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Looking for God’s purpose

Written by Myles MacMillan.

Bible reading: Jonah 4:5-11

Many of us are familiar with the story of Jonah. God wanted him to go warn the Ninevites (a Gentile city) about the destruction that He was about to bring upon them because of their sins (Jonah 1:2). Jonah, however, had other plans and tried to run from God because he did not want to have anything to do with the plan to save the Ninevites. Eventually, Jonah ended up going to the city anyway and after Ninevites heard his message they all repented of their sin and turned towards God. The Lord was pleased with their decision and relented the destruction He had threatened to bring upon them (Jonah 3:10). Jonah, however, was not happy with God’s decision and was sitting outside the city, which is where we pick up the story in our Bible reading.

God gives Jonah the shade tree one day and takes it away the next. While he has the tree, Jonah is happy but when it is taken away, he becomes furious, saying he wished he was dead. God wants Jonah to learn a lesson from the shade tree and we can learn the same lesson by reading His word today. Jonah is a bit self-centered. He didn’t want to go along with God's plan in the first place but after God caused the fish to swallow him, he changed his mind. He was mad at God when he didn’t destroy the city because apparently that wasn’t what Jonah wanted and he was also very mad when he lost his shade tree. What Jonah isn't seeing in all this, is God’s plan.

You see, God’s plan was to save the souls of 120 000 people in that city. He loved and cared for those people every day, giving them air in their lungs and food in their stomachs and He didn’t want to see them perish. Jonah, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to care if they live or die; he is only concerned about himself and his plans, so much so that he completely loses his temper over a shade tree. God questions him about the tree saying: “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” Unfortunately, Jonah doesn’t give it much thought but maybe if he did, he would realize that if he has the right to be concerned about a plant, how much more does God have the right to be concerned over the souls of so many people? Jonah did nothing to care for the plant, but God had done so much to care for these people.

Isn’t this story so fitting for our lives today? If you’re anything like me, you have been guilty of this same attitude from time to time. We get so caught up in our lives and what we want that we miss the big picture. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Brothers and sisters, our God is concerned about saving souls, are we worried about the shade tree?

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