Then the LORD God provided a shrub, and it grew up over Jonah, providing shade for his head and saving him from his misery. Jonah was very happy about the shrub. But God provided a worm the next day at dawn, and it attacked the shrub so that it died. Then as the sun rose God provided a dry east wind. Jonah 4:6-8a
Jonah’s story tells us that God provides. At moments in the story, we are told that God provided. Here, it is a good thing: a shrub for shade. Then, God provided something that was not good or rather what it did was not good: a worm that killed the shrub and took away Jonah’s shade. Then another thing was provided by God that did not feel good: a dry east wind.
Does the Lord provide good and bad weather? Does the Lord provide a good parking spot, on the one hand and a rude person on the other hand, who cuts in front of you? In these instances, Jonah believed that God provided these good and bad happenstance things and here it is written for us.
Does this mean that God provides everything good and bad for us? When Jonah says, “God provided”, he is drawing our attention to the fact that God wants to take credit for putting this particular thing in Jonah’s path for a purpose. What is the purpose of that thing in regards to the person (Jonah) and God? That is the question.
Earlier in this story, it said that God provided a storm to thwart Jonah. Then God provided a whale to swallow Jonah and save him. In the same way, God also provided the shrub that gave Jonah shade, but then provided a worm that killed the shrub and then God provided a dry wind that was not comforting.
God is active in Jonah’s story. At certain points, He provides or prepares things.
God provided comfort and then took away comfort from Jonah. What was God doing?
God’s goodness in our lives is to lead us to serve Him and repent, to be thankful and worshipful. Wisdom says to not take good things for granted, but to thank God for them and to come into alignment with God, by repenting of sin and seeking cleansing through God’s atoning work in Christ. To those who Christ has not been revealed, just being thankful for the good things is a start.
God provided things that took Jonah’s comfort away to get his attention. Maybe he wanted Jonah to ask, “what’s happening?” God might have said, “I want you to look to me and listen to me and get you eyes and ears off yourself.” In the shade and comfort, in the luxuriating, Jonah might have just been satisfied with himself. God might have preferred a “thank-you”, or a “now what”. But, perhaps, there was just a carnal pleasure in the simple cool shade and a smug self-satisfaction, as he curiously hoped against hope for Nineveh’s destruction. When the comforts were taken away, what will Jonah say and will he pray?
God provides good for his children, but maybe God wants more; as in listening and seeking His face? Perhaps God has to take away our “shade” and “cool place” to get our attention?
*painting by Tenet Worlds