In this final chapter of Jonah, Jonah gets mad at God. His anger comes from the fact that the message he gave to Nineveh was the same message he was giving at home. God’s response is “Have you any right to be angry?” (4:4 NIV). At that Jonah travels just outside of Nineveh and builds himself a shelter, while God provides some shade by causing a vine to grow. Then during the night, God caused the vine to shrivel up and die. So Jonah became angry at that as well, and God responded in the same way. Then God says to Jonah, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight an died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (4:10-11 NIV).
I believe that God is saying to Jonah, “It’s okay for you to care about something you’ve put no work into, but it’s wrong of Me to care for this city I’ve raised?” Even though Nineveh rejected God and His ways, He still wished from them to come to know Him. God sent Jonah to them, so they would have this opportunity.
It’s an idea that still exists today. Honestly, I have no business being a child of God. I am most certainly guilty of sin, and I am obviously not a Jew. Before Jesus, I had to have the opposite of both those things in order to be saved. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;…” (Romans 3:23-24 NASB). God sent His son so you and I can be reconciled to Him.
God cares for humanity. He doesn’t just sit idly in heaven, watching events happen. Our God is one that intervenes in history; the Bible is full of those experiences, from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22. He wants us to be with Him. I think that’s the underlying point to Jonah. We can read the book at face value and say that it’s all about obeying God, even if we don’t want to. But the deeper meaning is found here. God did everything possible to get the message to Nineveh. Jonah did want to listen, but God turned him around. When the message reached the people, they repented and came back to God. That’s what Jonah is about. God will come after you with everything in his arsenal. All you have to do is repent and believe!