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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Scripture Reading: Jonah 1:1–2; 4:6–11
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” (NRSV)

The story of Jonah is quite familiar. He is called by God to give a message to the Ninevites; however, Jonah decides to hide from God and on a trip elsewhere winds up in the sea and eventually in the belly of a large fish. While living inside the fish for three days, Jonah prays and sings God’s praises. After being spit out by the fish, Jonah finally gives the Ninevites the message calling them to repent and change their ways. The people respond with fasting, prayer, and humble living.  

Today we find Jonah seeking comfort under a bush. The bush dies, and Jonah becomes angry and even says, “It is better for me to die than to live.” God corrects Jonah by reminding him of the big picture. Jonah is whining about a bush that he didn’t plant or tend to. God is concerned about the large city and all of its inhabitants. 

Jonah appears to have an expectation that the bush should be present to provide comfort for him. Jonah, unlike the Ninevites who God forgave based on their repentance, has followed the same God of Israel from the beginning. It seems like Jonah feels like he has earned at least some comfort. 

How often in life do we feel entitled—To shelter? Central air-conditioning and heating? Prosperous career? Good health? How often do we complain to God about things we have not earned or deserved? 

The good news of this passage is that God is always present to hear our complaints. We trust in a God that forgives all people who come with honest confession. We believe in a God that reminds us that even life itself is a gift and in a God that corrects us when we feel entitled. Ultimately we trust in a God that will never let us go: we are held so closely that we can’t even really hide.   

Heavenly Father, help me to see your grace in every moment of my life. Keep me mindful of all of your gifts to me and to all of your children through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.               

Written by Ken Nicholson, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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