Worm and the Gourd
Before you begin your Bible study, as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, be sure you have named your sins privately to God the Father.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(Known, Unknown and Forgotten sins) (1Jn 1:9)
You will then be in fellowship with God, Filled with the Holy Spirit and ready to learn Truth from the Word of God.
"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth," (John 4:24)
Worm and the Plant
During the dispensation of Israel, the Jews were both custodians of the Word of God and responsible for its distribution. This made Israel a missionary nation. Abraham was the first missionary under the title of “Hebrew,” meaning, “the one who crosses the river.” Abraham crossed the river Euphrates to evangelized the Canaanites. Three of his converts are mentioned in scripture: Aner, Eschol, and Mamre.
That the Jews failed to take the gospel to the Gentiles and some of the reasons for it are discussed in, (Rom 10:2-3). However, there were some exceptions. Jonah is a case in point, though he must be classified as a reluctant missionary. Nevertheless, the grace of God overruled, and Nineveh was evangelized in spite of the negative volition of Jonah. Although the lessons from Jonah are numerous and fantastic, only one will be emphasized — the lesson of the worm and the plant.
Summary of chapter one
Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying. (Jon 1:1) Jonah was a prophet in Israel and a believer. By that I mean he had trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for Salvation. In the Hebrew his name means “Dove,” while the name of his father means “Truth” or “Truthful.” Just how the Word of the Lord came to Jonah we are not told. We do know that before the canon of Scripture was completed, God spoke to His prophets and special chosen people by means of dreams or visions, by angelic messengers, and even face to face. But however the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, when it came, it was in the form of a Command: Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me. (Jon 1:2)
Nineveh was the capital of the great Assyrian Empire which at that time was becoming a world empire. The city of Nineveh had a population of between 600,000 and 1,000,000 people. How do we know this? Besides extra-Biblical sources, the very last verse of the Book of Jonah tells us that there were 120,000 children who had not reached the age of accountability, living in the city of Nineveh! And even figuring in the tremendous infant mortality rate of that day, 120,000 children would indicate a population of between 600,000 and 1,000,000. The 1,000,000 mark seems to be closer to it. It was probably the largest city in the world at that time. The circumference, according to ancient historians, was sixty miles. Its skyline must have been a marvelous sight with over 1,500 towers soaring above the walls, which are described as being as wide as city streets and one hundred feet high. Three or four chariots could pass long the top of the walls at one time. But as great as the city was in wealth and splendor, it was even greater in wickedness. The Assyrians were not only the wildest and toughest, but the vilest and most evil people on the face of the earth. In fact, so vile were they that their wickedness was said to have reached unto heaven. “Their wickedness,” God told Jonah, “has come up before Me.” This does not mean that their sins were stacked as high as heaven, but that the odor of them had reached God. This is an idiomatic expression in the Hebrew which says in effect that Nineveh “stinks.” The stench is so rotten that God can smell it in heaven. They have gone for the super-super-duper wickedness; evil (False satanic and human thinking) and sin. (Lust of the eyes; lust of the flesh; and the pride of life; 1Jn 2:16)
Now suddenly, God calls one of His prophets and says to him, “Arise, go to Nineveh.” Although we do not find it in this passage, we will discover later on that Jonah evidently had said that he would go. He made a vow, dedicating himself to the task, but then changed his mind. Therefore, we read in, (Jon 1:3) But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish... Tarshish, a famous Phoenician seaport on southern Spain, was known for its smelters. We may also note the fact that if one wanted to go in the opposite direction of Nineveh, which was east of Jerusalem, one would have to go to Tarshish, which was exactly west of Jerusalem. So Jonah went in exactly the opposite direction. He went “down to Joppa,” (The modern port of Jaffa) and there he caught a ship, very likely a Phoenician ship, since these did all of the traveling between Tarshish and Joppa. He paid his fare, indicating that he had the financial means to go to Nineveh, except that he was going in the opposite direction.
In, (Jon 1:4) we see the grace of God. In fact, it is apparent from the very beginning of the Book. First of all, even though their iniquity is full, God is gracious because He plans to give Nineveh yet another opportunity for Salvation. When a nation reaches the point in its wickedness and rejection where its evil will contaminate the rest of the world, God will cut off that nation. Yet God never judges a nation without first offering His grace. Jonah was the chosen vessel in this case to warn of judgment to come, and also to offer God’s grace in Salvation as an alternative.
The fact that Jonah went in the opposite direction is not really so unusual. This is something which man has practiced throughout the centuries, yet God is still gracious — not only because He wants to do something about Nineveh, but also because He wants to do something about Jonah, who is definitely a believer out of fellowship. It was grace that “sent out a great wind into the sea.” The sea is the Mediterranean, by which means Jonah was trying to get to Tarshish. Tarshish, incidentally, was considered the end of the world! Just beyond Tarshish were the “Gates of Hercules,” known today as Gibraltar. Out beyond that, as it was said in that day, you would drop off into nothing. So Jonah was going just as far away from Nineveh as his mind could conceive. He was going to the end of the world. “But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea,” resulting in a fearful storm.
The mariners on Jonah’s ship were Phoenicians, accustomed to the sea. They lived most of the time on the sea, but this was such a violent storm that it frightened even them. They were so afraid that they began to dig out their gods and cry to them. They were very practical, also. They not only prayed, but they tried to change the ballast and the balance of the ship by ridding it of the cargo. Now during all of this, there was one passenger who did not seem to be disturbed in the least. Jonah was fast asleep “down in the sides of the ship.” This type of apathy is so apathetic it is pathetic. It is a result of quenching the Holy Spirit. One doesn’t sleep through a Mediterranean storm unless he is either totally indifferent or completely calloused, and apparently Jonah was both.
So in, (Jon 1:6) we see that the shipmaster came to him and woke him. The Hebrew word for shipmaster is rather interesting, actually meaning the “upper-steersman.” He was the captain of the ship. “Call on your God,” he said to Jonah. “Get up and get with us on this thing. We all have different gods, and we are trying to get the whole pantheon to give attention to this storm and do something about it.” But when the storm continued, they decided to cast lots to see who had angered the gods. (Jon 1:7) The lot fell on Jonah. God used this to bring about His sovereign plan for Jonah.
These Phoenician sailors are most commendable in their behavior. Instead of immediately tossing Jonah into the water, they began to ask him questions to determine of what he was guilty. What did this man do to cause his God to raise up such a storm? Perhaps his occupation was a disreputable one which had caused the wrath of the gods. Admitting that he was the cause of the situation, Jonah told them he was a Hebrew and that he feared the Lord. (Jon 1:8-10) So they said to him, (Jon 1:11) what should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us? He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.” (Jon 1:12) “Just dump me overboard,” Jonah was saying, “and you will all survive.”
Notice: (Jon 1:13) However, the men rowed desperately to return to land… They were not anxious to dump anyone into the sea, even a carnal, out-of-fellowship, miserable believer who deserved nothing better. They just could not bring themselves to do it. Do you see the contrast? These heathen Phoenician sailors had more concern for the ONE life than Jonah had for the hundreds of thousands of people who lived in the city of Nineveh! I wonder, how interested are YOU in those for whom Christ died? Jonah wasn’t interested at all. One million souls for whom Christ died — and Jonah goes in the opposite direction!
But here is the amazing grace of God — God does not let Jonah go that way! In grace He seeks out His disobedient servant and puts him in the midst of catastrophe. And God will do the same thing to you that He did to Jonah. GOD WILL KEEP SHAKING YOU AND SHAKING YOU UNTIL YOU GIVE IN TO HIS GRACE! You will never be happy until you do, so you might as well save yourself a few storms. Notice further how the unbelievers put Jonah to shame. They did everything possible to save that ship without throwing him overboard, but when the storm continued and they could not stabilize the ship, they were finally forced to cast him into the sea. And we can see how God used this carnal believer's disobedience to lead the entire ship to pray and express faith in the LORD! (Jon 1:14-16) God's plan goes on with us; without us; and or in spite of us!
The prepared fish
In, (Jon 1:17) we have the first thing that the Lord prepared. And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah… Since this is not a detailed study of the Book of Jonah, I am going to say just two things about this fish: (1) Nineveh had a god that they worshipped — Dagon, the fish god, and this will be a very important factor in the message Jonah would have at a later time. (2) Since God, the Lord Jesus Christ, created everything, it is no problem for Him to prepare a great fish; nor is it difficult for His omnipotence to direct a great fish to the vicinity of a certain ship, even in a storm. And so it follows that neither was it a great problem for that fish to latch onto Jonah as he went overboard. This is ALL a part of the grace of God, as we shall see as the lesson of the “worm” unfolds. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, a miracle not only for Jonah’s benefit, but for ours as well, designed to teach us the Truth of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Matt 12:40)
Summary of chapter two
Chapter 2 is a change of pace. This is Jonah’s “rebound” prayer, (Confession to God he is out of fellowship) rather than a prayer for deliverance. Rebound is a technique of the Christian life essential to the fulfillment of the plan of God. Without rebound it is impossible to maintain fellowship with the Lord, to be filled with the Spirit, or to produce Spiritual growth, (The gold, silver and precious stones of; 1Co 3:12). The mechanics of rebound are summarized in, (1Jn 1:9) as well and many other passages, (Lev 5:5; Psa 32:5; Psa 38:18; Psa 51:3; Prov 28:13).
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1Jn 1:9)
The believer’s confession of sin to God is the basis for forgiveness, as well as for the removal of Divine discipline. (1Co 11:30) Although the suffering from discipline is “cursing,” cursing is turned to blessing through rebound. The word “confess” means simply to name or specify the sins and or admit being out of fellowship. Since every sin which has ever been committed, or whichever will be committed in the human race has been judged on the cross, God is faithful and justified in forgiving the believer when he confesses. The result is restoration to fellowship, making possible the continuation of the plan of God in the life of the believer.
At this point, (Jon 2:1-10) Jonah admitted being out of fellowship; and restoration to fellowship was instantaneous!
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Now, as a believer in fellowship, Jonah is prepared to do the will of God. Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God, (Notice, HIS God — relationship) from the stomach of the fish, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol... Here Sheol should be translated “hades.”
…You heard my voice.
(Jon 2:1-2) He was in the place of death, and yet he was still alive! (A reference to Christ being judged on the cross and being in Hades for three days and the nites; 1Pe 3:18-20) Jonah took stock of the situation and said to himself, “I am inside the fish and still alive, and if I am still alive, God must have a purpose for my life.” He therefore applied the Truth of rebound and moved into the sphere of “faith-rest.”
This is exactly what God wants you and me to do. If you find that you are still alive, (And you may have to pinch yourself to make sure) then you can begin to realize that as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, THIS MESSAGE IS FOR YOU. If you are still alive, GOD HAS A PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE! Now, you may be sitting out in the middle of the Mediterranean in a storm, or you may be sitting in the fish’s belly, as it were, in God’s area of discipline, or God’s woodshed, but regardless of where you are, the very fact that you are still alive and breathing means that God has a purpose for your life, so you might as well get with it and stop fighting it, whether you are on the Mediterranean, in the fish’s belly, or under the plant of self-pity. Rebound and keep moving!
Then notice, (Jon 2:3) for You had cast me into the deep.… Who cast Jonah in to the deep? We would say the Phoenician sailors, but Jonah doesn’t look at it that way. Remember that Paul said he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ, not of Nero. Now, here is Jonah saying, “...GOD CAUSES all things to work together for good to those who love God, (Believers in fellowship and growing to Spiritual maturity) to those who are called according to His purpose, (Of being blessed in time and rewarded in eternity) (Rom 8:28).
Here I am, taking a ride in a ‘submarine,’ and though I don’t like it, I am still alive; therefore God must have a reason for my being here.” He continues in, (Jon 2:3) by relating how he went under the water. (Divine judgment to Jonah and to Christ)
(Jon 2:4) cf. (Job 13:15; Psa 69:1-36; Mark 15:34) So I said, 'I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple. Jonah is saying, “Here I am, sitting in the midst of this fish, in a place of death, and yet I know that I am going to be in fellowship in his temple again.” (1Co 3:16) Now that’s a perfect combination of the faith-rest technique.
(Jon 2:5) Water encompassed me to the point of death... He wants to make it clear that he was inside the fish, and that the fish was down forty fathoms. He is in a very difficult situation, as was Christ, explained in, (Spiritual death, judgment, Hades and even a reference to the Weeds-thorns around His head; Jon 2:5-6) cf. (Matt 27:29-30) Again Jonah expresses his faith, as he gives positive testimony to his deliverance, based on his relationship to the Lord.
In, (Jon 2:7) he mentions that fact that even though he fainted, HE REMEMBERED the LORD, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple. In, (Jon 2:8) we see an interesting phrase, “Those who regard vain idols, (Are false satanic and human thoughts that are put above God's THOUGHTS! Psa 138:2; Col 3:5) Forsake their faithfulness,” (To God and His Word; Jer 17:13)
To “regard vain idols” is to think you can have anything in life that will make you happy, whether in fellowship or not. The believer in Jesus Christ who thinks he can be happy and at the same time disobedient to God, is categorized under the phrase of, “Those who regard vain idols...”
What does “vain idols” mean literally from the Hebrew? It means to kid yourself. They that they try to “kid themselves” believers who forsake their faithfulness to God and His Word; ONLY hurt themselves. (Prov 8:36) You can deceive yourself and others. NOT GOD! If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, your life belongs to Him, and you are here to serve and honor Him by being faithful to God; by STAYING IN FELLOWSHIP AND THINKING WITH HIS THOUGHTS! (Luk 14:26-35) Nothing in this life will make you truly happy apart from fellowship with God the Holy Spirit! There is NO SUBSTITUTE for occupation with Christ! What is the result of living a lie, or kidding yourself? “They forsake their faithfulness” “their faithfulness” is a reference to God, with emphasis upon His grace. We forsake the source of grace!
Then he has something else to say. But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving... (Jon 2:9). “My sacrifice is not going to be an animal sacrifice. My sacrifice is going to be my Thoughts and voice! I am restored to fellowship. ...That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD. And I will go to Nineveh and preach the Word of God. I despise the Assyrians — I hate them so much I went in the opposite direction.” Do you know why Jonah went in the opposite direction? Oh, you’re going to say that he didn’t want to be a missionary. Not at all. Jonah did want to be a missionary, but he wanted to be a missionary to his own people. He wanted to proclaim God’s Word to the Jews, but not to the despised Assyrians. The Assyrians were a bunch of jackals, vile and evil. To the Jews they were the scum of the earth. NO ONE wanted to go near the Assyrians. And of all the Assyrians, the city of Nineveh was the epitome of rottenness. Jonah was afraid that the grace of God would spare the sinful city. If he went to Nineveh and proclaimed the Word of God, he knew those people would get SAVED! And he despised them so much that he did not want the Ninevites to be saved. He did not want them to go to heaven. He wanted them to roast in hell forever! So that is why he took a one-way ticket to Tarshish. He figured that he could do his country a great favor, since he believed that the conversion of the Ninevites would infringe upon the privileges of the nation Israel and put an end to their Spiritual monopoly. You see, Jonah understood something of the grace of God! cf. (Jon 4:2)
Where did Jonah get the colossal nerve to thank God for deliverance while sitting in the middle of a fish? Jonah! You’ve got a lot of nerve! You’ve just disobeyed the Lord, the Lord put you in the woodshed, and there you sit in a fish’s tummy thanking God for deliverance! For three days he didn’t ASK God for deliverance — he THANKED God for deliverance! Do you know why? He understood the grace of God! HE BELIEVED IT, and then he THOUGHT WITH TRUTH! (Jon 2:7-9) cf. (Prov 22:17-19) God could not say “no” to a man who would trust Him. (Jer 39:18) Did you read what I said? God cannot say “no” to a man who will trust Him. (Heb 13:5) God’s grace must honor the Divine operating asset of FAITH IN GOD AND WHAT HE THINKS AND WHAT HE COMMUNICATES! (Heb 11:5-6)
Now, Think about this: God took one of the sorriest of prophets, as illustrated by his attitude, put him back on dry land, and permitted him to preach the greatest revival the world has ever known, One million converts is a mighty good revival record. One million converts in what seems to be about three days of preaching! It is the grace of God that will deliver a man out of a fish’s belly, a man who had turned his back on the Lord, and give him such a tremendous privilege. Now, Jonah KNEW the grace of God. He understood is so thoroughly, and he claimed it so strongly by faith, that notice what happened.
At the end of, (Jon 2:9) he said, “I will pay my vow.” What is his vow? Proclaiming the Word of God to the Ninevites. And this tells us something else. Except for this little confession of Jonah, we would not have known that when the Word of the Lord first came to Jonah, Jonah had said, “Yes, Lord, I will go.” And then he tiptoed down to Joppa and got a ticket going the other way! Now he says, “Lord, I’ll do it. Even though I said I would before, now I will do it.” And what was his vow? It was using his voice to praise the Lord; and to give the Gospel. ...Salvation is from the LORD. (Jon 2:9)
Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land. (Jon 2:10) Here is a great rebuke to Jonah and to believers of all time, right down to you and to me. I wonder if you see it? God’s Command to His irrational creatures is more readily OBEYED than His Command to His rational creatures. The fish was irrational — the fish obeyed. Jonah was rational — Jonah disobeyed. The fish obeyed the voice of God, whereas Jonah disobeyed the voice of God. You know, Jonah might still be sitting down there if the fish had said, “Not me, Jonah may be ready to pay his vow, but I’m not ready to pay mine — not on your life, God,” and fanning his tail in the direction of heaven, took a deep dive into the Mediterranean. He might still be down there, Jonah might still be inside, and Nineveh might still be waiting for the Gospel. There is an application to us: It is better to be a dumb brute beast and OBEY the Word of God; than a smart, rational, cocky, egocentric member of the human race and DISOBEY the Voice of God!
Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, (Demonism) And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. (Sin and demon worship) Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king." (And if we do not OBEY; and overcome the lust of the eyes; lust of the flesh; and pride of life; (Rev 3:21) we will not rule in the Millennium) (1Sa 15:22-23)
Summary of chapter three
Now the Word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying. (Jon 3:1) When the Word of the Lord comes a second time, it is nothing more or less than sheer grace. I hope we understand that Jonah did not deserve to be the greatest evangelist of all time. He did not deserve to be a missionary or to have the honor and privilege of Preaching and Teaching about Christ. But the Word came a second time, Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you. (Jon 3:2) So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the Word of the LORD... He finally OBEYED. You see, he has learned a great lesson!
...Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days' walk. (Jon 3:3) That is, it would take a person three days to walk across it. If the average person could walk about twenty miles a day, it would be about sixty miles across the city. This would be comparable, perhaps, to Los Angeles. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown. (Jon 3:4) Strangely enough, we do not have the message of Jonah. He preached for hours on end, but we do not have the content of his sermon. One phrase only is revealed from his dynamic message, yet the essence of it can be reconstructed. Everywhere he went in the city of Nineveh, he would see the fish head, the half fish and half man, the statue of Dagon, the fish-god. Every time he would stand under one of these fish-gods, he would point to it and say, “I was swallowed by a ‘fish’ because I disobeyed the God of heaven, the Lord Jehovah, and the Lord spoke to my heart concerning you. Just as I was swallowed by a fish, your fish-god will destroy you! Because you have turned your backs upon the only Savior, He is going to destroy the city. Your wickedness has come as a bad odor to Him. Therefore, if you do not believe in the Lord Jehovah, (Jesus Christ) if you do not trust in Him, this city will be destroyed.” But all that is recorded is this one phrase, “yet forty days, and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
There is a great Principle here, THAT GRACE ALWAYS COMES BEFORE JUDGMENT. God would give them forty days. Now if God simply wanted to overthrow them, if He was not desirous of saving Nineveh, all He needed to do would be to hit that city just once, and Nineveh and its’ inhabitants would disappear. But what does He do? He sends in a preacher who has a Testimony, a preacher who had been miraculously delivered from certain death in the bottom of the sea, inside of a fish — and a fish-god was the demon-god of Nineveh! What a tremendous Testimony to the true God, the Lord Jehovah, who has power over the fish-demon-god! And this Testimony would be a means of presenting the Gospel. Jonah was a sign to the people of Nineveh. If God in His grace could deliver Jonah from death, He could deliver them from the bondage of sin, as well as from idolatrous slavery to Dagon.
Then the people of Nineveh believed in God,(Literally — the Lord Jesus Christ)... (Jon 3:5) The Hebrew word for believe is “amen,” which is our Anglicized word “amen,” and is the strongest word in the Hebrew language for faith. It is used of Abraham when “Abraham believed (‘Amened’) in the Lord; and he counted it to him, (It was credited to his account) For righteousness.” (Gen 15:6) Here we have one million people — the whole city — who turned to the Lord. As a result of their Salvation, they began to do certain things to indicate that they were believers and to evidence their change of mind. (Sackcloth) They proclaimed a fast. A “fast,” remember, is a time of occupation with the Lord, a time of prayer and self-examination, a time of meditation, and a time of abstaining from the ordinary details of life, such as food. (To cut of the old sin nature) Notice that from the greatest to the least, from the highest person in the city to the most insignificant — and this included the Emperor of the Assyrian Empire — all turned to the Lord!
When the Word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth [A change of mind] and sat on the ashes. [Forgiven sins --- representing Faith in Christ and or Rebound] (Jon 3:6) This is also the oriental way of demonstrating a complete change of mental attitude. And this was his Testimony that he, too, was a believer, and that since God was gracious enough to give them forty days’ warning, he would accept the grace of God; he would trust in the Lord. Then to demonstrate that he believed in the Lord, he took off his kingly robes, and sat in an ash heap. Furthermore, he published a decree throughout the entire city, and the rest of the city did likewise. (Jon 3:7-9)
When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. (Jon 3:10) God relented — that is, God changed His attitude toward the Assyrians. Do you know HOW He changed His attitude?
God provides the Stimulus: Christ being judged for the sins of the whole world. (1Jn 2:2) Response: our choice, to believe or not. Result: God gives us eternal life or the Lake of Fire. God controls the Stimulus and the Result of His plan and we control the response. The Sovereignty of God; and the free will of man. (Jer 18:1-12; Rom 9:17-33) Here is a whole city of rotten, vile, evil, filthy sinners who were now born again. Since they changed their mind they were now children of God and now are on the right side of God's plan; given by an anthropopathism, (Showing God as changing His mind. We can change our mind; not omniscient God! 1Sa 15:29) One million children gathered in, in approximately three days’ time. Will He destroy His children?
God is obligated to treat them and ALL believers the same way; it is all up to us; we either OBEY or disobey. WE ADJUST TO THE JUSTICE OF GOD OR THE JUSTICE OF GOD WILL ADJUST TO US!
"It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it.
If Jonah had been writing this account apart from the Holy Spirit, he would undoubtedly have concluded the Book at this point. So far, it is the report of his great evangelistic work. He could send quite a missionary report back to Jerusalem. “One million souls in three days,” and that would have been an excellent place to terminate it. But remember, God the Holy Spirit wants to teach us something, and although the results of Jonah’s revival almost stagger the imagination, it is not the end of the story. There is a tremendous message of a worm which God prepared, so we must move on and learn the message that God had, not only for Jonah, but for Israel, and now, many thousands of years later, for us.
Jonah’s reaction to revival: chapter four
But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. (Jon 4:1) Now, isn’t that amazing? Here is an evangelist that is not satisfied with his results. One million converts didn’t mean a thing to him because he hated the Ninevites! He despised them so much that now he gets mad at God for saving these people. Oh, what a man Jonah is! Jonah himself is saved — and how was he saved? BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH! (Eph 2:8-9) Nor is that all! After Jonah was saved, God gave him a wonderful privilege, and what did he do? He went in the opposite direction! God graciously gave him the opportunity of rebound, (1Jn 1:9) but notice, the Word says, “But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.” He is MAD AT GOD! Now, don’t laugh at Jonah. Remember that you and I have been mad at God, too. It is blasphemous, but it is true. Believers get mad at God and blame God for their troubles — “Operation Patsy.” Jonah is just loaded with this, “God doesn’t treat me right” attitude. Now, suppose you had the privilege of winning one million souls to Jesus Christ in three days — would you be mad at God? The twists of the old sin nature are fantastic! (Jer 17:9)
In, (Jon 4:2) Jonah prays again. His first prayer in Chapter 2 was a prayer of rebound, a prayer of faith, thanksgiving, and victory. It was a prayer which demonstrated the grace of God and the power of faith-rest in the life of a believer, for no matter how low he goes, if he rebounds; God will always hear, even at the bottom of the sea! But notice this prayer: He prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, (Watch the next phrase carefully) was not this what I said (A Hebrew idiom which means; “ was not this what I said to myself”) while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish... Do you remember why he fled to Tarshish? Because he was afraid that God would spare Nineveh if he gave them the Word of the Lord. This reveals that Jonah knew the power of the Word, as well as the grace of God. Jonah knew that if he ever reached Nineveh and opened his mouth and gave them the Scripture, they would be falling over themselves to accept Christ; yet he hated the Ninevites so much he just could not stand to see that happen. Why, he would rather sit around in Jerusalem and have only five or six converts in a couple of years, or even a couple of decades, than go to those Gentiles. He would prefer to sit down in a nice easy place and watch one of the greatest periods of apostasy develop; in all Jewish history.
Four “I knew’s” of, (Jon 4:2). ...For I knew that You are. (1) A gracious and compassionate God... compassion is grace in action. To respond in a gracious manner when you are wronged rather than to strike back is to show mercy. It may not be deserved, but so what? Neither did we deserve anything from God! (Luk 6:35) So, knowing well what God was like, he said, You are a gracious and compassionate God, (2) slow to anger, (3) and abundant in lovingkindness, (4) and one who relents concerning calamity. (Divine judgment and or discipline) Jonah was not a new convert; he was a man who knew God. Jonah was a man who understood the Word of God. He understood from, (Isa 30:18) that God was “tapping His foot,” as it were, waiting to pour out His grace. Jonah knew the Lord well, he understood the grace of God, and that is why, down in the belly of the fish, he finally began to offer a prayer of rebound, faith and thanksgiving. But though Jonah appreciated God’s grace for himself, he could not bear for others to receive the same mercy and grace.
(Jon 4:3): Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life." Here is Jonah, giving way to the old soul kink, the arrogance complex of self-pity and self-glorification this happens when we have preoccupation with self, others, as well as things and circumstances. (Jas 3:14-16) “I wish I were dead.” Think of it! He has thanked the Lord in, (Jon 2:7) for his deliverance, yet he turns right around and says, “Take my life, Lord; I’ve had it, Lord!” Jonah’s reaction strikes a familiar chord, for it is a basic tendency in the old sin nature — man just cannot bear for those he hates to be treated in grace! But, how does the Lord deal with this? “The Lord launched one of His atomic thunderbolts, and Jonah was seen no more upon the face of the earth.” Is that what we read? No! No! No!
The Lord’s gracious question. (Jon 4:4): The LORD said, "Do you have good reason to be angry?" “Do you have a right to be made at me, Jonah?” Even the Lord’s question is sheer grace. God is still speaking to this prophet who is again out of fellowship, the prophet who now whines, “I wish I were dead.” Filled with self-pity, Jonah misunderstood the question.
Why did God ask this question? Why did God say, “Do you have a right to be angry?” He asked it for several reasons: (1) God had saved Jonah in the first place; (2) He had delivered Jonah from discipline; (3) He had provided a field of service. God was saying, “Jonah, do you realize that you have eternal life? Do you realize that your sins are forgiven and blotted out? Jonah, do you realize that credited to your account is the righteousness of God? Do you realize that I have blessed you exceedingly abundantly above all that you could ask or think? Jonah, do you realize that the only reason you are alive today is because of My grace? Do you realize that you have had a tremendous Testimony? Jonah, do you realize that you have lived in the belly of a fish and have been vomited out on dry land again — the only one in all of history? (That we know of) My grace has been extended to you without measure — you are on dry land, you are alive, you are here, and by the power of the Spirit you have proclaimed the gospel with the result that a million people have received Christ as savior!”
And when we come to the New Testament, Jonah is still a sign of God’s grace. (Matt 12:38-41) Jesus said that Jonah was a demonstration of God’s grace! And that “the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented, (Changed their mind) at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, Something greater than Jonah is here.” Jesus said, speaking of Himself.
But Jonah misunderstood the gracious question. Hoping that God was just delaying a bit and that He was still going to destroy the city, Jonah said, “Well, I’d better get out of the city now because God is going to make this an ash-heap.” So Jonah trots up to a hill on the east side of the city where he could have a good view of the city with its fifteen hundred towers and magnificent hundred-foot-high walls.
Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city.” (Jon 4:5) Indicating that Jonah had a hunch it would be destroyed. He provided himself with a box seat and is waiting for the glorious event that he always wanted to happen — the destruction of Nineveh.
But instead of the ruin of a city, we see the ruin of the soul of Jonah. Soon we will see the Virtue love of God. Oh, Jonah! No tenderness, no compassion, no love, no grace, just a soul full of satanic and human thinking. And yet, by this time, the people back home have heard about the revival, the “newspapers” have published it in Jerusalem, the “Jerusalem Herald” has carried headlines, “Great Revival in Nineveh — Jonah Wins a Million in Revival,” but instead of going home rejoicing, Jonah is sitting on a hill eagerly awaiting the destruction of Nineveh. I can just hear him: “Hit ‘em today with that thunderbolt! Now, Lord, hit ‘em, hit ‘em!”
The sad thing is that our hearts are often just as hard concerning the people in the U.S.A. How long has it been since you have had a heart of compassion for those who are lost right here? For people to be born into God's family and the desire to give them Truth so they can grow up? This will happen if we learn to stay in fellowship and put God and His Word first in our THINKING!
But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, (Thoughts) but man's." And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, (His own will, plans, desires and words; 1Jn 3:16) and take up his cross (Deny the sin nature's satanic and human thinking and lust pattern; Gal 5:24) and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? (The new Spiritual nature man; 2Co 4:16; (2Pe 1:4) "For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My Words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:33-38)
The prepared plant
Apparently the shelter didn’t work. No doubt Jonah was a poor carpenter and the shelter didn’t last. Now, exposed to the desert climate, Jonah will be a victim of sunstroke unless something happens. (Jon 4:6): So the LORD God appointed a plant... This plant is the Palma Christi, (Victory of Christ!) or the Ricinus plant of the Mid-East. It grows eight or ten feet high and affords ample shade. But he wants to see the destruction of Nineveh, and being a “donkey,” a very stubborn and vindictive person, he is going to sit there until God hits that city and blows it to bits. Do you know why the shelter collapsed and God didn’t keep Jonah in it? Jonah had built the shelter himself; God wants to prepare the shelter.
THE DIVINE SOLUTION IS THE ONLY SOLUTION! THE HUMAN SOLUTION IS NO SOLUTION!
So, he sits there in the sun; but one night up comes the Pamla Christi, ten feet high — wonderful shade — and this is the first time in the whole Book where it says of Jonah that he was glad or happy. Isn’t it strange what it takes to make some people happy? Here is a man with a thrilling Testimony, a man who can say, “I sat in the belly of a fish forty fathoms deep in the Mediterranean praying to the Lord ....” My, what an exciting Testimony he had! (As we ALL have been disobedient to God and then delivered; and NOW have a grace Testimony!) “And the Lord was gracious and gave me another opportunity for service. As I stood at the gates of Nineveh, I looked up at Dagon, the fish-god, and I began to say, ‘I have been inside of the fish, and I stand here to tell you that even as my God in heaven delivered me from the fish, He can deliver you from your sins. Unless you trust in the Lord Jehovah, (Jesus Christ) this city will be destroyed, and you will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire.” Forty days before eternity begins for Nineveh! Oh, what a privilege, what a joy!
But you never read that Jonah was happy about giving that message. You do not read about Jonah being happy about anything. The only indication that Jonah was happy at all seems to be that he liked the accommodations of the Phoenician ship on the way to Tarshish — at least he liked the bed — in the storm he was sound asleep; now he is really happy. He is happy because of a measly, ten-foot Ricinus plant on the east side of a hill by Nineveh! He really loves that plant. So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. (Oh, the grace of God!) And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. (Jon 4:6) But his happiness over the plant was merely a selfish joy over his own comfort. Notice the inconsistency: Jonah was angry and full of self-pity because God would not destroy one million people. On the other hand, Jonah is very happy because he personally has some shade. I wonder, do you and I think only of our own comforts while thousands are perishing for whom Christ died? Are we so occupied with the details of life that we have lost the perspective of grace?
But God prepared the plant, for with the plant God will reveal to Jonah, and to us, His Own plan with regard to the destruction of Nineveh. Although God loved those people, even as He loved Jonah, He could not express His love until His righteousness and justice had been satisfied. His righteousness cannot have fellowship with sinful man; His justice demands that sin be punished. The perfect, sinless Son of God would satisfy God’s righteousness and justice by paying the penalty for man’s sins with His death on the cross. Since the Father is propitiated, (Satisfied) by the cross, man can be reconciled to God. All who will receive His substitutionary sacrifice on their behalf by faith are recipients of God’s grace in Salvation. God is now just to forgive the sinner and give him eternal life. He is free to express His love; He is free to change His policy toward the sinner; because the sinner has changed his attitude toward God. His love meets the sinner at the cross. God can treat saved mankind in grace without inconsistency.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
The prepared worm
But God appointed a worm... (Jon 4:7) God prepared a worm to get Jonah’s eyes off of self; to take away his self-pity, vile selfishness, and un-mercifulness, as well as to teach him, and us, the grace of God. Jonah must learn that grace is not a monopoly; it does not belong to Jonah alone, or even to the Jewish race, but to the whole human race! God appointed an "attack worm" to show Jonah that Jesus Christ would die for the sins of the whole world, and that He loved the Ninevites as much as he loved the Jews.
But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. There is an interesting thing about that worm. It was just a little, insignificant, measly worm. No bird on the east side of the hill could swoop down and get that worm. Jonah could stomp around all day in his sandals, and he could never have destroyed that worm. There wasn’t anything in this universe that could have destroyed that worm! That worm had a job to do, and he went at it the way we ought to! God will use this small, insignificant thing to teach the most significant lesson to every believer. Jonah will grieve for the plant; yet God would have grieved infinitely more over a destroyed Nineveh, for when Christ would die on the cross He would bear every sin of every Ninevite; He was judged for every Assyrian.
That worm destroyed an eight or ten foot Palma Christi. A little old measly worm ate that plant right out from over Jonah. Jonah probably watched the worm, but he was helpless, because God had prepared this worm, and because God has a message for us, just as He had a message for Jonah in that day regarding that worm. WHEN GOD PREPARES ANYTHING, that thing or person had better move! God not only prepared a worm, but God has prepared you and me. We have a responsibility. God prepared a worm, and that worm destroyed the only thing in Jonah’s life that he cared for. And what do you suppose Jonah did about that?
The prepared wind
When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, (Again!) "Death is better to me than life." (Jon 4:8) You never saw a man feeling sorrier for himself, with the possible exception of Elijah under the juniper tree! Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" This time He adds something to the question. Before, God had said, “Do you have a right to be angry?” But this time He asks, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And what do you think Jonah said to that? And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." (Jon 4:9) He is defying God now. His heart is hardened against the Lord!
Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. (Jon 4:10) Now here is the analogy: "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, (120,000 children who have not reached the age of accountability) as well as many animals?" (Jon 4:11) Here is the heart of God!
If Jonah could be grieved, even willing to die over a measly, inanimate plant, how much more would God grieve over the destruction of Nineveh? There was an analogy between Nineveh and the plant — and this is the heart of God — Virtue love, grace, compassion, tenderness and affection toward all members of the human race. That’s why CHRIST DIED FOR ALL. (Exo 34:6)
God was saying to Jonah, “If you’ve become attached to that plant which served you and gratified you, and yet you didn’t plant it, you didn’t water it, you didn’t tend it or prune it, you didn’t have a thing to do with it, if you can love that gourd, cannot I love, cannot I have compassion on people whom I have created — on people for whom Christ will die? If you are willing to die for a plant, cannot I die for those I love?” (John 12:24-26) God has compassion even for cattle, for they are living things. Now what is the point?
The point of the worm is this: While Jonah had been the recipient of God’s grace in Salvation and again the object of His mercy in the great fish; he did not want Nineveh to have the same. Yet God has Virtue love for the whole human race. When Christ was crucified on the cross, He died for every person who ever lived, or ever will live. (1Jn 2:2) Those who believe in Him are His representatives. Jonah represented Him in a past day; we as believers are His representatives on earth today. We are commissioned by the Word of God as ambassadors to see that everyone hears the plan of God for Salvation and how to growth to Spiritual maturity. (2Co 5:20; (1Ti 2:4) There are places in this world where there is one missionary for a million people! The reason is that we are too occupied with the “plants” of this life. Plants represent the details of life. (Luk 14:15-24) We are more interested in money, success pleasure, social life, friends, loved ones, etc., than we are in the souls of men.
Now the plant is a relatively insignificant thing. (Matt 6:30) Yet I wonder, are you more interested in the insignificant “plants” of life than in the souls for whom Christ died? What is it in your life, in my life, that keeps us from having a Virtue love and compassion for souls? Why is it that the average believer in Jesus Christ wants God’s mercy and grace extended to him when he sins, but never wants God to pour out His grace on some other believer who offends him. He wants every other believer to be disciplined right down to the last dregs, be he wants God to let him go scott free.
How many times have you thought way down deep within yourself about some other believer whom you despised, “I hope God pours it on him.” Then when you are out of fellowship, when you’re down where that person is, you say, “Oh God, have mercy on ME.” You want God to have mercy on you, but on no one else; you want grace to be a monopoly! One of these days, a little worm could move into this church and knock the whole thing out. And any other church too. Watch out for the worm. God will prepare a worm, don’t ever kid yourself. We are a church because of the grace of God. We are not a church because we are so great. In ourselves we are nothing. Whatever our church is, however it has grown it is because of the grace of God and the Word of God, not because of any person, including myself. Grace depends on Who and What God is — not who and what we are!
We don’t care, as long as we have our “plant.” Where is the tenderness, where is the love, and where is the compassion? Why, we’re sitting under the plant, and every time a little flicker of inconvenience or frustration comes along we feel sorry for ourselves, we call out for the grace of God. We want God to pour out all of His grace upon us, but we don’t want anyone else to have it. Grace is not a monopoly, and God prepared a worm to teach Jonah that lesson.
God went on to say, “Look here Jonah, look down at that city. You want that city destroyed; you’re sitting up here waiting for it, yet down there are 120,000 children.” Jonah could become upset over a plant, but he was indifferent to the destruction of 120,000 children. These are questions we must answer to the Lord. God has been preparing worms throughout the centuries, and there are thousands and thousands of local congregations which have been destroyed completely, for God had to prepare a worm.
And then we all have personal plants, some detail of life which often excludes Truth. It may be something materialistic, for in this country we are in bondage to materialism. It may be a person, it may be a thing, it may be some social activity, it may be the pattern of your life — whatever it is — let the worm tell you something. Whatever it is, that plant will go! If God has to take it out by a worm, it will go with all the misery and agony of your soul. We are here to serve Him, and none of us will ever be happy until our hearts are tender and filled with compassion toward others. (1Jn 5:2)
Jonah won a million people to the Lord, but afterwards, his heart was hardened. So God prepared a worm to teach Jonah the value of the human soul, to remind Jonah of His matchless grace. Many times Jonah had been the recipient of grace, as have we. Did he not want others to have this grace? Do we? A worm rises up to preach the greatest message of all time — the matchless, infinite, endless grace of God! So that His grace might be available to all, God PREPARED A CROSS. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son... (Gal 4:4) And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1Pe 2:24) For by GRACE you have been saved through FAITH and that not of yourselves; (Salvation) it is the gift of God. (Eph 2:8)
“Where there is no vision, (The Teaching of Truth) the people are unrestrained...” (Prov 29:18) The people without Christ are perishing, because we have no vision of their needs. We have no vision of the cross where Christ died for their sins. Therefore, as in the past when God prepared a worm, so right down to the present, God still prepares those worms, and it would be better for us, in our own souls, to get into the “sackcloth and ashes” of rebound than to face the discipline of the Divine worm and miss the glory of the plan of God!
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls. If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, How much more the wicked and the sinner! (Prov 11:30-31)