And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (emphasis mine)
Did you hear that line, too, when you finished the fourth book of Jonah?
What exactly is our Father in Heaven trying to help Jonah understand about Nineveh? There is much that could be said about Jonah’s story. Much could be said about anger, rights, justice, and mercy. Much could be pointed out about our lack of control and not liking God’s ways (even when they benefit us). Much could be said about whiners and God’s patience. Those topics are certainly worth our time. But what about that last line?
Our Lord asks us questions. He asked Jonah, “And should not I pity Nineveh…?” He asks Jonah to consider his creation, the “great city” where artisans crafted the walls and architects laid foundations. He asks Jonah to consider the people, “more than 120,000 persons,” and they should be considered because they don’t even “know their right hand from their left”! Can we feel the weight of each individual and how helpless they are? Is Jonah, are we, not yet moved to pity? But this isn’t the big finale that God ends on.
God asks Jonah to consider, too, the cattle, “much cattle”.
Though much more could be said, the book ends on “much cattle.” What does that say?
At the very least, God expresses his care for creation as a whole. Jonah cared for the tree. Our Lord considers his people. He clothes the sparrows. He enjoys the foundations of a well-crafted city. He asks us to consider it all, their repentance and all those cows! Aren’t they amazing! Aren’t we glad that Nineveh came around, at least for the sake of the innocent cattle? Since we are told that all of creation praises His name, I think we can bet that the cattle of Nineveh had gratitude for their lives that day.
Though much more profound things could be said about Jonah’s story, I simply was struck by the thought of all those cows. They were probably happy and care-free until Nineveh went into mourning and fasting. I’m willing to bet that they sensed the relief when their city didn’t burn to the ground. We have a Father in Heaven who cares for the details. How much more will our Father care for you?