Summary: God is filled with grace even when we don’t deserve it.
First Baptist Church
Like it or not. . . Grace Happens
August 4, 2002
Have you ever read the children’s book called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. It’s about a little boy whose day starts out bad and goes downhill from there. He gets gum in his hair and gets his sweater wet in the sink and he trips over his skateboard and doesn’t get a prize in his cereal box, and that’s all before breakfast! He knew it was going to be a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. Then he goes to school and his teacher doesn’t like his drawing of an invisible castle, he doesn’t get a dessert in his lunch bag and his best friend doesn’t want to be his best friend anymore. After school his mom buys him plain white sneakers instead of the ones with red and blue racing stripes, his dentist finds a cavity in his tooth, there are lima beans for dinner, and he gets soap in his eyes when he taking his bath. In frustration, he finally says, "I think I’ll move to Australia." If you’re like me you can relate to this book because we all have had days like Alexander. Days when people treat us unfairly and nothing works out the way we want it to and by the time we finally collapse into bed at night. . . we’re just plain mad. Well, Jonah 4 can be summarized by Jonah as thinking he has experienced one of those TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAYS. Jonah was angry, but not at things or even people. No, he was furious with God.
Today we finish our journey through the book of Jonah. Just to recap, we learned that God gave Jonah an assignment. . . go to the land of Nineveh, enemies of the Israelites and tell them that God seeks to forgive them. But Jonah doesn’t like the Ninevites, so he runs the other way. He gets on a boat which encounters a God ordained storm. The sailors panic and finally Jonah admits the storm is on account of him, and he tells the sailors to throw him overboard. After they do, the sea becomes calm, and these pagan sailors begin to worship God. God sends a big fish to gobble up Jonah, saving his life and then this fish spits Jonah out onto dry land. Finally, Jonah is convinced that he better follow what God wants and goes to this wicked and violent city and proclaims ‘God will destroy your city in 40 days if you don’t repent.’ Everyone, including the king prayed for forgiveness and sought to turn from their wicked and violent ways.
Jonah chapter 3 ends with God stating that He will not bring destruction upon the land, because the people have repented. That is where our story begins today. Notice how chapter 4 begins — Jonah is REALLY, REALLY ANGRY!! "Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry!" In Hebrew, to be ‘greatly displeased’ is another way to say you are angry, but it also means to do evil or be wicked. The word to be angry literally means to be incensed, to have zealous anger and it refers to the fire or heat of anger just after it has been ignited.
What am I getting at? Jonah was fuming. He was literally . . . hot under the collar. You know how it is when you really get angry. When those first moments of anger come upon you. When, if you would stop for a moment, you notice that your blood pressure is up, your face is red and your voice has been raised about 100 decibels. Notice who Jonah is angry at. He is not angry at the Ninevites for repenting. He is angry at God.
In fact Jonah tells God, I knew when you gave me this assignment you would not destroy these people. Jonah basically quotes Moses from Exodus 34:6-7, when Moses implored God not to destroy the people of Israel after they made and worshiped the golden calf. Moses said:
"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin."
Jonah reminds God that God is filled with grace, love and goodness, not wanting anyone to perish. Jonah knew God is slow to anger, overflowing in love and faithfulness. . . AND that is exactly why Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He knew God would forgive. And amazingly, this prophet of God, didn’t want people to repent.
Try to put yourself in Jonah’s place as he surveys this incredible response to the word of the Lord. The Ninevites hear the good news wrapped up in the bad news of judgment, and the entire city repents of its evil ways because they believe God. How would you feel if you were leading a Bible study and everyone in the study turned their lives over to Christ? Wouldn’t you be excited? Not Jonah.