Summary: In his anger Jonah seeks to extinguish the grace and compassion which God has shown to Nineveh. As we go through life we need to be aware of those times when we have also extinguished the grace of God and found ourselves in a place where God is asking, “Do you have a right to be angry?”
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A Grace Extinguisher And A Merciful God
Let’s get a summary of Jonah’s evangelism crusade to Nineveh.
Jonah proclaimed, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
The Ninevites believed God.
The king proclaimed, “ Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.”
When God saw what they did he relented.
In the great city of Nineveh there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people.
By any measure that is a successful crusade. The whole city responded.
If I had the chance to preach to 120,000 people and ten of those came to faith, I would be rejoicing. We all would. So what Jonah does next is … feels … unfathomable.
1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to 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, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
4 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
It is wrong for God to relent from showing punishment.
Jonah is a prophet who is very familiar with the relenting of God – just read through the book of Exodus and Numbers. God relented constantly even through the people proved themselves to be “a stiff-necked people” who were never grateful for what God was doing.
And where was Jonah not that long ago. If God didn’t relent Jonah would be dead in the bottom of the sea!
It is wrong for God to be consistent to His character.
Even when I was at home in Gath Hepher I knew this would happen. I knew that I would go into Nineveh and preach and then people would repent and then you would forgive.
I knew it
You are a God who slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. It is wrong for you to be like that.
“Slow to anger and abounding in love.”
You will find this phrase 7 times in Scripture … on every other occasion it is used in the context of hope and renewal. Here it is seen as a curse. Jonah angrily derides these wonderful attributes of God.
You have acted so wrongly I just want to die.
I have had enough … enough of your graciousness and compassion.
I want nothing to do with this whole situation. I certainly don’t want to go back to Israel and let everyone know what I have done.
Let’s just end it now.
Jonah would have to be the most thankless successful evangelist … ever.
Walking through the door of his home in Gath Hepher, “Honey, I home.”
“How did the trip go dear?”
“Well, I had a bit of a detour, but when I got there 120,000 people repented in less than three days.”
“That sounds amazing.”
“Not really, it was my worst crusade ever.”
Who thinks like that?
Well, actually, there are a group of people who think like that.
I’m going to call them “grace-extinguishers”.
There is a grace-extinguisher in the parable of the forgiving father.
The younger son takes his inheritance and blows it all.
The father keeps waiting and, when the son returns, runs to him and then treats him with the best.
The grace-extinguisher is the older son.
“All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
There is no joy about the return of the lost brother.
Or a thankfulness of a restored family.
All he has is a feeling of being unappreciated.
Showing compassion just seems wrong. All the brother wants to do is extinguish the effects of grace.
The is another “grace-extinguisher” in the parable of the workers in the vineyard.
These were the workers that were able to get work at 6:00am, at the beginning of the day. All day they have been watching as more and more workers come
… at 9:00am
… at 12:00pm
… at 3:00pm
… and a group at 5:00pm.
Basically the last group hired pack up some tools and hose out the sheds. But when it gets to the pay-time everyone gets the same amount of pay … one denarii for one day’s work … as was agreed buy all.