failure. This is strikingly illustrated in the case of David. As the anointed of the Lord, he is preeminently a type of the true King, the Anointed of Jehovah, yet to be set upon the holy hill of Zion; but actually there is much in his life that is altogether opposed to the holiness and perfections of Him who was truly the Man after God’s own heart. In the present instance the same principle applies. Jonah’s history is, as we have seen, sad and sorrowful in the extreme; but grace delights to take up just such as he: and so we find the Divine Expositor Himself declaring that His own death and resurrection were set forth in symbol in the experience that the prophet from Galilee passed through. It is as the one who has thus tasted death, but triumphed over it, that Jonah becomes the bearer of Jehovah’s message to the Ninevites.
All his waywardness had not altered the thoughts of God as to his being sent to preach to these impious people. The servant might fail, but he is a servant still, as in the instances of Abraham and Job. The former was to intercede for Abimelech, “for he is a prophet,” though he had just denied his wife. The latter, restored in soul, no doubt, prays for his friends, though he had justified himself rather than God. There is a solemn and serious lesson here for those put in trust with the gospel, or who have a special ministry to the people of God. They are judged of the Lord, not merely as saints, but as servants. Nor does failure relieve them of responsibility to serve, but calls all the louder for self-judgment, that they may be in a right state of soul to minister in holy things. In so writing, I have no thought of countenancing clerical pretensions, or making of servants of Christ a special class who are supposed to be above the frailties common to men, and even to saints. But I only press what Scripture frequently insists on, that he who serves should do so because called of God to his particular ministry; and when so called, he has a most grave responsibility to walk accordingly. A one-man ministry is rightly rejected by many as unscriptural. An any-man ministry is equally so. He who runs unsent has failed even in his very start.
Jonah had been called of God to his mission. He is given the command the second time to “Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.” In response there is apparently no hesitation now, for we read, “So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.” His obedience now is as conspicuous as his former lack of it; but we know from the next chapter that he had not yet judged the point of departure from God. It is a serious thing to realize that people may become outwardly correct in their demeanor and zealous in the work of the Lord after a failure, so that none may realize that they are not yet restored in soul, while in reality the evil remains unjudged. The root of the matter is unreached. Certain acts may be confessed, and the confession may be real and genuine, so far as it goes; but the state of soul that led to these acts has not been faced in the presence of God. This was the great lack here, and a vital one. But God will have His own way of exposing the true state of His servant to himself, and of restoring his soul.
“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” is the burden of his message to the voluptuous city. The result is just as he had feared. For himself, he had gladly proven that “salvation is of the Lord.” The people of Nineveh shall prove the same; but so perverse is the human heart, even though it be the heart of a saint, that it fills Jonah with anger to see mercy going out to the repentant city. In a few graphic sentences the story of the great awakening is told. “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?” (vers. 5-9).
It is an open question if all the annals of revival-history could furnish a scene to parallel this. From the greatest to the least, all are crying to God. It is noticeable that it is not to the Lord—that is, Jehovah—that they direct their prayers, nor of whom they speak. Here, as in all Old Testament Scripture, Elohim (God) and Jehovah are used with scrupulous exactness. Foolish men may stumble at the use of the two names: but it is because they are blinded by the god of this age, and thus they fail to see that Jehovah is the covenant name that links God with His people in known relationship, while Elohim speaks rather of sovereignty and Creatorship. Hence the sailors of chapter one rightly use the broader title, or name, until, instructed by the erring prophet, they cry to Jehovah not to hold them accountable for his blood. And so, too, these Ninevites address their petitions to Elohim; and, as a result, we are told that “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented Him of the evil, that He had said He would do unto them; and He did it not” (ver. 10). Would any find a difficulty here? Let them know that He with whom judgment is a strange work is ever ready to repent Himself, and manifest His grace upon the least evidence of a breaking down before Him, and contrition of heart because of sin.
“His is love, ’tis love unbounded,—
Without measure, without end.
Human thought is here confounded,
’is too vast to comprehend.”
Alas, that Jonah was in no condition of soul to enter into and enjoy such love and grace! His is the spirit of the elder son in the parable, as the next chapter makes manifest.
The Repentance Of Nineveh
The Holy Spirit has declared that “the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” It is a most humiliating truth, but experience and Scripture everywhere corroborate it. It is not that the carnal mind in an unconverted person merely, is so hopelessly evil; but this wretched principle is as unreliable and vile in the greatest saint as in the worst sinner. Indeed, it is when we see the working of the flesh in one who is an example of piety that we appreciate its incurable iniquity as never before. No child of God dare trust the flesh. It will betray him into unholy thoughts and ways every time it is permitted to have control. I say permitted, purposely, for no Christian is of necessity subject to its power. Rightly viewed, it is a foreign thing, that should not have place for one moment. The believer is called upon to refuse its sway, and, in place of yielding his members unto it as though it had a necessary authority over him, he is called upon to make no provision for the flesh to fulfil its lusts. He is to reckon himself dead to it, and to yield himself unto God as one alive from the dead. Let it be otherwise, and defeat is certain—the triumph of the flesh is assured. But if we walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
Now in Jonah, here, we see a saint under the power of the flesh; though we cannot doubt that he was enabled to judge his failure at last, while commanded by God to put the record of it in the form it here bears in order that it might prove an admonitory lesson to thousands. No one doubts that it was the flesh that led to his fleeing from the presence of the Lord. It was the same power that was controlling him when he sat down outside the city, after delivering his message, to see what the Lord would do. Instead of his heart being filled with joy because of the repentance of the Ninevites, he was filled with anxiety as to his own reputation.
Probably few of us realize what a strong place self has in our affections till something arises that touches our own personal dignity. It is then that we manifest what spirit we are of. There is more of the Jonah disposition about us than we like even to admit to ourselves. Yet to own failure is one of the first steps to deliverance from it.
When all heaven was rejoicing at the repentance, not of one sinner, but of a vast multitude, we are told that “it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.” His state is most wretched, yet he is altogether unconscious of it. Puffed up with a sense of his own importance, the weal or woe of so many of his fellow-creatures is as nothing compared to his own reputation. Yet so utterly unconscious is he of the wretchedness of his state of soul, that he can turn to God and express his shameful failure as though he had not failed at all; or even as though the failure, if there were any, was on the part of the Lord Himself.
“He prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray Thee, 0 Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil. Therefore now, 0 Lord, take, I beseech Thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” It seems almost unbelievable that a servant of God could be in such a dreadful state of soul; but, alas, it was but an aggravated form of that insidious disease, pride, that so readily finds a congenial place for growth and expansion in the breast of any saint out of communion.
The tender question of the Lord might well have broken Jonah down, had he not been so thoroughly self-occupied. “Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?” There is no reproach: just the serious and solemn question that ought to have awakened him at once to his true condition of soul.
How often He would press a similar question upon us when cherishing unholy thoughts or feedings, or walking in our own paths and neglecting His ways! “Doest thou well” to be thus pleasing thyself and dishonoring Him? Surely not! But it is amazing how slow one can be to own how ill he is doing when he has become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
On Jonah’s part there is no response in words; but, acting in self-will and wounded vanity, he goes outside the city, and, after building a booth, sits under its shadow, to see what would become of Nineveh and of his prophetic reputation.
In grace God prepared a gourd, which, growing very rapidly, soon overshadowed the petulant prophet, and thus sheltered him from the fierce rays of the almost tropical sun. Because it ministered to his comfort, Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. This is the first note of joy on his part that we find recorded, and is in fact the last as well. His gladness was as truly from selfishness as was his sorrow.
But God now prepares something that is to blast that joy. A worm is permitted to destroy the gourd, and then a vehement east wind is likewise prepared by Him who has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm. The sickening heat almost overcame Jonah, so that he fainted; and in his chagrin and wretchedness he wished once more that he might be permitted to escape his trials by dying, saying, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
Again God speaks: this time to inquire in tenderest tone, “Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?” Gloomily the offended prophet answers, “I do well to be angry, even unto death.” It is the callousness that comes from allowing sin to go unjudged, till all capacity to discern between right and wrong seems to have gone.
The reply of Jehovah is an opening up of His grace that evidently accomplishes its end; for Jonah has no word of self-vindication to offer. He permits God to have the last word, and closes his record abruptly, as though what followed were of too sacred and private a nature for him to publish it abroad. The Lord said, “Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, 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?” The question is unanswerable. Jonah grieved for the loss of the gourd because it had ministered to his comfort. Jehovah yearned over the sinners of Nineveh because of the love of His heart. How opposite were Master and servant! But we must leave the history where God leaves it. The rest we shall know at the judgment-seat of Christ. Meantime may we have grace given to daily judge in ourselves aught that, if left to develop, would lead us as far from Himself as Jonah wandered!