Jonah 4:6-7 – And when the leaves of the shelter withered in the heat, the Lord arranged for a vine to grow up quickly and spread its broad leaves over Jonah's head to shade him. This made him comfortable and very grateful. But God also prepared a worm! The next morning the worm ate through the stem of the plant, so that it withered away and died. (TLB)
Creating table decorations for various events at my local church is something I really enjoy doing. My interest in the plants of the Bible and their symbolism helps me to create a hidden message and provide an element of surprise. People often ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" My answer is always the same, "From the Bible".
The table decorations for a women's fall luncheon this month looked like harvest time in the area where we live. As a part of the devotional time, I shared with the group that there was a hidden message to be found on the table tops. Our women's group is studying the book of Jonah. Each item in the centrepiece symbolized one of the five main points of the story. Pine cones represented God sending Jonah to sow seeds of faith. Apples represented Jonah's disobedience. Whale- and dolphin-shaped molasses cookies represented the miracle of the big fish. Mini-pumpkins represented a good harvest (the Ninevites' repentance). Beautiful fall leaves represented God's guidance and protection. God used the foliage of the gourd plant to shield Jonah from the shimmering heat and to teach him about loving and forgiving. In the centre were large "bottle gourd couples" dressed to look like Mother and Father Goose. Since the story of Jonah and the big fish is a favourite of children, I couldn't resist turning Jonah's gourds into characters from that well-known children's book.
After the luncheon, one woman told me she smiled all afternoon just thinking of those gourds that looked like "Mother Goose". Another woman said she felt a real connection to Jonah when she realized that God has been providing gourd plants all these thousands of years to remind us that He is always there to guide, protect, and teach us. In the process she became aware of the constancy of God's love — and perhaps that was the real hidden message.
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for the bounty of Your earth through which You sustain us, guide us, protect us, and remind us to be more loving and forgiving in our daily lives. Help us to see Your hidden messages, and forgive us for being so slow to learn. In Jesus' holy name, we pray. Amen.