Jonah 4:1-11- Jonah’s Anger and the Lord’s Compassion

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Jonah 4:1

  1. The second God stops being angry with Nineveh, Jonah becomes angry with God.
  2. Jonah is here a very strong contrast to how God is described throughout the Old Testament: “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6-7, Num 14:18, Neh 9:17, Ps 86:15, 103:8, 145:8, Joel 2:13).
    1. One of the points of the book of Jonah is to try to teach God’s people not only to believe in a merciful God but also to be a merciful people.
  3. Normally, a preacher is happy when his message reaches people, but Jonah is angry. Jonah does not want the Assyrians to repent because Jonah wants Israel to keep its special status as God’s people.
    1. But just because God has a special relationship with Israel does not mean that God cannot also have a special relationship with the Assyrians. God loves all people and is the God of the whole earth, not just Israel.

Jonah 4:2

  1. It’s probably more common not to dare to testify about your faith because you’re afraid that those you testify to won‘t listen, but Jonah is afraid that his listeners will listen.
  2. The reason Jonah was so angry is because God forgave the Assyrians when they repented. You almost get the feeling that Jonah hated the Assyrians and wished them nothing less than God’s judgment. Jonah knew from the very beginning that if he preached God’s message to Nineveh they would repent and God would forgive them, which is why he fled to Tarshish to avoid this scenario.
  3. Jonah knew that God is a merciful and gracious God, but he didn’t want Israel’s enemies, the Assyrians, to know it. For Israel’s part, it would have been better if the God of Israel had been angry with Nineveh and destroyed the city because then Israel could win over them in war.

Jonah 4:3

  1. Jonah himself had experienced God’s mercy when Jonah inside the fish’s belly turned over and God saved him from certain death. But now, when the Assyrians repent and are saved from certain death, Jonah cannot treat them to God’s mercy and becomes so angry that he would rather die than live. 
  2. It is abundantly clear that Jonah’s reaction to God’s mercy is patently wrong, and anyone reading the book of Jonah who recognizes Jonah’s reaction should take the message personally and try to look at other people through God’s loving eyes.
    1. If someone has committed the worst possible crime against you, it is natural to feel hatred towards that person. The challenge to everyone who reads the book of Jonah is to offer full grace to all people in the same way that God does, even to those people who have treated you terribly.

Jonah 4:4

  1. God completely ignores Jonah’s wish to die and doesn’t even answer that prayer.
    1. Fortunately, God does not answer all our prayers but gives us what we need when we need it.
  2. God is okay with us sharing even our wrong and negative feelings with him. God is even okay with us being angry with him.

Jonah 4:5-6

  1. Jonah does not answer God’s rhetorical question, but just angrily leaves the city of Nineveh and builds himself a hut.
  2. Again we see how inconsistent and selfish Jonah is when he is “very happy” when God is good to him but refuses to be anything but angry when God is good to the Assyrians.
  3. One of the main messages of the book of Jonah is that God is the God of the whole world, not just Israel. God also has power over the forces of nature, the animals, the pagans and even the plants. God shows this by sending a storm, letting a fish swallow Jonah, pardoning Nineveh and now by letting a castor bush miraculously grow up right next to Jonah!

Jonah 4:7-8

  1. The word for “angry” is the same as “hot” in Hebrew. God used to feel Jonah’s angry heat, but now Jonah feels God’s “heat” instead.
  2. Jonah did what so many angry people do; he gave up, he withdrew from people and he became a bystander with strong and bitter opinions.

Jonah 4:9

  1. This is Jonah’s last word in the book of Jonah, but fortunately it is God who has the last word. Even if we humans refuse to repent, we can rest assured that God still has the power to get his way.

Jonah 4:10-11

  1. Jonah was a prophet with a good knowledge of God’s word, but the whole book of Jonah clearly shows us that he still did not know God as well as he might have thought.
    1. In 2 Kings 14:25, we see that Jonah was a “prophet of the court” who prophesied blessing and success over Israel as they defeated their enemies and conquered new lands. Now, however, we see that it is even more important to show God’s love and mercy to other people than to wield one’s Bible knowledge and spiritual gifts like a sword.
  2. Did Jonah finally understand that God loves even our enemies? We’ll never know because the book of Jonah is really about us reading. Now that we have reached the end of the story, we must answer that question for ourselves. Do you love your enemies?
    1. 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.(Mt 5:44–45)
    1. 34So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.(Ac 10:34–35)
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