“Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.” (Jonah 4:6)
“In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree, declares the Lord Almighty.” (Zech 3:10)
Apparently it’s considered quite the blessing to park yourself under a vine. Personally, I would take a palm tree any day, but that’s me. Better yet, if someone were to invite me to take refuge in their air-conditioned condo on a hot, blustery day, along with some liquid refreshment, I could make myself quite comfortable. Ahhh….
But in Jonah’s case, the vine wasn’t just a big overgrown bush for his comfort and enjoyment – it was an object lesson. I can just hear God saying to Jonah “Oh, you poor, dehydrated little cactus! Let me rejuvenate you with a lovely vine!” And Jonah sighs heavily and says, “Yes, Lord. That would be nice. And maybe a leather recliner while you’re at it.” So God gives him the vine and a coupon for ‘Crate and Barrel.’ And Jonah was “very happy about the vine.” All is well in Nineveh.
But by dawn the next day, God sent a worm to chew up the vine. And if that wasn’t enough, He brought along a scorching wind and made the sun blaze. It got so hot that Jonah wanted to die. How he longed to go back to the days when he was on the whale cruise tour ship.
And now comes the lesson. God reminds Jonah that the vine, just like Nineveh, was not born and raised by Jonah, but by God Himself. This is worth a little more consideration than to just conclude that “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Jonah wanted God to destroy Nineveh; he did not respond agreeably to God’s idea to spare the city. In fact, he said he would rather die than for God to save them (Jonah 4:3).
I have heard the story of Jonah and the whale many times over the years, but until I actually sat down to study it, I assumed that Jonah was afraid of the Nineveh bullies, and that was why he ran - now that I can relate to. Turns out he didn’t want the Ninevites saved; he wanted God’s grace to extend only to the Israelites, not to the Gentiles. But just as God spared those Gentiles, who He likened as children who didn’t know their right hand from their left, He also said in the book of Romans that this ‘vine’ will be grafted into the olive tree. The Gentiles are just as loved by God as the Israelites.
Why do we get angry when we have to share God? And why do we get bent out of shape when God lends a hand to someone, when they deserve eternal punishment as far as we’re concerned? I’m pretty sure God is big enough for us all to share.
My grandson had a school assignment the other day. He was supposed to go stand outside the front door and yell “Loof Lirpa! Loof Lirpa!” He was to keep yelling until the Loof Lirpa bird appeared. In case the bird didn’t appear, he was to stand in front of a mirror and yell “Loof Lirpa,” and it would most assuredly appear before his very eyes. The next day when he came home from school I asked him what that assignment was all about, and he explained that ‘Loof Lirpa’ is April Fool, backwards (it was April 1st that day).
I think instead of being on the lookout for those troublesome ‘Loof Lirpas’ we should just take a good, long look in the mirror.