Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species 88% Cocoa Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Jonah 4
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t until I was in junior high that I discovered there was more Jonah after Nineveh’s repentance. You may have had a different experience, but it seemed children’s Bible stories always stopped short of the scene where Jonah gets bent out of shape over Nineveh’s non-destruction. Then again, I may be misremembering, or perhaps I somehow never realized that the guy in the picture books grousing about his dead plant was still Jonah. Either way, I’ve got my intro paragraph, so let’s look at the actual text.
This chapter marks the big reveal for Jonah’s motivations. At the outset, the text simply reported that Jonah received God’s message for Nineveh and straight-up left in the opposite direction, offering no insight into his inner world. But now that the city’s received the message, repented, and been spared, Jonah comes out with it: “In order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness” (2). You can imagine him stomping, raging, shouting, “I knew it! I just knew you’d show them mercy! You’re so good and kind, you just had to go and not destroy them and pardon their wickedness!” Jonah wanted to see fire, but all he got was a city of penitents.
So he leaves Nineveh, finds a good vantage point overlooking the city, and sits himself down to watch, almost as if he’s hoping God will change his mind a second time and drop the hammer after all. While he’s out there, God gives him a plant for shade. But God quickly takes away the plant, and when the heat of the day rolls in, Jonah begs for the release of death, complaining, “Death is better to me than life” (8). It’s the second time Jonah’s expressed the sentiment. Whether he’s being deprived of the comfort of the plant or the satisfaction of watching an entire city writhe in the suffering of judgment, as soon as he loses the thing he wants, Jonah tells God, “I’m done here. There’s nothing more to live for, take me now.” And each time, as God asks him, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (4, 9), the answer to the rhetorical question is: no, not really.
What makes a prophet a prophet? Just one thing: carrying a message from God to its intended recipients. It’s not about your résumé or qualifications. Jonah shows us that you can be a quitter, resentful, even depressive, and still be a prophet. One average Joe, one bitter and contemptuous Hebrew, got sent to the most wicked city of his day, and as a result, the city turned from its evil and got itself spared a terrible judgment.
All it takes is taking the message where it needs to go. God can use you to make a difference in the world, even if you’re an absolute garbage prophet.