Debra Isenbletter, PastorChristian Assembly, Springfield, Missouri
Jonah 4:6— “And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” In this verse we have the second of four things that God prepared for Jonah. In the first chapter it was the fish, Ch. 4 the gourd, the worm and the wind. I have divided this verse into three parts: Preparation—Protection—Praise.
Preparation: “the Lord God prepared a gourd,” It is the “Lord God, the Eternal One and the Strong One that prepared the gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” It is the God of Creation, the God of the Covenant who continues to reveal Himself to Jonah.” He “ordained” and “appointed” it for a specific purpose. He looked ahead to what Jonah needed and prepared it for him. He did this at the right time, in the right place. Jonah looked at what he had experienced and was experiencing and understood the Lord was in control. If we see whatever we experience, good and bad, as part of God’s Will, then we are able to pass through those experiences and overcome and not be overcome. The Lord sees everything, knows everything and controls everything. He knew Jonah’s heart and his hurt and even his hate. He knew Jonah would reveal His Word and what Nineveh’s reaction would be and Jonah’s reaction. He knew Jonah would not leave but would remain, that he would build a shelter and that he would need shade. The Lord knows everything. In each of the times that the Lord prepared something, it was specifically for Jonah (1:17; 4:6-8). Each was prepared before time in preparation for the time it was needed. Each was prepared to correct Jonah or to comfort him. So, the Lord prepared “a gourd.” The potential was in the ground waiting to grow. It was there in the exact spot that Jonah sat. The plant was dormant until God gave the command to grow. This word is only found here in the Old Testament. This is a caster-oil plant that grows from 8-10 feet high with large leaves that would provide good shelter.
Protection: The Command: “and made it to come up over Jonah.” The rapid growth of this plant was not natural, it was miraculous. It had the capacity to grow but the Lord accelerated it. We see God’s Power and God’s Purpose because it came up “over Jonah.” It grew where Jonah was and it grew fast. In the natural the plant does grow, but it takes up to three months to mature and reach six feet, and this plant was fully mature. It was waiting for the God’s Command, to Grow! The Covering: “that it might be a shadow over his head,”— this is the purpose of the gourd. It was for Jonah, to make his life bearable, even though he was in a place and position the Lord did not want him to be. The word “shadow” comes from the idea of “hovering over.” It speaks of “shade,” here it is literal shade. It also speaks of “defense.” The head is the most vulnerable to heat. It also pictures the mind. This was a literal shadow but it also is a picture of something that when Jonah saw it and felt it, made him think about it. The shadow can picture several things. God’s attributes that Jonah just mentioned (Jonah 4:2). God’s promises and provisions. The Old Testament promises. In the New Testament Paul tells us about the “shadow of heavenly things” (Heb.8:5) and the “shadow of good things to come” (Heb.10:1)—all of which are found in and fulfilled in Christ. What is interesting is that the shadow of the gourd is greater than the shadow provided by his shelter. The shelter was the work of Jonah’s hands and the gourd was the work of God’s Hands. What the Lord provides is far greater than anything man can make or provide. The Comfort: “to deliver him from his grief.”— to “deliver” Jonah, to “save” and “defend,” to “rescue” and “recover” him. To save Jonah from himself, from the discomfort and suffering that he brought upon himself. And in the saving and delivering through the provision of the gourd, Jonah will be “rescued” and “recovered” so that he can continue to minister as a prophet of God. That is grace! It is not about taking away the danger, it is about showing him the danger. The danger is Jonah’s attitude is self-destructive. Jonah puts himself in a dangerous place. He sits in a shelter, knowing the danger and does not care. He wanted to die, he has given up. God wants to change his attitude. He has lost his purpose and he has lost his way. The Lord God will first show grace and then withdraw it to teach Jonah the value of it, how precious it is and to appreciate it.
Praise: “So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.”— Jonah was not only glad, but “exceeding glad,” he “rejoiced with great joy.” This was a relief because Jonah was experiencing “great” discomfort. This shows that Jonah was miserable, hot and suffering. What Jonah did not yet see is that all this was self-inflicted. God did not tell him to go and sit there and wait, he chose to do that and there were consequences because of that choice. Sometimes we choose to do something and there are consequences, and the result brings greater adversity. It is not that the Lord did that, it is that we did it to ourselves and the Lord allows it so that we might learn. The gourd is a lesson in grace for Jonah. It was provided not because of Jonah’s prayer, but because of Jonah’s need. Did Jonah see the miracle in the plant? Did he acknowledge the One who provided it? Did he think that provision of it meant God approved of what he was doing? Jonah acknowledged the gourd but did he acknowledge God? The gourd is a picture of grace, it is the protection that is provided not by ourselves but by the Lord. Jesus spoke of the protection that He could and would provide to God’s people if they would accept it. He said He would have gathered them under His wings (Mat.23:37) but they refused. Jonah does not refuse grace, he accepts it but does not yet understand it. Without acknowledging that grace it will be taken away so that he might see what it is he has taken for granted. Jonah did not see the grace that provided the gourd? This is what we need to do when we experience the grace of the Lord in our lives, it the little things and the big things. Often if it is a great matter we give thanks, but often if it something little, something small, we take it for granted. Let us see the gourd in our lives, the rejoice not just in it but in the grace that has provided it.