Jonah 4 (New Living Translation)
Pout, Jonah, Pout!
1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 3Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
Jonathan Swift wrote some verse that expresses Jonah’s frame of mind:
We are God’s chosen few,
All others will be damned;
There is no place in heaven for you,
We can’t have heaven crammed.
4 The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”
God likes to ask us questions, because they reveal our heart. It also put us on proper ground before God, because He has every right to question us and we owe Him answers.
- Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? What is this you have done? (Genesis 3)
- Where is your brother Abel? What have you done? (Genesis 4)
- What have you done? (1 Samuel 13:11)
- Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? (2 Samuel 12)
- Whom shall I send? Who will go for us? (Isaiah 6)
- Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16)
- What do you want Me to do for you? (Matthew 20)
- Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22)
- Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (Acts 9)
EVALUATE YOUR ANGER
Anger is not always or necessarily sinful, but it has such a tendency to run wild that whenever it displays itself, we should be quick to question its character, with this inquiry, “Do you do well to be angry?” It may be that we can answer, “Yes.” Very frequently anger is the madman’s firebrand, but sometimes it is Elijah’s fire from heaven. We do well when we are angry with sin, because of the wrong that it commits against our good and gracious God; or with ourselves because we remain so foolish after so much divine instruction; or with others when the sole cause of anger is the evil that they do. He who is not angry at transgression becomes a partaker in it. Sin is a loathsome and hateful thing, and no renewed heart can patiently endure it. God himself is angry with the wicked every day, and it is written in His Word, “O you who love the LORD, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10).
Far more frequently it is to be feared that our anger is not commendable or even justifiable, and then we must answer, “No.” Why should we be fretful with children, passionate with servants, and wrathful with companions? Is such anger honorable to our Christian profession or glorifying to God? Is it not the old evil heart seeking to gain dominion, and should we not resist it with all the might of our newborn nature?
Many professors give way to temper as though it were useless to attempt resistance; but let the believer remember that he must be a conqueror in every point, or else he cannot be crowned. If we cannot control our tempers, what has grace done for us? Someone told Mr. Jay that grace was often grafted on a crab-stump. “Yes,” he said, “but the fruit will not be crabs.”
We must not make natural infirmity an excuse for sin, but we must fly to the cross and pray the Lord to crucify our tempers, and renew us in gentleness and meekness after His own image.
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon/updated by Alistair Begg
5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.
7 But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 8 And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”
“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”
10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell right from left—or right from wrong— not to mention all the animals. Isn’t it right for me to have pity for such a great city?”
“More helpful than all wisdom is one draught of simple pity that will not forsake us.”
–George Eliot (1819-1880)
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
“Wonderful, Merciful Savior” by Selah. This is one of those songs that always brings tears to my eyes — that the Lord would be so wonderful, and so merciful, to us!
Oh, most wonderful, merciful God!
We pray that you would make us like the Ninevites,
that when we hear your message of conviction,
we would repent of our evil ways,
and confess our sins, and turn to you.
For you are a God who is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and filled with unfailing love.
We pray that you would make us like the sailors,
that when we see your mighty deeds,
we would worship you and praise you
and renew our commitment to serve you.
For you are the Lord, the God of heaven,
who made the sea and the dry land.
We pray that you would make us like Jonah the second time,
that when we hear your call,
we will obey immediately and faithfully,
willing to go and proclaim the glory of your name,
eager to see your grace working even through us.
For you are the God with power to save;
salvation comes from you alone.
We pray these things in the name of the One who is greater than Jonah, the One whose name is high and lifted up, above every other name, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
The Journey with Jonah is one of my favorite books! Written by Madeleine L’Engle (who won the Newberry Award in 1963 for A Wrinkle in Time — another one of my favorite books!), this delightful retelling of the Jonah story is actually a play. Jonah is the only human, and he is accompanied by many animals who engage the crabby prophet in conversation about his choices. L’Engle’s amusing characters and their insightful thoughts make this wonderful story of Jonah even more engaging!
It is also a treat to actually produce! When I lived in South Korea I directed it for our congregation. Costumes were so much simple fun: The rat family came with little ears glued on headbands and long tails. The whale wore a gray Members Only leather jacket. The blue jay was loaded down with costume jewelry. You get the idea. So now — do yourself a favor and find the book for your own enjoyment!
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.