1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4.1-4, ESV)
Memory Verse: And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4.4, ESV)
Life is a funny thing, God calls us all to do things, very different things for Him. Some of us are very happy to do them and some of us are very much like Jonah and not happy at all. We might run from our call, fight with God over our call, or even just ignore our call all together. But in the end if we want to be the best children of God, we will obey God no matter whether we like the call or not.
Jonah, though he ran, paid the price, caused others to be affected by his sin, was thrown into the sea, swallowed by a great fish, cried out to God, and vomited onto dry ground. He then was told a second time to go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against its wickedness. This time he went and preached and the people repented, humbled themselves before Almighty God and cried out to God seeking His forgiveness. God seeing their works, their repentance, their brokenness of heart, their turning from their wicked ways, withheld His judgement from them.
But Jonah was not happy, as a matter of fact he was really angry with God over the fact He did not pour out His judgement on these people. Verse one says, “Jonah was exceedingly displeased and angry” (emphasis added). Why? What would cause someone to be so agitated, so highly emotional over the salvation of so many people. Nineveh has over 120,000 people living there, people who did not know right from wrong. And Jonah just brought them the gospel message, so, why was he so angry that they turned to God and God withheld His judgement?
We must remember Jonah had a problem with the Ninevites, how they dealt with the Jewish people, their brutality in general and therefore, he had no love for them. He would rather see them all dead than to see a single soul saved. So, we have to ask, did Jonah really repent in the belly of the fish? Did he really mean anything he said as he cried out, or was he just trying to save himself?
Jonah, from the beginning, was always trying to run from the call God had placed on him. He did not run a little distance from his call, but a great distance, to Tarshish, but God would not let him off the hook. Even when he told the sailors to throw him into the sea, he was hoping he would drown. Why, because he understood how merciful and gracious God is, what God would do if people would turn from the path they were on. It does not matter what we have done, God is always trying to get us to come back to Him, to reconcile with Him. This is the purpose of His Son coming to earth and dying in our place. Shedding His blood, being buried and rising from the grave. All so we can be reconciled to God, have a personal intimate relationship with Him.
Jonah understood this, and he did not want the people of Nineveh to have any of it, not even a chance to know the loving kindness, mercy or grace of his God. So, looking at what Jonah did, after he completed his call, his complaining, his anger toward God, how can this be explained and applied to our lives today?
We might chalk it up to Jonah being a person with complex feeling and someone we could not really understand. We all have had times when there is someone in our path, we would rather have nothing to do with for one reason or another, but we could not seem to do anything without that person being right there.
This is Jonah, the people of Nineveh were right there, they were not going anywhere and God still wanted Jonah to preach to them, but why the attitude? Peter Williams in his commentary on Jonah—Running From God gives us three reasons why we cannot just dismiss Jonah’s attitude nor our own:
First, because he was God’s servant and a preacher of the Word of God, the whole purpose of which is the saving of men and women like the Ninevites. Second, because he himself had experienced personally the grace and mercy of God in a most remarkable manner, and should not have denied it to others. Third, because these verses are not only an indictment of Jonah, but of ourselves. Like Jonah, we too are God’s servants, we love the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour, and yet we exhibit all too often the same contradictory elements in our spiritual characters as he did in his. Here was the old Jonah, the old prejudiced, bigoted Jonah, which we had hoped had died in the great fish experience, rising to the surface again in this outburst of petulant anger and quarrelsomeness. And, we have to admit it, that same old, touchy, angry, sinful self is still very much alive in us. Jonah had not fully died to self, and neither have we if, we are perfectly honest. The truth is there are many deaths to die in the Christian life.
Jonah missed the mark of dying to his own desires and following completely the will of God. Jesus said in the book of Matthew, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16.24, CSB). ‘Anyone’ and He means anyone, we are not to separate out who we want to be a child of God, we are called to share the gospel with everyone (Matthew 28.18-20). We are to plant and water and God will give the increase (I Corinthians 3.6-7).
Notice the next part of this verse, ‘let him deny himself’ we are called to set ourselves aside. It is no longer about us, but what God wants, it is about His will. Just as Jesus prayed in the garden, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22.42, NASB95). Paul illustrated this for us saying, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2.20, ESV).
When we deny ourselves and allow Christ to be the driver in our lives then we will do anything He asks, and we will see great things happen. We will not be angry at what God does, but excited and over joyed with everything God is moving and working in and through our lives. Jonah missed a great blessing, let’s not miss what God is doing by having this attitude.
O, Lord of Armies, You are great and might and worthy of praise and glory. Thank You for saving my life, and giving me a new perspective on everything I do. Lord, I know I have not always allowed You to be in full control of my life. I have not denied myself, nor have I given full control of my life to You so, I might be fully in Your will. Today, Lord, I want to commit my whole life to You, to serve You, and You alone. You are Father, my Savior, and my King. May my life reflect Your love, mercy and grace to all I see today. Give me the words to say and the attitude to share Your gospel message to everyone I come into contact with today. All this I pray in Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jon 4:1–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
 Williams, P. (2003). Jonah—Running From God: An Expositional Commentary (pp. 86–87). Epsom, Surrey: DayOne.
 Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (Mt 16:24). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Lk 22:42). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ga 2:20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
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