September 9
Rev. Howard Wheeler
River City Reformed Church

Jonah 4:6-11

Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for
his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn
the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered…. God
said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am
angry enough to die.” But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine,
though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.
But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their
right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that
great city?”

Jonah and the Squash Bug

The word microcosm literally means “little world.” A garden is a microcosm – a little
world that often poignantly illustrates spiritual truths. Perhaps this is why Jesus often
taught about life in the Kingdom of God using parables from gardening. My own
gardening ritual is predictable – it begins by checking on my vines: my watermelons and
my pumpkins. I find great joy watching these vines grow and flower and produce. They
are the first things I check in the morning and the last things I check in the evening. Of
all the growing things in our garden, these bring me the greatest pleasure. Yet, just as
Adam and Eve had pestilence stalking in their garden, so do I – squash bugs, the mortal
enemies of my beloved pumpkin vines, and so my own mortal enemies as well. They
are the most resilient of pests, impervious to the most malevolent schemes we can
devise. My wife and I have asked around, we have researched on the internet, we have
tried remedies both folk and chemical to eradicate these pests. Finally, they are starting
to dwindle and to my great delight I found a volunteer pumpkin growing hidden among
my sweet potato vines. And as I rejoiced in my seeming triumph over the insidious
squash bug, a strange scripture came to my mind – “do you have a right to be angry
about the vine?”

Remember how angry Jonah was when the Lord sent a pest to destroy his beloved
vine? God’s indictment of Jonah was searing – literally! He had loved a vine more than
he had loved the lost! He had more care and concern over a vine, than for men and
women, boys and girls perishing without hope and without Christ. Then the question
came to mind – am I as sorrowful over the destruction of the lost as I am over the
destruction of my pumpkin vines? What about you? What daily inconveniences, what
annoying trifles, give you more grief than the fact that your neighbor’s life is in the
relentless grip of sin and desolation? The next time you are in your own garden and you
behold the desolation of the squash bug or the corn worm or the scorching heat –
remember your neighbor and commit to pray for him, to love him as yourself, and to
share the good news of Jesus Christ.

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