Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, & Micah: Day 19

Jonah’s Anger

by

Today's Text: Jonah 4:1-11, Acts 11:15-18, Romans 5:6-11

Scripture Reading: Jonah 4:1-11, Acts 11:15-18, Romans 5:6-11

The final chapter of Jonah gives us a unique glimpse into a conversation between God and His prophet. The majority of prophecy depicts the prophets relaying God’s message. Here, we get to see the struggle between the reluctant prophet and a faithful God. I’m almost uncomfortable with Jonah’s level of irreverence, confessing he is angry that God has been merciful. It’s cringe-worthy.

And yet, Jonah was not the first, nor would he be the last, to express discontent with God’s mercy toward a wayward people. In fact, Scripture is full of stories like this. The older brother in the parable of the prodigal son is angry at his father for throwing the rebellious sibling a party (Luke 15:11-32). The Pharisees are angry at Jesus for not following the law like they think he should (John 9:13-16). The disciples are concerned when Jesus addresses a Samaritan woman, someone whose ethnicity and gender signified a person to avoid, not converse with (John 4:1-24).

We like to belong, and we like to decide who doesn’t belong. They deserve God’s mercy. They don’t. They do. They don’t. Maybe this is why I cringe at Jonah’s anger; because I’ve seen that same anger in me. I’ve seen it on a personal level when blessing and favor are poured out on someone’s life whom I don’t feel “deserves” it. I’ve also seen it on a more global level when I generalize an entire people group as “evil” or “lost,” beyond God’s redemption.

This sin tendency was in Jonah, and it is in me too.

How quick I am to forget that I was an outsider once! As Romans says, “For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). I was ungodly—as evil as a Ninevite. It is only because of God’s mercy through His Son Jesus that I am now in the family as an adopted child of God.

I think it’s interesting that God has the last word in the book of Jonah. We don’t know what Jonah’s response was to God’s question, “Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh…?” (Jonah 4:11). But we know what Jonah’s answer should have been. We see it modeled much later in the story, in the book of Acts.

Peter is trying to convince his fellow Jews that Gentiles can indeed follow the way of Christ. He tells the group that he saw the Holy Spirit descend on a group of Gentiles, just as it had descended upon them. When Peter’s audience heard this, Scripture says, “they became silent. Then they glorified God, saying, ‘So God has granted repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles!’” (Acts 11:18).

Perhaps they fell silent in awe. Perhaps they fell silent in skepticism. We don’t know. What we do know is ultimately, instead of feeling anger toward God, they glorified Him. They rejoiced that His mercy reached further than they had ever fathomed it could.

Oh that our response would be the same. That we would never underestimate the breadth and depth of God’s mercy. That we would rejoice every time His mercy blesses someone around us, remembering that it was this same mercy that welcomed us into His family. And that it is only by grace that we remain.

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  • Susan Chandler

    I’m running a little behind on the study, but am enjoying it thoroughly. The verse that immediately popped up in my mind was Romans 2:2-4. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance.

    • Kylee

      Amen Susan – yesterday in church our pastor said to “always remember to remember” everything God has done for us. All the ways he’s loved me, redeemed me, called me as his own even while I was still steeped in sin — if we remember all the ways God has rescued us, it’s hard to judge others wherever they’re at, because we will know we’ve been there too. We all need God and we can rejoice because he’s made a way for us to ALL be reconciled to HIM! His kindness leads us to repentance, amen!!!

  • Kristen Clegs

    “What mercy!” I keep exclaiming to myself as I read this short book. It is only thru God’s mercy that Jonah himself is “in,” tho he would deny this same mercy to those who have wronged him. It is God’s tender mercy to shade His petulant servant, and then to use the plant to teach him of His own heart of mercy. What mercy God expresses in His longing for these “outsiders” who are so helpless and ignorant and needy! And what mercy that God spares us, like He spared Jonah, from being the executors of grace or judgment!

  • All I can think of is “Jonah was a prophet, (Ooh, ooh) but he really never got it! (Sad, but true.)” :-D

  • how often am I Jonah? eww…I’m so glad you paired that with the chapter in Acts. how convicting on they way we should respond like Peter. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek…

  • Just replace Nineva with America, and I feel like Jonah. I’m so angry with our country but maybe He actually cares about us.

    • Megan

      I know what you mean. He does really care about us though, both the marginalized and the powerful! :-) ♡

  • Cheryl Anne Sedler

    Brilliant post. You have articulated exactly what I am learning. I recently got angry at a few false prophets in ministry, instead of loving them after many months of trying to sway them privately, and they become even more stiff necked , I got very mad that YHWH didn’t take them out of ministry. After all, I said to myself, they have stolen money and are causing many to got astray, who am I to say those things, right? His ways are higher than ours. Amen. Repentance leads to peace.

  • Just yesterday, God gave me insight into a flight or fight reaction I had to a situation at work. I see this same knee-jerk reaction in Jonah and it both made me laugh at our human-ness and in awe of God and his Divine Grace toward each of us. Like Jonah, my first reaction was to run, want to quit, just get out of there – I’m done, forget it, I’m sick of this (all about me). My second reaction was frustration and anger for not being able to just move on with a better plan (my plan and what others at work wanted as well). But then God calmed me down, had me step back and look to him. Only then was I able to see that he is at work here. Only then was I able to let go of my expectations of what may/may not happen. So I took off my running shoes and put down the boxing gloves. I am now watching what he is doing and looking to him for direction rather that fleeing or fighting. Divine Grace – what an amazing gift he offers, something to embrace for ourselves and pass along.

    Thank you God for the book of Jonah – for revealing his struggles and your heart so we can learn and grow.

  • M. C. Weaver

    As I read the end Jonah’s comment in verse 4:2, I wonder if he might also have been embarrassed by God’s actions. After all, Jonah had spent three days proclaiming God’s coming judgment and then God extended mercy instead. Jonah may have anticipated that what he was going to prophesy would not come true because of God’s character. He didn’t want to put himself out there only to have God not follow through. And I have been guilty of the same thing. How many times have I felt a prompting from God to speak but instead I sealed my lips for fear that I misheard God and would embarrass myself? Rather than be concerned for my own reputation, may I be willing to be a fool for Christ’s sake.

    • Lehua K.

      Great point! I was wondering the same when it came to Jonah’s response. Thank you for sharing. :)

      • Susan

        I have also felt this, sealed my lips too many times risking my reputation, yet may have lost a soul for Christ! Help me Father God to stomp out my pride, to bring You Glory!

    • C Gunckel

      Amen!

  • Jessica cebc

    Dear God, Help me rejoice every time you bless someone around me. Help me to remember it is only by your grace I remain with you. Amen

  • Christina D.

    Jonah is uncomfortable because it really is like holding up a mirror. As some of the others have said, Jonah just seems so human. I don’t want to relate but oh, I really do. One thread of hope I see in Jonah’s journey though is the undeniable fact that he is honest with God. Sometimes I filter my prayers with “well whatever is Your will God” and I really do not mean that in my heart. From Jonah I can learn honesty before my Father. But I can also learn to move away from judgment I have no business taking. Jonah almost makes me laugh because he’s acting like a petulant child but have I not legitimately acted the same way at times, seething because God’s judgments do not align with mine? There’s just so much for me to learn.

    • Daniela

      Yes, the way Jonah speaks to God, like one friend talking to another, is actually very beautiful! I love that about Jonah!
      He was very stubborn but, coincidently, so comfortable with the Lord that is easy to see what the Lord saw in him, despite his spoiled attitude :)

  • I love Jonah because I see so much of myself in him. Other prophets seems so “bought in,” but Jonah is just so…human. Happy when the plant grows, then bitter when it dies. Gods blessings can seem so unevenly distributed and given to those who deserve it least. Yet I’m simply required to be faithful with the “talents” he’s given me. I love that God uses the humble and unlikely to fulfill his plans. Praise Him!

  • Such a good reminder this morning. I fall so easily into a “works based mentality” and expect others to follow suit. I think I will spend my life attempting at understanding the depth of God’s good grace.

  • churchmouse

    Every time I think of unsaved loved ones, I am grateful for God’s mercy and His patience. There is yet time.

    • PursuedByHim

      Every time I think that God saved ME, unworthy as I am, I, too, am grateful for God’s mercy and patience!

    • Tricia C

      I too am grateful for this Churchmouse. I need Fod’s patience, but my unsaved children need it so much.

  • I am still amazed by God’s wisdom to choose exactly the right prophets to teach us. All these millenia later, we can still picture Jonah – who must have been a pain in the neck to be around! – and we can say, wow, God chose that guy? I guess He really can use me, too, because I see a lot of myself in Jonah’s behavior! I bet Jonah complained when somebody burned his toast, too… still, God used him to do great things. Just think of the lives and souls Jonah was able to save in Nineveh, even though he was a grumpy crank! Praise God for being infinitely more clever, kind and generous than we can even imagine.

    • Anna

      Thanks for sharing! Your words really hit home with me. Often times after a long tiring day I look back on it and see the areas where I fell short. Where I gave into feelings of frustration and let it affect my actions/words toward others. Thanks for reminding me that God uses people like Jonah and people like me to do His work, and that His grace and mercy are never ending!!

    • Emily B.

      Love this.

  • “for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
    Jonah was glad for God’s mercy when he was praying inside the belly of the fish!
    I think Jonah’s problem is that he wanted a personal God….as in a God that is just for him. How often do I spend the majority of time in prayer asking for help in the small issues that I am facing and then throw in some prayers for our country and refugees at the end! I don’t believe Jonah was actually pitying the gourd, he was pitying himself because he lost the shade over his head. God help me to fix my gaze beyond myself to the people, nations, and earth that you created and so want to redeem.

    • Laura

      Thanks for this perspective, Rachel!

    • Gina

      Amen! Well said!

    • Micahlee

      I’d never thought of it that way before, as Jonah wanting a personal God, but when you put it in those terms I find that that’s something I’ve struggled with as well without really realizing it. Good to have a reminder of the breadth and depth of mercy

    • Hayley

      Exactly how I also feel – thanks for putting it into words Rachel.

  • I think Jonah was also angry because he thought “I went through all of this so now these guys repent and they receive forgiveness?”.
    It is sad that he posessed thoughts like that, but God understood why he was feeling in such a way. Jonah even throws a temper tantrum, if we recall… even so God patiently explains to him why the city deserved forgiveness after all.

    It is so easy for us to fall into the trap that Jonah did. I know I do and I get so frustrated with it. Either because I see people being more successful or more generally liked, when I personally don’t think they deserve such a thing.
    Well, it’s not my place to judge. Sometimes we think we know what is going on, but what’s inside the package we saw may surprise us. Just like the Ninevites surprised Jonah.

    I love the book of Jonah because I use it as a way of disciplining myself, since sometimes it is almost inevitable to sin in this way. We must remember that the Lord is always ready to show us His way. The rightful and kind one.

    • PursuedByHim

      Yes!

      “Sometimes we think we know what is going on, but what’s inside the package we saw may surprise us. Just like the Ninevites surprised Jonah.” Amen!

      So true! We have no clue why people are the way they are, nor what God’s plans are for everyone else…really, I have no clue what His future plans are for me! But I know He has a plan, and as much as He loves imperfect me, He loves imperfect everyone else, also, and has a plan for them!

      We praise you God as we know we love You…perfect, merciful, patient! Please help us remember to share that same mercy and patience with EVERYone else.

      • Rebecca

        “As much as He loves imperfect me, He loves imperfect everyone else”…so true! And yet, while I want God to love and bless me in my imperfections, I want everyone else to clean up their act before receiving His grace and mercy. Oh Lord, please forgive my hypocrisy. Give me a loving and gentle heart to see others the way you see me.

      • Emily B.

        Amen! Good words!

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