The hill of Jonah promises life, but will inevitably bleed you dry. Yet the hill of Christ, which promises your death, actually becomes a source of life.
“Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:5-8
At my church, we have been walking through the book of Jonah for the past several weeks. Some people say the book acts as a mirror by which the reader must evaluate themselves, their selfishness, their understanding of piety and morality. This will give the reader a greater understanding of God’s mercy. While I agree whole heartily, I want to offer another way to see the greatness of the mercy and grace of God not by seeing how I am so much like Jonah, but rather by seeing how Jesus is so much unlike, and infinitely better than, Jonah.
Upon further reflection, Jonah 4 actually presents a story of two (implied) “hills”. In verse 5, we read the prophet, yes the same prophet who tried to flee from God’s calling to preach to the city of Nineveh and found himself vomited out of the belly of a whale on the Mediterranean shore, after reluctantly “preaching” goes outside the city and, presumably, climbs a hill to “see what would happen to the city.” I should mention that Jonah was not happy about God’s relenting from destroying the city as he clarifies that his knowledge of God’s grace was the reason for his reluctance to go to Nineveh in the first place.
The hill of Jonah 4 serves as a monument of the prophet’s condemnation for the city, his self-righteousness as he sits on the judgment seat and expects God to rain down judgment on his enemies, of course, while giving Jonah a front-row seat. In short, Jonah’s hill is the very same one we tend to find ourselves sitting on. This hill is known by other things, such as “they get what they deserve” or “what goes around comes around,” but it has the same overtones of condemnation and a cry for a perverse sense of justice that only seeks to appease us who sit atop its peak.
The “hill” of Jonah is a hill of slavery. As Jonah sits atop this hill, it is at his own expense, he feels the full weight of the blazing sun and the discomfort of the scorching east wind and yet he doesn’t come down from the hill, in fact, he would literally rather die than come off the hill. Self-righteousness and an entitled sense of justice will do that. They will leave a person left feeling victimized, depressed, and all alone, and those feelings will eventually lead to ruin and death, as quickly as they consume a person they enslave them. People who dwell on this hill literally choose to die because death becomes a welcomed respite to the never-ending feelings of injustice whenever things don’t work out for you.