2504. Jonah’s Object Lessons

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No. 2504-43:73. A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, June 11, 1885, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, February 14, 1897.

And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, so that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was very glad for the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it struck the gourd so that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on the head of Jonah, so that he fainted, and wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” {Jon 4:6-8}

1. I want to lay the stress especially on these three sentences in my text, —

    “God prepared a gourd.”
    “God prepared a worm.”
    “God prepared a vehement east wind.”

2. The life of Jonah cannot be written without God; take God out of the prophet’s history, and there is no history to write. This is equally true of each one of us. Apart from God, there is no life, nor thought, nor act, nor career of any man, however lowly or however high. Leave God out, and you cannot write the story of anyone’s career. If you attempt it, it will be so poorly written that it shall be clearly perceived that you have tried to make bricks without straw, and that you have sought to form a potter’s vessel without clay. I believe that, in a man’s life, the great secret of strength, and holiness, and righteousness, is the acknowledgment of God. When a man has no fear of God before his eyes, there is no wonder that he should run to an excess of baseness, and even to an excess of riot. In proportion as the thought of God dominates the mind, we may expect to find a life that shall be true and really worth living; but in proportion as we forget God, we shall play the fool. It is the fool who says in his heart, “No God,” and it is the fool who lives and acts as if there were no God.

3. In Jonah’s life, we meet God continually. The Lord told the prophet to go to Nineveh, but instead of going there, he took ship to go to Tarshish. Quick as thought, following that announcement, we read, “But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was likely to be broken.” God hurled out the wind as if he had been throwing a thunderbolt after his servant who was seeking to escape from him, and there was such a terrible storm that the sailors were compelled to throw Jonah overboard. Then we read, in the 17th verse of the first chapter, “The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” God began by preparing a storm, but he went on to prepare a fish. We do not know what fish it was, and it does not matter; it was one that God made on purpose, and it served his purpose so well that Jonah lived in the fish’s belly for three days and three nights, and then he was landed safely, a better man than when he went into the sea, though none too good even then.

4. You may have found, dear friend, that God has prepared a storm in your life. There was a tempest which checked you in your career of sin. You had determined to go to destruction, and you had “paid its fare”; but there came a great trial, something or other that stopped your ship, and threatened to utterly swallow it up. After that, there came delivering mercy; you who were cast into the sea were, nevertheless, not lost, but saved. What you judged to be your destruction turned out to be for your salvation, for God had from of old prepared the means of saving you; and he sent you such a deliverance that you were compelled to say with Jonah, “Salvation is from the Lord.” Since that time, I should not wonder if you have seen the hand of God in many very unusual ways, possibly in much the same form as Jonah did, not literally, but spiritually. Especially if you have erred as Jonah did, if you have fallen into a bad mood as he did, you have probably had to bear the same kind of discipline and chastisement.

5. Let it never be forgotten that Jonah was a man of God. I often hear great fault found with him, and he richly deserves the condemnation; he was not at all an amiable person; but, for all that, he was a man of God. When he was in the very depths of the sea, when he appeared to be cut off from all hope, he prayed as no one but a man of God could pray: “Out of the belly of hell I cried, and you heard my voice.” It takes a real saint to cry out from such a place as Jonah was in, — the living tomb of the belly of the fish. He was also a man of faith, otherwise he would not have been a man of prayer. But he still believed in his God; it was even as the result of a mistake that was made by his faith, rather than by his unbelief, that he tried to run away. He had such regard for God’s honour that he could not bear to exercise a ministry which he feared would raise a question about the truthfulness of God, and represent him to be changeable. So far as his idea of God went, he was faithful to it; his fault mainly lay in that imperfect idea of God which had taken possession of his mind.

6. Jonah was a man of faith and a man of prayer, and God greatly honoured him by making his word to turn the whole city upside down. For my part, I hardly know of any other man who ever had so high an honour bestowed on him as this man had. It is just possible that, if you or I had made a king on his throne to come down from it, and robe himself in sackcloth, and if we had seen a whole city — men, women, and children, — all crying out for mercy as the result of one sermon from us, we might have been as greatly foolish, through the intoxication of pride, as this man was foolish through a vehement zeal for God, which happened to take a harsh form, instead of being tempered, and softened, and sweetened by a recognition of the great love and kindness of God, and by a sweet delight in those gracious attributes of his character. Jonah was grandly stern amid a wicked generation; he was one of God’s “Ironsides.” He was the man for a fierce fight, and he would not hold back his hand from the use of the sword, or do the work of the Lord half-heartedly; he was one who wished to make thorough work of anything he undertook, and to go to the very end of it. We want more of such men nowadays; he was not lacking in backbone, yet he was lacking in heart; in that respect we would not be like him. He was exceptionally strong where so many in these days are grievously weak; perhaps he is all the more criticized and condemned because that virtue which he possessed is so rare today. The faults he had were on that side on which most modern professors do not err; and therefore, Pharisee-like, they are content to condemn the man for what they do not themselves commit, because they are not brave enough and strong enough to fall into such a fault.

7. In my text, we have God very conspicuous in the life of his servant Jonah; and I want to bring out this truth very prominently, so that we may also see God in our lives in similar points to those in which he revealed himself to Jonah. So, we will notice, first, that God is in our comforts:“ God prepared a gourd.” Secondly, God is in our bereavements and losses;“ God prepared a worm.” Thirdly, God is in our heaviest trials:“ God prepared a vehement east wind.” Then, fourthly, what is not in the text in words, but is of the very essence of it, God prepared Jonah: and these three things — the gourd, the worm, and the east wind, were a part of his preparation, the means of making him a more fit and better man for his Lord’s service. He learned by the gourd, and he learned by the worm, and he learned by the vehement east wind; they were a kind of kindergarten school to which the childlike spirit of Jonah had to go. He needed to be taught as children in their infancy are taught by object lessons, and things that they can see; so Jonah went to God’s kindergarten, to learn from the gourd, and the worm, and the east wind, the lessons that he would not learn in any other way.

8. I. So, first, I remind you that GOD IS IN OUR COMFORTS: “God prepared a gourd.” Everything of good that we enjoy, however little it may be, comes from God.

    ’Tis God that lifts our comforts high,
       Or sinks them in the grave;
    He gives, and blessed be his name!
       He takes but what he gave.

9. Let me call your attention to Jonah’s comfort, that is, the gourd which God prepared. It was sent to him when he was in a very wrong spirit, angry with God, and angry with his fellow men. He had hidden away from everyone in that bit of a shanty which he had put up for himself outside the city, as if he was a real Timon {a} the man-hater. Sick of everyone, and sick even of himself, he gets away into this little booth, and there, in discontent and discomfort, he sits watching to see the fate of the city lying below the hill. Yet God comforted him by preparing a gourd to be “a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief.” You know that we are very apt to say of some people, “Well, really, they are of such a trying disposition, they fret about nothing at all, and they worry when they have no reason for it; we have no patience with them.” That is what you say, but that is not how God acts. He does have pity on such people, and he has had patience with many of you when you have been in the number of such people. Why, I do not believe that any man here would have proposed to make a gourd grow up to cover the head of the angry prophet; we should much more likely have called a committee meeting, and we should have agreed that, if the discontented brother liked to go and live in a booth, he had better work the experiment out; it would probably be for his good, and make him come back and live in the city properly, like other people! Though he was left to feel the cold by night, and the heat by day, it was entirely his own choice; and if a person chooses such a residence, it is not for us to interfere! That is how men talk, and men are so extremely wise, you know; but that is not how God talks, and he is infinitely wiser than any of his creatures. His wisdom is sweetly loving, but ours sometimes curdles into hardness. What do you think, brothers and sisters, has not God sent us many comforts when we did not deserve them; when, on the contrary, we had made a rod for our own back, and might well have counted on being made to smart? Yet God has sent us comforts which have relieved us of the sorrow which we foolishly brought on ourselves, and made us stop the fretfulness which was our own voluntary choice. God has been wonderfully tender with us, even as a mother is with her sick child. Have you not found it so, brothers and sisters? Well, now, look back on your past life, and think that all the comforts which came to you when you deserved to be left without them, came from God, and for them all let his name be blessed.

10. Further, notice, that the comfort which came to Jonah was exactly what he needed. It was a gourd, a broad-leaved plant, very probably the castor oil plant, which botanists call Palma Christi , because of its resemblance to the human hand. In its native country, it grows very rapidly, so that it would speedily afford a welcome shade from the heat; whatever kind of gourd it was, God prepared the plant, and it was exactly the kind to shield Jonah from the burning heat of the sun. The Lord always knows how to send us just the very comfort that we most require. There is many a mother who has had only one of her children spared to her, but what a comfort that one child has been! I have heard one good woman say, “My dear daughter is such a joy to me, she is everything I could wish for.” Or it may be that God has sent to you some other form of earthly comfort, which has been altogether invaluable to you; it has been a screen from the great heat of your trouble, “a shelter in the time of storm.” Whenever you get such an invaluable blessing, praise God for it. Do not let your gourd become your god, but let your gourd lead you to your God. When our comforts become our idols, they work our ruin; but when they make us bless God for them, then they become messengers from God, which help toward our growth in grace.

11. Note, next, that God sent this comfort to Jonah at the right time. It came just when he needed it; when he was most distressed, then it was that the gourd came up in a night. The punctuality of God is very notable.

    He never is before his time,
       He never is too late.

Just when we need a mercy, and when the mercy is all the more a mercy because it is so timely, then it comes. If it had come later, it might have been too late; or, at any rate, it would not have been so timely, and therefore not so sweet. Who can know when the right time is, like that God who sees all things at a single glance? He knows when to give, and when to take. In every godly life there is a set time for each event; and there is no need for us to ask, “Why is the white here and the black there; why this gleam of sunlight and that roar of tempest; why here a marriage and there a funeral; why sometimes a harp and at other times a sackbut?” God knows, and it is a great blessing for us when we can leave it all in his hands. Let the gourd spring up in a night, it will be the right night; and let the gourd die in the morning, it will be the right morning. All is good if it is in God’s hands. Let us, therefore, distinctly recognise God in our comforts, in their coming to us when we are unworthy of them, in their coming in the form in which we most require them, and in their coming at the time when we are most in need of them.

12. This gourd, like all our comforts, was sent to Jonah with an extremely kind intention, and God made it to come up, “so that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief.” One would not have thought of a gourd delivering a man like that from his grief. It is an unmanly thing for a prophet of Jehovah to have a grief from which a gourd can deliver him; but God knew his servant, and in condescension he sent this unusual form of comfort with this motive, “to deliver him from his grief.” I think that Jonah, when he wrote this verse, must have smiled to himself, and thought, “All through the ages, what a fool they will think I was!” yet he went on, and honestly wrote it down. So, often, when you and I have been comforted by some mere trifle, and we have been very grateful for it; yet, looking back on it, we have thought to ourselves, “What poor creatures we were to have been comforted by so small a thing! How foolish it seems for us first to have been put out by so little a matter, and then to have been comforted by something equally little!” Let us see here God’s wonderful kindness, his microscopic kindness in so looking, as it were, to our animalculae {b} of grief, and somehow dealing with them after their own shape and form, so as to deliver us from the grief they have caused us.

13. Yet, further, it seems that this intention of God was fully served, for “Jonah was very glad for the gourd.” God has often sent us mercies that have made us very glad, and we have been delivered from the pressure of heavy grief. But here is the sad note in the history of Jonah, as it has often been with us also, although he was very glad, he does not appear to have been very grateful. It is one thing to be glad for a mercy, it is another matter to be grateful for that mercy. Sometimes a man spends all his time in rejoicing over the comfort, which then becomes idolatry, whereas he ought to have expended it in blessing God for the comfort, and then it would have shown that he was in a right state of heart. I do not read that Jonah thanked God for this gourd; possibly, no worm would have devoured it if he had done so. Our comforts are always safest when they are enveloped in gratitude. Let us overlay the wood of our comfort with the gold plate of our gratitude; so it shall be preserved. An ordinary comfort protected with a sheet of gratitude shall become to us a double means of grace.

14. This, then, is the first point at which I am aiming. I want every child of God — and I wish that every man and woman and child here would do the same, — just to think of every comfort as having come from God. Even though it is a poor fading thing, like a gourd, yet it is valuable to you for the present; therefore, think of it as having come to you from God, even as “the Lord God prepared a gourd” to deliver his servant Jonah from his grief. So, the Lord has prepared your comforts, prepared your prosperity, prepared your wife, prepared your children, prepared your friends; therefore, bow your heads in gratitude to him, and bless the name of the Lord whose mercy endures for ever.

15. II. Now we turn to our second point, where we shall need even more faith than in the first part of our subject. The prophet next says that “God prepared a worm,” which teaches us that GOD IS IN OUR BEREAVEMENTS AND LOSSES.

16. Jonah’s great comfort was destroyed by a very little thing. It was only a worm, but that was enough to destroy the gourd. Oh! how soon may our earthly comforts be taken away from us! There is a little fluctuation in the markets, and the prosperous merchant becomes a bankrupt. A little red spot appears in the cheek of your fair child, and in a few weeks she is taken away by decline or consumption. A very little thing may soon destroy all your comforts, and make them to be like the withered leaves of Jonah’s gourd.

17. It was also, probably, an unseen thing that created this havoc. Very likely Jonah did not see that worm. God prepared it, but the prophet did not discern it, until he saw the destruction it had caused. And, my dear friends, some little unseen thing may yet come to you, and turn into grief all your present joy.

18. Besides, it was a very foul thing, a worm, a maggot, at the root of this gourd; and through this foul thing it withered and died. It is sometimes the sharpest bitterness of our grief when we have our joy spoiled by someone else’s sin. The venomous whisper of a wicked gossip, a foul drop from the black tongue of slander, has poisoned the very well-spring of domestic bliss. In Jonah’s case, the Lord prepared the worm; and although no evil thing can be charged against the good God, yet behind man’s free will there is the great truth of divine predestination, which, without taking any evil on itself, yet overrules even the waywardness of man for the Lord’s own glory. People often think that there is no worm which can eat into their comfort; but God can prepare one, as he did in the case of the prophet. He as much prepared the worm as he prepared the gourd, he as much destroyed the comfort as he first of all gave it to his sorrowing servant.

19. This worm, which God had prepared, did its work very speedily. The gourd was destroyed in a night; when Jonah fell asleep, there it was over his head, guarding him from the bright beams of the moon; but when he awoke in the morning, it hung shrivelled and worn out, affording no protection whatever from the fierce rays of the sun. Oh, how soon can God take away every atom of comfort that we have! I am never at a wedding but the thought of a funeral crosses my mind; I cannot help it. Neither do I hear the sound of joyful music, but I reflect how soon it will all be over, and the trumpet of the great day of judgment will subdue all hearts with fear. It is good, when you are glad, to rejoice as though you did not rejoice, for then you will learn, when you are sorrowful, to mourn as though you did not sorrow. Remembering the vanity and frailty of all things here below, have yourself well in hand; create your circumstances, rather than be the creature of them; overrule them by faith, instead of bowing before them in terror.

20. Further, when God prepared the worm to destroy Jonah’s gourd, the result of its work was very sad. It left the poor man without the thing that had made him very glad, and he was as angry and distressed as before he had been rejoicing. I want you, dear friends, just to pause here to learn this lesson. It is God who sends your trials; do not get into your head the notion that your sickness or anything else that grieves you is from the devil. He may have a finger in it, but he is himself always under the supremacy of God. When Job is vexed and plagued by Satan, the arch-enemy cannot touch him anywhere until God gives permission. God is always behind everything that happens; therefore, do not begin kicking at the secondary agent. You know that, if you strike a dog with a stick, he bites at the stick; if he were a sensible dog, he would try to bite you. If you quarrel with anything that happens, your quarrel is virtually with God himself. It is no use to quarrel with the Lord’s agent; for it is God, after all, who sends you the affliction, and “he does not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” Say, as old Eli did, when he heard the bad news concerning his household, “It is the Lord: let him do what seems good to him.” Let it be with you as it was with Aaron when, since he could not speak joyfully, he did not speak at all: “Aaron held his peace.” It is sometimes a great thing to be able not to say anything. Silence is golden when it is the silence of a complete submission to the will of the Lord. God prepares the worm; therefore, do not be angry with the poor worm, but just let the gourd go. It was God who made it to grow, and he had a perfect right to take it away when he pleased.

21. III. Now, thirdly, “God prepared a vehement east wind,” which teaches us that GOD IS IN OUR HEAVIEST TRIALS. Jonah could not escape the fury of the wind, especially when his gourd was withered. This wind came from the east, which, according to our old proverb, is “neither good for man nor beast.” But it came from the east most vehemently, and, at the same time, after the protecting gourd was gone, the fierce rays of the sun beat on Jonah’s head, where he seems to have been weakest, though he probably thought himself to be strongest just there.

22. So, dear friends, God may send you troubles one after another. The gourd is gone; now the east wind comes. Troubles seldom come alone, they usually fly in flocks, like geese; and it will often happen that one will come right after another, and you will say to yourself, “Why does this trial come just now when I am least able to bear it?”

23. Sometimes, also, troubles come very fiercely. It was “a vehement east wind.” It came like the rush of scorching heat out of the open door of an oven; it was like the Sirocco, {c} a sultry wind burning up everything in its path. This wind came with all its might on poor Jonah; and just so may fierce and fiery trials come at any time on the dearest servants of God.

24. And, once more, trouble may come when we think we are secure. When Jonah went away out of the city, he seemed to say, “There, I will get away from men; I will not have anything more to do with them, they have always worried and troubled me. I will get quite alone; there I shall sit and enjoy myself, for I cannot enjoy anyone else.” But the troubles came even there; indeed, Jonah had built his booth “on the east side of the city,” just where he would be likely to feel the full force of the wind blowing from that quarter. In going there, he had not gone out of the realm of withered gourds, and he had not gone beyond the reach of the vehement east wind. Neither have you, dear friend, though you say, “I thought, when I left my last trying employer, I should get into a comfortable place.” Yes, I will tell you when you will get into a comfortable place, if you are a Christian, and that is, when you pass out of this world altogether. But you will not find it anywhere else; go where you may on this globe, there are no islands on which the sea does not sometimes beat roughly. There is no atmosphere so calm that the east wind will not disturb it sooner or later; you may go and sit in your booth if you like, but there shall come to you even in that booth the chequers of comfort and of loss, of gourds which spring up in a night and which also wither in a night.

25. Yes, fierce troubles will come to us, and they may bring us no benefit in themselves. It is a popular notion that trials sanctify those who have to endure them; but by themselves they do not. It is a sanctified trial that sanctifies the tried one; but trial itself, alone and by itself, might make men even worse than they are. Here, for example, is Jonah; his gourd is gone, and the sun’s fierce heat beats on him, and makes him faint; and even to the Lord himself he says that he does well to be angry, even to death. The trial was not sanctified to him while he was in it; and it often happens that “nevertheless afterwards” is the time in which trials benefit us: “No chastening for the present seems to be joyful, but grievous: nevertheless afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised by it.” You may have ten thousand trials, and yet be none the better for them unless you cry to God to sanctify every twig of the rod, and to make the fury of the east wind or the burning rays of the sun to be a blessing to you.

26. It seems that, at the time, this trial only revealed Jonah’s folly, for it appeared to make him pray very foolishly, and talk very foolishly. His trials were like the tossing of the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. This vehement east wind threw up great masses of black seaweed on the shore of Jonah’s character, and made the great sea of his heart roll up the foul mass of corruption that otherwise might have been hidden and still. Brothers and sisters, unless the Spirit of God comes on us in power, we shall not grow holy through our trials. Though we were washed in a sea of fire, we should not lose an atom of our sin by suffering. Indeed, the very flames of hell shall never purify a soul, or purge away a single sin; he who is filthy shall even there be filthy still. There is nothing in suffering, any more than there is in joy, in and of itself, to make a man holy. That is the work of God, and of God alone; yet God overrules both our joy and our grief to accomplish his own divine purpose by his Spirit. It is God who sends the wind; so, once again, I want you to pause, and bow your heads before him who sends all your trouble. Do not be angry with God for what he does to you; but feel that it must be right even though it should tear everything away from you, though it should leave you a widow and homeless, though it should strip you, and though it should even kill you. God is still God; and the deeper your trouble, the greater are your possibilities for adoration; for, when you are brought to the very lowest, it is that, in extremis, you can raise the song in excelsis, out of the deepest depths you can praise the Lord to the very highest. When we glorify God out of the fires of fiercest tribulation, there is probably more true adoration of him in that melody than in the loftiest songs of cherubim and seraphim when they enjoy God, and sing out his praises in his presence above.

27. IV. Now, lastly, I said that it was not in the text verbally, but it was there in spirit, that IN ALL THIS GOD WAS PREPARING HIS SERVANT.

28. Do you not see that God was teaching Jonah by the eye and by experience? Unless the Lord had put Jonah through this process, he could not have argued so well with his servant. So the gourd must go, and the wind must come, and the sun must beat on the fainting prophet, and Jonah in his angry temper must get to feel great grief over his poor gourd which had met such an untimely death, and then God comes to him, and says, “Are you troubled about your gourd? Have you pity on a gourd, and should I not have pity on a great city with more than a hundred and twenty thousand helpless children within its walls, and all those thousands of unsinning cattle? Should I not spare these, when you would have spared this tender plant, which sprang up in a night, and withered in a night?” Sometimes, God puts us through an unusual experience in order that we may understand him all the better; and sometimes that we may know ourselves all the better. Men who are of a hard nature must have hard usage, diamond must cut diamond, so that at last the purpose of the great Owner of the jewels may be accomplished.

29. Then, dear heart, with your severe afflictions, God is preparing you to be a comforter to others. You distressed and troubled one, God is training you so that you may be a very Barnabas, the son of consolation, to the sons and daughters of affliction in times to come. I would suggest to some of you here who have to bear double trouble that God may be preparing you for double usefulness, or he may be working out of you some unusual form of evil which might not be driven out of you unless his Holy Spirit had used these mysterious methods with you to teach you more fully his mind.

30. I am probably speaking to some who are not yet converted to God. You have not yet believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, yet you have a world of troubles. You think that God is so angry with you that he intends to destroy you, for, ever since you have begun to think of divine things you have had nothing but trouble. You have lost one dear friend after another, you yourself have been very ill, and you often feel very low-spirited and sad, and you say to yourself, “Ah, I am doomed to perish!” Now, I do not come to that conclusion at all. On the contrary, I thank God for your trouble, for I think that, just as God dealt with Jonah to teach him a lesson, so he is dealing with you to bring you to himself. It was a good thing for Jonah when he had finished that quarrel with his God, for no good ever comes that way. What a blessed thing it would be for you also to finish your quarrel with God! Please, finish it soon. How can you be reconciled to him? Only by the death of Jesus, for God has given his Son to die for sinners. That ought to end your quarrel with God. Remember that blessed verse, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Turn to him, then. Let the God of love end your discussions, and end your questionings; may his blessed Spirit come and sanctify your troubles, and bring you to himself!

31. May God bless you all, dear friends, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

{a} Timon: The name of a noted misanthrope {man-hater} of Athens, the hero of Shakespeare’s play of the same name; hence, one like Timon, a misanthrope. OED. {b} Animalculae: An animal so small as to be visible only with the aid of the microscope. OED. {c} Sirocco: An oppressively hot and blighting wind, blowing from the north coast of Africa over the Mediterranean and affecting parts of Southern Europe. OED.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Jon 4}

You know all about Jonah’s refusal to go on the Lord’s errand, and how he was held to it, and carried to his work in a great fish since he would not go by himself. Somehow or other, God will make his servants do his will; and the more speedily they do it, the better it is for them. You also know how the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and how the Lord had mercy on them.

1-3. But it displeased Jonah greatly, and he was very angry. And he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Please, oh LORD, was this not my saying, when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled before to Tarshish: for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and you repent of the evil. Therefore now, oh LORD, please take my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.”

“For, if I live, the Ninevites will say, ‘This man scared us needlessly. He is a prophet of evil, and he is a liar, too, for our great city is not destroyed. He frightened us into a kind of repentance for which there was no necessity, for his God does not carry out his threatenings,’ ” and so forth. And poor Jonah could not face such talk as that. But, brother, if you preach God’s Word as he gives it to you, you have nothing to do with the consequences that come from it. God will justify his own truth; and even if it should seem that the worst rather than the best consequences ensue, it is still for you to go on in the name of him who sent you. Whenever you and I begin to try to manage God’s kingdom for him, we find the divine sceptre too heavy for our little hands to hold; our case would be like that of Phaeton {d} trying to drive the horses in the chariot of the sun. We cannot hold the reins of the universe. And poor Jonah, wanting to manage everything for God, makes a dreadful mess of it, and in his anger makes a very foolish request: “Oh LORD, please take my life from me.”

4. Then said the LORD, “Do you do well to be angry?”

How kind of God to speak so gently to his rebellious servant. Are any of you given to anger? Might not the Lord say to you, “Do you do well to be angry, so soon, — so often, — so long, — about such little things?”

5. So Jonah went out of the city, —

When, no doubt, everyone would have been willing to entertain him, for all, even to the king, must have felt a deep respect for the messenger who had brought them to their knees before the Lord: “Jonah went out of the city,” —

5. And sat on the east side of the city, and there he made a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, until he might see what would become of the city.

To see those forty days out; half hoping, perhaps, that there would come an earthquake, to shake the city down; and then, under his little booth of boughs, he would not be harmed by the falling edifices. In as sulky and surly a spirit as he could be, he put himself to great inconveniences. The dampness of the night fell on him, and the heat of the sun would soon wither up the branches. If, dear friends, like Jonah, you want to complain, you will soon have something to complain about. People who are resolved to fret, generally make for themselves reasons for fretfulness.

6. And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, so that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was very glad for the gourd.

Those who are angry with God show the littleness of their minds. “Little things please little minds”; so a gourd made Jonah glad.

7, 8. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it struck the gourd so that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on the head of Jonah, so that he fainted, and wished death for himself, —

Jonah was soon up, and soon down. Yesterday, he “was very glad for the gourd”; today, he is fainting because of the heat of the sun. If we allow our mercies to become too sweet to us, they will soon become, by their withdrawal, too bitter for us. When we feel too much affection for the creature, we shall soon find a great deal of affliction from the creature. “The sun beat on the head of Jonah, so that he fainted, and wished death for himself,” —

8, 9. And said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” And God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the gourd?” And he said, “I do well to be angry, even to death.”

He had gotten into such a bad spirit that he could even brave it out with his God. Oh, that we might be preserved from such a bad temper! It is good for us that, “Just as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him.” When a child is in a fever, and says a great many naughty things, his father puts it down to the sickness rather than to the child. So it was with God’s poor fainting servant Jonah.

10, 11. Then said the LORD, “You have had pity on the gourd, for which you have not laboured, neither made it to grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, —

“Nineveh, for which I have laboured; Nineveh, which I made to grow; Nineveh, which has been many years in the building; Nineveh, which contains multitudes of immortal souls that will not perish in a night: ‘Should I not spare Nineveh,’ ” —

11. That great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; —

This is always been supposed to mean infants, and I judge that the supposition is a correct one. So Nineveh had a population of over one hundred and twenty thousand who were under two years old, so it must have been an immense city. Who can tell the blessing that even infants bring to us? It may be that God spares London for the sake of the children in it. What a great deal the Lord Jesus Christ made of children! He permitted the little children to come to him, and did not forbid them. Does God care for children? Indeed, that he does; and so should his servants! They are the better part of the human race; there is more in them that is admirable than there is in us who are grown up. They are, in many respects, a blessing to the city, as these one hundred and twenty thousand little ones were to Nineveh. But how exceptionally does God add —

11. And also many cattle?”

Does God care for cattle? He does; and how that fact should teach his servants to be kind to all brute creatures! There is some truth in those lines of Coleridge, —

    He prayeth best, who loveth best
    All things, both great and small,

for everything that lives should be the object of our care for the sake of him who gave them life; and if he has given us to have dominion over all sheep and oxen, and the birds of the air, and so forth, do not let our dominion be that of a tyrant, but that of a kind and gentle prince who seeks the good of what is under his power.

Here ends the story of Jonah which he tells himself; and he did not add anything to it because nothing needs to be added. The Lord’s question to him was altogether unanswerable, and Jonah felt it to be so. Let us hope that, during the rest of his life, he so lived as to rejoice in the sparing mercy of God. He had stood outside the door, like the elder brother who was angry, and would not go in, and who said to his father, “Lo, these many years I serve you, neither did I transgress at any time your commandment: and yet you never gave me a kid, so that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as your son was come, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you have killed for him the fatted calf.” But after his father had said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours,” I hope that he went in, and I trust that Jonah also went in and lived with the penitent Ninevites, and that all were happy together in the love for the God who had been so gracious to them.

 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 106” 106 @@ "(Part 2)"}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence — Providence To Be Trusted” 212}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence — ‘He That Built All Things Is God’ ” 205}

{d} Phaethon, challenged by his playmates, sought assurance from his mother that his father was the sun god. She gave him the requested assurance and told him to turn to his father for confirmation. He asked his father for some proof that would demonstrate his relationship with the sun. When the god promised to grant him whatever he wanted, he insisted on being allowed to drive the sun chariot for a day. Placed in charge of the chariot, he was unable to control the horses. The earth was in danger of being burnt up and, to prevent this disaster, Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt. See Explorer "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaethon"

Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 106 (Part 1)
1 Oh render thanks to God above,
   The fountain of eternal love;
   Whose mercy firm through ages past
   Has stood, and shall for ever last.
2 Who can his mighty deeds express,
   Not only vast but numberless?
   What mortal eloquence can raise
   His tribute of immortal praise.
3 Extend to me that favour, Lord,
   Thou to thy chosen dost afford:
   When thou return’st to set them free,
   Let thy salvation visit me.
4 Oh may I worthy prove to see
   Thy saints in full prosperity!
   That I the joyful choir may join,
   And count thy people’s triumph mine.
                     Tate and Brady, 1696.

Psalm 106 (Part 2)
1 God of eternal love,
      How fickle are our ways!
   And yet how oft did Israel prove
      Thy constancy of grace!
2 They saw thy wonders wrought,
      And then thy praise they sung;
   But soon Thy works of power forgot,
      And murmur’d with their tongue.
3 Now thy believe his Word,
      While rocks with rivers flow;
   Now with their lusts provoke the Lord,
      And he reduced them low.
4 Yet when thy mourn’d their faults,
      He hearken’d to their groans;
   Brought his own covenant to his thoughts,
      And call’d them still his sons.
5 Their names were in his book;
      He saved them from their foes:
   Oft he chastised, but ne’er forsook
      The people that he chose.
6 Let Israel bless the Lord,
      Who loved their ancient race;
   And Christians join the solemn word,
      AMEN, to all the praise.
                           Isaac Watts, 1719.

God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence
212 — Providence To Be Trusted
1 Lord, we adore thy vast designs,
   The obscure abyss of Providence,
   Too deep to sound with mortal lines,
   Too dark to view with feeble sense.
2 Now thou arrayest thine awful face
   In angry frowns, without a smile;
   We, through the cloud, believe thy grace,
   Secure of thy compassion still.
3 Though seas and storms of deep distress
   We sail by faith, and not by sight;
   Faith guides us in the wilderness
   Through all the briars and the night.
4 Dear Father, if thy lifted rod
   Resolve to scourge us here below,
   Still we must lean upon our God,
   Thine arm shall bear us safely through.
                           Isaac Watts, 1709.

God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence
205 — “He That Built All Things Is God”
1 I sing the almighty power of God
   That made the mountains rise;
   That spread the flowing seas abroad,
   And built the lofty skies.
2 I sing the wisdom that ordain’d
   The sun to rule the day;
   The moon shines full at his command,
   And all the stars obey.
3 I sing the goodness of the Lord,
   That fill’d the earth with food;
   He form’d the creatures with his word,
   And then pronounced them good.
4 There’s not a plant or flower below,
   But makes thy glories known;
   And clouds arise, and tempests blow,
   By order from thy throne.
5 Creatures, as numerous as they be,
   Are subject to thy care;
   There’s not a place where we can flee
   But God is present there.
6 In heaven he shines with beams of love,
   With wrath in hell beneath;
   ‘Tis on his earth I stand or move,
   And ‘tis his air I breathe.
7 His hand is my perpetual guard,
   He guides me with his eye:
   Why should I then forget the Lord,
   Who is for ever nigh?
                        Isaac Watts, 1715

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

Terms of Use

Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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