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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, September 11, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Jonah 3:10—4:11

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. 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 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” (NRSV)

Reflection
This is quite the rollercoaster of emotions for Jonah, and as someone who also isolates when I’m upset, I commiserate with him. In these verses, nothing has gone as Jonah would like, and when God asks Jonah if his resulting anger is right, Jonah runs off to stew in his anger alone instead of answering God’s question. Jonah happily benefits from the shade of the bush that God provides for him to stew under, and then Jonah is angry again when God destroys the bush. When God asks Jonah if it is right for him to be angry about the bush, Jonah answers this time and insists that it is right. What strikes me is that God does not invalidate Jonah’s feelings but rather meets Jonah where he is to suggest that God’s concern for Nineveh, which is a part of God’s creation, is just as valid as Jonah’s own concern for the bush for which he did not labor and which he did not grow.

This helps Jonah (and me) to see God’s relationship with creation from a different perspective. Why should God seek to exact retribution on God’s creation, especially when the people repent? That doesn’t align with a gracious, merciful, and loving God. God values God’s personal relationships with us so much that God meets us where we are so that God can lead us to a deeper understanding of God’s relationship with all of creation.

Prayer
Gracious and merciful God, thank you for valuing your relationship with me so much that you lead me to a deeper understanding of you by meeting me where I am and gently asking me to evaluate my thoughts and emotions to see things from a new, more life-giving perspective. Amen.

Written by Katrina Buchanan, Editorial Assistant

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church


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