Jonah 3:10-4:11 (NRSV)
Verse 10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
Chapter 4But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. Verse 2He prayed to the Lord and said, "O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. Verse 3And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live." Verse 4And the Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?"
Verse 5Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. Verse 6The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. Verse 7But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. Verse 8When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, "It is better for me to die than to live." Verse 9But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die." Verse 10Then the Lord said, "You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. Verse 11And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"
Mareika made a habit of telling each of her four children that they were her favorite. Whenever any of them tried to best a sibling by proclaiming themselves “Mom’s favorite,” their attempts at one-upmanship were soon confounded by their mother’s way of counting favorites.
Jonah is a son of Abraham, a prophet of God’s chosen people. He has reason to believe he is one of God’s favorites. But as his story unfolds, he is faced with the jarring reality that the heathen Ninevites are also among God’s favorites. While he “knows” God is “gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” he still goes off for a good sulk when he sees that there truly are no boundaries to the vast, and sometimes confounding, grace and mercy of his God.
God of love, you have named me as your favorite; may I rest secure in this, knowing that every person on planet Earth is another one of your favorites. Amen.