And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labour, 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 4:10–11 (ESV)
Jonah and the whale: A story of God chasing down a disobedient prophet and using a massive man-eating-but-not-chewing-or-digesting fish.
The moral of the story: When God says, “Go this way,” don’t go “that way.” Or is it?
I suggest that the story of Jonah is much more complex than a lesson in obedience. It reveals to us the heart of man and the heart of God. Specifically, it reveals that we, like Jonah, want to protect ourselves against discomfort and risk, even if it means ignoring what God has clearly told us to do. It also reveals that our God is generous and wants all nations to know his love and receive his grace, that he cares about the plight of those who are living under the oppression of ignorance and sin—and how that ignorance and sin is not only affecting their souls but also their cattle.
We think the most important animal in the story is the great fish. But the last line of the book says otherwise: “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?”
What’s with the cattle?
It seems that God wanted Jonah to bring a message of repentance and forgiveness and hope so that the great city of Nineveh (cattle = Nineveh’s gross domestic product) could be restored.
When God calls us to bring the Good News of Christ’s love and grace to all nations, he has in mind a grand vision. Yes, to save their souls, but also to save their cattle, their economy. The renewal that the Gospel brings to a city and a country is spiritual, social, and material.
Because the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.
SCRIPTURE TO REFLECT ON: JONAH 4:10–11
1. How has the Gospel of Jesus Christ affected all aspects of my own life
(spiritual, social, material)?
2. What can I do to seek a more holistic renewal in the lives of those who need to know the message of the Gospel?
Vijay Krishnan is Lead Pastor of Upper Room Community Church in Vaughan, ON (a church planted by Rexdale Alliance in 2005). Upper Room is committed to being used by God to authentically represent Jesus Christ by loving God and serving others in a city marked by continuous growth and affluence and religious and ethnic diversity. Visit www.upperroom.ca.