Debra Isenbletter, PastorChristian Assembly, Springfield, Missouri
Jonah 4:5—”So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.” In this verse we can see five things concerning Jonah and what he does, Separation; Observation; Preparation; Relaxation and Expectation.
Separation: Jonah “went out” of the city after he had preached and after he had prayed. He went out weary but also angry. He went out with an attitude. He had seen the people’s repentance and he knew that God had seen their repentance. I believe that Jonah went out of the city with the same attitude that he went into the city. The people had changed their mind, but not the prophet. He still felt they deserved to be destroyed and still felt they did not deserve mercy. His attitude reflects the attitude of legality, it is rigid and unbending. Jonah “went out” of “the city” of Nineveh. It was in “the city” where both the people and the prophet were tested. He is like those that Paul said began well (Gal.3:3) and who did run well (Gal.5:7). He has forgotten that the Lord had begun a good work but was not finished (Phil.1:6). It is not enough to simply do what the Lord asks, we must do it wholeheartedly not grudgingly, or resentfully. Jonah’s separation does not seem to be with the right attitude of heart.
Observation: The first thing we see is that Jonah “sat” and then where he sat “on the east side of the city.” To “sit” can mean “to sit and wait” and Jonah was sitting and waiting to see if God would change His mind. To “sit” can mean “to be set” and Jonah was “set” in his attitude, he would not change his mind. To “sit means “to sit as a judge” and Jonah had already judged the city guilty and deserving of destruction. Jonah chose to sit on “the east side of the city.” The Bible does not tell us why he chose this place but it must have been both a place of good observation and at the same time a place of good protection. Jonah wanted to be close enough to see and safe enough to be secure. He chose the place but God knew exactly where Jonah would go and was waiting for him. “Nineveh” had fifteen monumental gateways that people could use to enter the city. Five of them have been excavated and located and their names found. One gate was used to take livestock to water, and one was used for ceremonial purposes. One gate was located near the south end of the eastern city wall and was considered one of the most important gates.” Jonah leaving the city may have used this gate.
Jonah departed the city and sat to wait to see what he thought God should do. He did not wait to see the salvation of the Lord, instead he waited to see the judgment of the Lord. We can sit and wait on the Lord with a right attitude or a wrong attitude. Ruth is an example of the right attitude, she waited to see “how the matter would fall” (Ruth 3:18). She sat in faith. Jonah waited to see “how (he thought) the matter (should) fall.” Jonah sat in fury. There is a difference in the words would and should. In “would” Ruth did not know. She waited on the Lord. Jonah did not wait to see what the Lord “would” do, he already knew what he thought the Lord “should” do. There are different ways we can sit and wait, Jonah sat and waited but not in faith in God’s mercy.
Preparation: “and there made him a booth,”— Since Jonah does not know how long he will have to wait he makes a “booth,” a “temporary shelter;” “a tabernacle.” If Jonah only preached one day, then he would have to wait for 40 days. If he preached for 40 days, he would still have to wait but not as long. He made a booth because he knew how to do this. He had done this for the Feast of Tabernacles, to celebrate the harvest (Exo.23:16; Deu.16:13) and to rest and remember deliverance (Lev.23:33-43). Jonah forgot what the booth represented, deliverance and not destruction. He should be celebrating God’s deliverance instead he wants to celebrate God’s destruction. He made a booth, a temporary shelter but it will be used to teach him a permanent lesson.
Relaxation: After building this booth, Jonah sat under the “shadow” or shade it provided. He sat there and it became a place of contemplation, a place of deliberation, a place of protection and a place of instruction. The moment we sit still is the moment the Lord can show us what we need to see. The Lord does not speak to Jonah in words but nonetheless He speaks to Jonah clearly. This shelter would not be enough to meet his need. God would use this to reach him and to teach him. What God teaches Jonah is grace.
The word “shadow” is found in the Psalms and there are two different types. There is the shadow of death which can be a place of testing (Psa.23:4); a place of discipline (Psa.44:19,22) and a place of despair (Psa.107:0-11). There is the shadow of God (of His wings). This is a place of hiding (Psa.17:8); a place of love (Psa.36:7); a place of mercy (Psa.57:1) and a place of rejoicing (Psa.63:7). Jonah in attitude is sitting under the “shadow of death” but the Lord will show Jonah “the shadow of His wings.” Jonah can sit there and look at death or look at life, he can grieve or he can rejoice.
Expectation: Jonah still had hope that the city would still be destroyed. Why? One reason is because God said He would do this in the beginning and another reason is that God had not actually said that He would not do this at the end. Jonah suspected that God might not destroy the city but did not know for sure. He knew God saw evil and judged it. He knew God saw repentance and received it. He knew what God could do but not what God would do. Sometimes the Lord does not have to speak directly to us because we already know. Jonah already knew but did not want to believe it nor want to see it. He may have thought their past evil outweighed their present repentance. He saw what they did but did not think it was enough or that it would last. He saw uncircumcised Gentiles, idolaters, He saw what he wanted to see not what God saw.
Jonah knew what God might do, he was afraid He would do it and he would not believe it. It is God’s character, that description that Jonah gave earlier that told Jonah what God would do. Those wonderful attributes: “gracious;” “merciful;” “slow to anger;” “great kindness” and “repenting of evil.” The Lord does not have to speak to us to show us what He will do, all we have to do is look in the Word and He shows us. All we have to do is know His character and He shows us. The question is, will we accept what the Lord shows us concerning Himself? Jonah could not accept these attributes of God when applied to the Gentiles. Jonah wanted the city to be destroyed.