Jonah Project 50

Jonah 4:10 

But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 

What are you concerned about? What captures your attention? What moves your heart? What do you cover with your care or consideration? What moves your heart with compassion?

The Hebrew word chûs (חוּס), translated as “concerned about” in Jonah 4:10, literally means “to cover”. Figuratively, this word calls us “to have compassion.” This word is featured in the final two verses of Jonah, once for what Jonah is concerned about (4:10), and once for what God is concerned about (4:11). Sometimes translated “to pity” or “to spare”, this word is found 24 times in the Old Testament.

The heartbeat of the Book of Jonah is compassion. Just like our heartbeat, compassion has a lub-dub rhythm, a double beat of God’s compassion for us, and our compassion for others. The Book of Jonah concludes with this lub-dub rhythm, asking about our compassion, while reminding us of God’s compassion.

Jonah’s heart has rhythm problems, what cardiologists would call heart arrhythmia. Jonah abnormal heart pays more attention to a plant than to people. Jonah is more concerned about the growth and death of a piece of vegetation that he does with the growth and death of the people of the great city of Nineveh.

Many things in our life spring up overnight and die overnight. Fleeting moments abound. Our lives are transitory. Today’s cutting edge technology is tomorrow’s landfill. William Shakespeare ponders the passing quality of our lives in Sonnet 18, with these first four lines:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease have all too short a date. 

Rough winds come. Call it “mere morality.” Call it being human. Rough winds do shake us, and what we’ve invested our lives in dies. What we are most concerned about passes. What we’ve covered with our attention is taken away with a lease that has “all too short a date.”

Jonah’s heart problem is what gets Paul’s attention in his letter to the people of Corinth, when he writes, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).”

 Heart Stone at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington Coast,
by Thomas Robinson. See Thomas Robinson’s Nature Photo Gallery.