(1) But Jonah, was greatly displeased and became angry. (2) He prayed to the Lord, "O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (3) Now, O Lord, take my life, for it is better for me to die than to live." (4) But the Lord replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"
I am amazed at the lessons we can learn from these experiences of Jonah's. As I read the book of Jonah I see only one time in the whole book where Jonah is happy, only one recorded time. Jonah 4:6 says that God had provided a vine to shade Jonahs head from the hot sun and that this made Jonah very happy. But other than this moment, we don't find Jonah happy about anything that God does.
Jonah is a prophet that God uses to preach to the city of Nineveh, but the problem is that Jonah hates the people of Nineveh. These people are his enemy and he refuses to obey God's command to go and preach a message of repentance to this great city that has over 120,000 people living in it. Rather than go to Nineveh, he flees, he runs away. Well because of his disobedience to what God wants him to do, he eventually finds himself on a ship and he gets thrown overboard and God has a big fish swallow Jonah whole. Jonah spend three days inside the belly of this whale and finally offers up a prayer to God to save him. The fish then vomits up Jonah on the beach and the word of the Lord comes to Jonah a second time. This time Jonah decides he better go and he heads to the city of Nineveh. When he gets to Nineveh he travel about a day into the city and he preaches a half hearted sermon. Actually he only said one sentence.
Jonah 3:4 say this.. "Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed."
Well after the people of this city hear God's word from Jonah, they immediately repent! The whole city starts to turn from their evil ways and believing the message that God will destroy their city in 40 days, they turn to God for forgiveness. Jonah 4:10 says, When God saw what they did and how they turned from their wicked ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon then the destruction he had threatened. This brings us to our passage of scripture for today, (4:1-4).
Have you ever felt anger towards God? Jonah wanted justice! He hated these people and he was disgusted by the fact that God had even sent him there to preach. He knew deep down that God would forgive them if they repented, but he wanted them to die. He wanted God to pour out his wrath on this city and it's people. Jonah is so upset that things are not going the way he wants them to, he feels he would be better off dead.
Have you ever felt this way? Maybe not to the point that you wanted to die, but you are angry at God because things are not going like you think they should. Maybe life just seems to unfair. We need to ask ourselves a question. The same question that God ask of Jonah in verse 4 of chapter 4. "But the Lord replied, Have you any right to be angry?" God shows compassion on a city with more than 120,000 people and he saves them from destruction all because they turned towards him and repented of their sins. Jonah was so self centered that he couldn't see God working all around him. Did Jonah thank God for delivering him from the belly of the fish? No. Was Jonah appreciative of the fact that God had just saved a city of 120,000 people from death and destruction? No. And later in the Chapter God provides a vine to grow overnight and shade his head from the hot scorching sun (the only time we see Jonah happy) do we see Jonah offer up thanksgiving for this shade? No.
I know in my life if I focus my attention on myself, I fail to see Jesus. Self-centered people will always fail to see God at work, because they are blinded by their own set of circumstances, and they can't see past them. This book of Jonah ends rather abruptly. Jonah 4:11 says this.. Should I not be concerned about that great city? We have to assume that Jonah just never really gets it. The Lord in his great patience uses this insubordinate preacher, and shows all kinds of compassion to him, but Jonah's life is bitter and full of anger and hate, because he just doesn't think it's fair. Those people just don't deserve to live!
Jonah doesn't see the blessings. I hope we all can learn from this. You know we didn't get what we deserve either, when God saved us through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Praise God, that He's compassionate and forgiving!
Prayer: God, allow me to focus on you, not my circumstances. Take away my anger. Help me to see Your love and compassion and be thankful you're in control. Amen.