Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jonah and the Tree?

This dramatic icon of Jonah the Prophet was painted by Nicholas Papas and can be purchased at Come & See Icons here
Yes, I am quite familiar with the story of Jonah the Prophet and I know that one of the most spectacular parts of that story has to do with Jonah in the belly of the whale. (see above icon) One of my favorite pieces of artwork of this story was done by one of my children.  It is a picture of a giant whale, with Jonah sitting in the middle of the beast and with little kid SUPER BIG handwriting it says "Jonah Prays."  That was the first sentence this child ever wrote.    Ok, enough of me and back to our tree theme.

Let's skip to the end of the book of Jonah to chapter 4 (found here) when Jonah gets really ticked off with God for saving the people of Ninevah.  In his anger, Jonah traipses to the outskirts of Ninevah to rest and here's the balance of the text:
And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

9 Then God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?"

And he said, "It is right for me to be angry, even to death!"

10 But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
I know it says plant, but if the plant was big enough for shade, then perhaps it was tree-like?

At any rate, I think the point to get here is this.  We can't be mad at God for anything.  As Jonah himself says earlier in the chapter when he first expresses his displeasure at God for saving the sinners of Ninevah:

for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. (Jonah 4:2)
It's a very hard thing to love those who we think in our own self-righteousness don't deserve God's love, but here's the thing...God loves EVERYONE whether we like it or not.  This can be a very hard pill to swallow, just ask Jonah, but it something that we need to come to terms with.  Hopefully it doesn't take being swallowed by a whale to get our attention.   

Oh and by the way, today, September 22nd, we remember Jonah the Prophet in the Orthodox Church.  ; )

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