Jonah Project 52

And should I not have concern for the great city? Jonah 4:11 
This Jonah Project has reflected upon one verse per week from the Book of Jonah over the past year. The past eleven weeks have been focused upon Jonah chapter four. Here are a few questions we’ve asked as we’ve sat with Jonah. 
Jonah 4:1 
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 
In your view, what’s wrong with the world? War? Environment? Politics? Education? Healthcare? Immigration? Violence? Family problems? Religion? G.K. Chesterton’s simply answered, “I am.”
Jonah 4:2 
Jonah prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 
How’s your “snarky-meter” these days? How often do you brandish your snarky sword? When was your last “I told you so” moment with someone? How sweet if feels at times to indulge our snarky nature, and lash out with some snippy retort like Jonah’s statement: “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home?” The sweet thing about such complaints aimed at God is that God, in his infinite compassion, can easily handle them, and completely understands Jonah’s angry, resentful heart.
Jonah 4:3
“Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
In his famous speech, Hamlet wrestles with one of life’s biggest questions: Is life worth living? Jonah is convinced life is not worth living. He knows if he lives, he will suffer. Jonah thinks he will suffer if he lives because living would mean facing God’s compassion for Jonah’s hated enemies. What an strage moment in Jonah’s story. Jonah asks the God of life to kill him. 
Jonah 4:4 
But the Lordreplied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
What makes you angry? When is it right to be angry? What do you do with your anger? We all carry a box of matches. Most of us don’t think of our emotional life as a box of matches, but we have an inner source of ignition, which can spark a flame and kindle a fire of emotions deep within our soul. Anger is a gift from God. God gets angry. We are all made in God’s image. We get angry. Like all God’s gifts, anger can be used for godly purposes or misused in ungodly ways. 
Jonah 4:5 
Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 
How good are you at waiting? What are you waiting for? What bothers you most about waiting? How patient or impatient are you right now? Too often, we don’t get what we wait for and we go home a bit disappointed. Jonah waits. What is Jonah waiting for? Strange to say, Jonah waits for fire to fall on the city of Nineveh.
Jonah 4:6 
Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 
What delights your soul? What brings you refreshment? What causes the “greening” of your inner life? I live in a leafy place. My life is surrounded by the color green. Jonah also waits. Jonah waits for fire to fall from the sky. Behind his waiting eyes is an angry heart, an arid soul, dried and devoid of compassion. The God of compassion provides shade under a leafy plant for Jonah to ease his pain and hopefully green his soul.
Jonah 4:7 
But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 
How are you at dawn? What are you doing most mornings at dawn? At dawn, many strange things occur. One of the most remarkable events at dawn around the world, birds begin to sing. What is God providing in your life at this time, especially early in the morning?  
Jonah 4:8 
When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” 
What midday troubles come upon your soul? How much acedia rumbles around within you? What causes you to become less caring, to lose an interest in caring for others? Acedia is a negation of our care for others. Acedia: also known as despondency, listlessness, ennui, apathy, the opposite of compassion.
Jonah 4:9
But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
What is the relationship between anger and compassion within your wood stove? Anger is one of many emotions that makes us human. We get angry. Anger comes up often in our lives. There seems to be an inverse relationship between anger and compassion. With compassion, we can turn from anger, relenting from harming others with our anger, but rather offer others mercy. Without compassion, we are quick to anger, wanting to lash out at others with judgment or condemnation.  Compassion offers anger a boundary within which to live and breath, like a wood stove for a fire.
Jonah 4:10 
But the Lordsaid, “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 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 4:11
And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
Where do you draw the circle around you? Who is “inside” and who is “outside”? How much compassion do you have for those on the outside of your life? How much do you know about their story? The Book of Jonah, a story filled with humor and oddities, ends up with an amazing last word from God. Compassion. We all play favorites. We all have our inner and outer circles, an “Us versus Them” mentality. The Book of Jonah keeps calling us beyond our comfort zone, into the wide-open, weird world in which we live to learn to love people who seem to us at least unlovable. 
 “Earthrise is the name given to NASA image AS8-14-2383, taken by astronaut William Anders on December 24, 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission, the first manned voyage to orbit the Moon.” See