God often uses nonhuman agents to reach people, teach lessons, and direct the course of events according to His will. Balaam’s donkey spoke with him (Num 22:22-33); in the books of the Kings, God used ravens, lions, and two bears to reveal His will to Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:4-6, 20:35-36, 2 Kings 2:23-25). Christ used a storm to teach his disciples on the Sea of Galilee (Mt 8:26-27, Mk 4:39-41). A fish swallowed a coin to pay for Jesus’ and Peter’s tax (Mt 17:25-27). Job 12:7-12 and Prov 6:6-8 affirm that beasts, fowl, fish and even ants provide us with valuable life lessons as we observe them. David writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2). There is no question that creation itself bears witness to and teaches us much of God and His will. Likewise in our text God uses a vine, a worm, and a “scorching east wind” to teach Jonah a great lesson.
Recall how Jonah sought safety in the belly of a ship, but oddly enough found his salvation in the belly of God’s fish. Well, now he seeks protection by building a hut, but God sends true shade to comfort him in the form of a plant; in the face of Jonah’s anger, the Lord poured out even more mercy and grace to Jonah, granting him shelter from the dessert heat, by causing a leafy vine to grow over Jonah. Jonah enjoyed the comfort of the plant, but just like the ship, the fish, and the hut, his safe haven was short lived, as God ordained a worm to eat the vine and an east wind to blow it away. We learn from this that we are not to substitute anything for God Himself – He only is our salvation; neither God’s provision nor our own provision is to be a substitute for the rest and comfort we are to receive from God alone. God was concerned with Jonah’s physical state, and the comfort He provided for Jonah in the plant, was genuine; however, He was far more concerned that Jonah learn the lesson for which the plant, the worm and the wind were prepared, so God once again probes Jonah to consider the value of his anger.
Read God’s answer set in contrast to Jonah’s anger (Jon 4:9-11). What is the lesson that God is teaching Jonah through the plant, the vine, and the wind? What has He taught you through nonhuman agents?
Listen to this message here: