5Jonah 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. 6Then 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.
Rather than celebrate God’s goodness with the people of Nineveh, Jonah chooses to head out of town to be alone. He does not, as one would hope, give thanks to God in solitude, but watches from a distant vantage point to see if God would spare his embarrassed feelings by making his prophetic words come true. Can’t you almost hear him saying, “God, I told them what was going to happen! I said exactly what you told me to say; it didn’t happen, and now I’ve made a total fool of myself. Never mind the people of Nineveh. Please, please spare my feelings!”?
In Jonah’s thinking, it is still all about Jonah. The old cliché, “Enough about you, let’s talk about me,” fits Jonah very well. He sees to his own comfort, gives himself a front-row seat, and continues to harass God in hopes of convincing God to carry through on his plan to destroy a city filled with people and animals.
God deals with Jonah as one would treat a small, petulant child. He attempts to soothe him by increasing his comfort. God doesn’t give up on Jonah; he deals with him in a loving, constructive way. And, because he’s comfortable, Jonah is very happy (4:6). Do we often make the mistake that Jonah made? Do we interpret God’s blessings on us as a sign of his approval? Do we forget Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount: “he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matt 5:45)?