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Lesson 10: A Wind, a Worm, and a Plant *

Introduction: Remember how we ended last week's lesson? Jonah puts up his beach umbrella, breaks out his lawn-chair recliner, fixes himself a cold drink, and stretches out for what remains of the 40 days to see the fireworks start over Nineveh. Jonah turns from aquanaut, to prophet to spectator. Let's jump back into our story and see what God teaches us next!

  1. The Vine


    1. Read Jonah 4:5-6. Verse 5 tells us that Jonah's "shelter" (his beach umbrella) gave him shade. Why does Jonah need more shade from the vine? Any "shade experts" know the answer? (Have you ever sat in the shade of a building versus the shade of a tree? The tree is much cooler because it exudes moisture through its leaves. The vine would be much cooler than whatever shelter Jonah put together.)


      1. We decided last week that Jonah was waiting for God to send fire down on the citizens of Nineveh. Why would God want to make Jonah more comfortable while he is in a state of rebellion? If Jonah is going to sit there angry and hoping to see the Ninevites burn, why not let him bake a little?


      2. We say "our bread and water" will be sure with God ( Isaiah 33:16). What is God's attitude about our comfort?


      3. Jonah built his shelter (beach umbrella) while God "built" the vine. What lesson do you see in this? (God is still pursuing Jonah. Jonah stomps off into the desert, builds some shade and waits hoping that God will change His mind and turn the Ninevites into crispy critters. This is entirely, "I'll do my own stuff, build my own comforts and wait for God to come around to my own solution." The first thing God does is show Jonah that God's solution to the comfort problem is superior.)


    2. Look at the last part of verse 6. What is Jonah's attitude about God providing the vine? (He was very happy.)


      1. Does Jonah know God provided the vine?


      2. What part of Jonah's happiness with the vine stems from knowing that God provided it, as opposed to the practical, comfort aspect of the vine? (Jonah is angry with God. His anger causes him to "do his own thing." Now he sees that God seems to be aiding him in his "own thing" and I think this is part of the reason Jonah is very happy. He thinks God is coming around to being reasonable about burning up the "bad guys.")


  2. The Worm and the Wind


    1. Read Jonah 4:7. Who provided the worm? (God.)


    2. Read Jonah 1:17 and 4:7 together. What parallels do you see between the great fish and the little worm? (God provided both. God used both to get the attention of Jonah. The great fish was used to save Jonah from drowning. The little worm was used to make Jonah uncomfortable. This discomfort was meant to save Jonah's spiritual life.)


      1. Do you ever think that God is not interested in the small things in your life? If this is a concern, how do you explain that God was involved in this worm and the vine?


    3. Read Jonah 4:8. Remember that Jonah built his own shelter (4:5)? How does Jonah's shelter protect him against the scorching wind and sun that "God provided?"


      1. Why does God send a scorching wind and blazing sun?


      2. Do you believe that Jonah understood that both the appearance of the vine and its destruction were supernatural events?


      3. Put yourself in Jonah's place. Is it obvious to you that God is not tending to His proper business? God is supposed to be raining fire down on Nineveh at this very minute. Instead, God is fooling around killing your shade vine and turning up the heat. How do you reconcile God's actions? Why does God seem to be a prankster instead of the judge of the wicked?


    4. Compare Jonah 1:12, Jonah 4:3 and Jonah 4:8. In all three situations Jonah's plan and God's plan are quite different. When Jonah sees that God's plan is going forward he is angry (or resigned) enough that he just says "Let me die." Think back to the times you have been depressed. Was part of the problem that your plan for your life was contrary to God's plan for your life?


      1. Do you see Jonah as angry or depressed in these situations?


      2. What is God's reaction to this kind of talk? (God continues to pursue Jonah.)


  3. The Issue


    1. Read Jonah 4:9. What does this reveal about Jonah's state of mind? (Jonah says he is angry. I have no training in mental illness, but it seems odd to me that someone would be angry enough to die.)


      1. What do you think about Jonah's answer?


      2. What do you think is the correct answer to God's question in verse 9?


    2. Let's look more closely at Jonah's attitude with regard to the loss of the vine and God's question. How would Jonah fit in as a member of a modern environmental group? Is it your perception that some modern environmentalists care more about plants and animals than they do for people?


      1. Why does Jonah think he should be sheltered by the vine while the Ninevites are burned up? (I don't think Jonah is intentionally preferring the vine over people. I think he is simply being selfish and is upset that his personal comfort level has taken a plunge. However, God's question points to the core issue: How can you be upset about the death of a vine and not upset about the death of an entire city of people? This is a question that every pro-environment, pro-choice (on abortion) person needs to be able to answer in response to God's question.)


    3. When we face a situation where our "vine" has died, should we remember that we do not have our vine, but we still have our God?


    4. Read Matthew 26:38. Jonah and Jesus say very similar words. Contrast the attitude of Jesus and the attitude of Jonah which produced these words? (Jonah has the attitude of the Devil. He is selfish and upset that people are not being destroyed. Jesus is in the process of giving His life away so that we all can be saved. The contrast is absolute.)


    5. Read Jonah 4:10-11. Most of next week's lesson concentrates on these two verses. For that reason, I do not want to get into great detail here. Compare for me Jonah's role in the life and care of the vine and God's role in the life and care of the Ninevites? (Jonah had nothing to do with the life and care of the vine. Yet when it was gone he was so angry he could die. God created and sustained the Ninevites. God tells us He has a vested interest in our life and salvation.)


      1. Why does God mention "cattle" in verse 11? (I consider this to be significant. God tells us he cares about the animals. God is also making a logical point with Jonah. God says, "You are upset about the loss of a plant, why not be concerned about the higher ascending life forms of animals and people? Jonah's values are completely upside down.)


    6. Friend, how would you like a God with Jonah's attitude? Praise God that He explicitly reveals to us that He cares about our life and our salvation!


  4. Next Week: The Last Word.
* Copr. 2003, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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