Agonizomai: Jonah 4:10-11 - Conclusions

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Jonah 4:10-11 - Conclusions
10-11 And the LORD said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity 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 much cattle?"

The Hebrew word translated "pity" here is often translated "spare". Jonah would have spared the plant if he could. He had a selfish motive, of course. But the point is that he neither planted nor tended the gourd and his motive in preserving it would have been entirely selfish. It was a thing that was made for the oven - raised up in one night and gone the next day. It was a thing of transitory significance.

But what is God’s motivation with Nineveh, the people of which He made, and has cared for - and whose lives have eternal consequences that start at their deaths? If Jonah can care for a worthless gourd that gave him transitory comfort how much more does God care about these people, one of whose souls is worth more than a whole world?

And seemingly the greatest reason of all for God’s mercy is the existence of 120,000 children in this city that are under 2 or 3 years old. They have no conscious sin, though they have a sin nature and the imputed sin of Adam. And though...
"...as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned..." {Ro 5:12}
yet we bear also in mind that...
"The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin..." {De 24:16}
If the city had not repented and God had not shown mercy then the children would undoubtedly have suffered in the same catastrophe as the older citizens. Their eternal end would simply not have been the same. This is the best verse I have so far found in the Bible for the special treatment of infants of unaccountable age. It is arguable, but it is far better than the one most often quoted in 2Sa 12:22-23.

There are those who would blame God for His mercy. How could God forgive such and such and not another? How could God save a murderer on death row and not a little old grandma on the porch, after a life of hard work and good deeds?

Christians had better get it through their heads what the Bible says everywhere about God’s mercy, but what has been all but effaced from the true gospel wherever you go today. Today we have a God Who is regarded as One obliged to show mercy to all. It is a contradiction in terms rendered palatable by inches to an unsuspecting world. This gospel comes disguised as universal saving love, stripped of the universal condemnation and wrath of God’s offended and perfect holiness.

The message of Jonah is that God is merciful. That God has mercy upon whom He will have mercy. It is that when God shows saving mercy it is filled up, pressed down and overflowing towards the recipients. Grace upon grace. It is a lesson for Jonah, for Israel, for Nineveh, for a Mediterranean sailing crew and for us today. Do we get the message? Does it humble us – or do we still go around with the inner attitude that God must save the people we want, because He’s good? Do we slack off in presenting the gospel because we think God is going to be merciful anyway? Do we present the message at all? Do we become God’s very own means of showing love and mercy through the delivery of the message? Do we present the message God gave us to give, or do we present the message according to our own wisdom?

Our warrant is to preach the universal corruption and lostness of the human race, and God’s wrath and His impending judgment upon their individual sin; to call all men to repentance for sin, and to present them God’s free offer of salvation in Jesus Christ in a spirit of love and mercy – being fully conscious that we ourselves are the recipients of mercy and the beneficiaries of God’s elective grace in Christ.

And our charge beyond that is to be transformed by the power of God, through the obedience of faith, into the image of Christ, and to give ourselves to the building up of the body of Christ in the most holy faith. Let’s not be Neo-evanglicals. Let’s not stop at “receiving Jesus” – at “making a decision for Christ” – let’s go on to lives of sanctification, separation and holiness, God helping in all things.

My moniker - that's John Hancock to Americans

2 Comments:

Blogger dec said...

120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left

It's amazing what a person can skim over. It never occurred to me that God was speaking of little children. duh. (One pastor said it meant that there were 1200k people in Nineveh who weren't very bright!!!)

You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city,

I've wondered if this passage is indicating that God saved Nineveh for "selfish" reasons; i.e., His own glory. Is God using the plant to show that He has long "tended" Nineveh, that it gives Him "pleasure" to save the city, and that He would "grieve" if the city was destroyed.

3:49 pm  
Blogger agonizomai said...

Thanks for stopping by.

About the 120,000 - there are some who believe it refers to the whole population of Nineveh and that their not knowing right from left is not knowing good from evil. I went with what I understand about the grace of God and the depravity all men and the interpretation I used seemed to make the best sense.

I note you put the word "selfish" in "", which means you don't really think God can be selfish. All that God does is for His glory, and it is fitting that this be so. In fact it would be wrong (I hesitate to say "sin") for Him to do otherwise, even if He could.

He is perfect, so to glorify anything else would be to glorify that which is less than perfect. Only our limited, fallen mutable perceptions cause us to apply fallen human descriptors like "selfish" to God. I found Pink's "The Attributes of God" helpful in understanding things like this a bit better.

Yes, God is doing what you say. He does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked and would have all men to be saved - and this is part of the lesson for Jonah (though he doesn't seem to get it).

6:31 pm  

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