Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 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. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” Jonah 4:5-11 ESV
“And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” Ezekiel 33:10-11 ESV
Jamie Graham was a young British boy who lived with his parents in Shanghai. When World War II broke out, the Japanese occupied the city of Shanghai, and many people in the city were trying to get out. There was a lot of confusion and crowding. Jamie’s mother held him by the hand, and Jamie held his favorite toy airplane in his other hand. But when he dropped his toy, he let go of his mother’s hand to try to find it, and he lost her in the crowd. Jamie was separated from his parents for a long time and went through many struggles after that. Jamie had treated a little toy that made him happy as more important than staying with his mother.
This is only a story from a movie. Jonah also had foolish priorities. He was angry with God for not destroying the city of Nineveh, and he sat in a little booth outside the city to wait and watch, hoping that God might change his mind. God made a gourd plant grow over him to give him shade, but then the next day he sent a worm to kill the plant, and Jonah got angry about that, too. God talked to Jonah and told him how wrong his priorities were. One plant that made him happy was more important to him than the lives of all the people in the city, even though the city had many animals and people. God wanted Jonah to line up his priorities with the way God saw things.
Our God is full of love and forgiveness, and he wants people to turn away from their sins, turn to him, and be saved. It doesn’t make him happy when he punishes people for their sins, and he doesn’t want anyone to die without him and be separated from him forever. He did everything that had to be done to save us, by sending Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins. Because Jesus died on the cross for us, God forgives our sins and brings us into his family, for now and for always.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the great love you’ve given us in Jesus. In His Name, Amen.
Spielberg, Steven, dir. Empire of the Sun Amblin Entertainment, 1987. Film.