Summary: Dramatic monologue: Jonah analyzes the sources of his anger, but prays that God will use all of his misdirected energy for Kingdom purposes.
Hmmph! Blah! Of all the fool things! Repent and be saved! Who would have thought it? Why in the world?
I am angry. Yes, I don’t dispute it. I am angry. And why wouldn’t I be, after all I have gone through? I am angry. And with good reason. I went through hell and back, and with what result? Angry? You bet your bottom shekel I am angry. And I don’t mind telling you who I am angry at. I am angry at God. I don’t think God did right by me. Hmmph. Ridiculous. Unacceptable.
You don’t understand why I am angry? Tossed overboard in the middle of a storm, and you don’t think I have a right to be upset? Three days in a stinking, lousy, fish, and you don’t understand why I am angry? You just don’t get it, do you? I’m totally angry, and I don’t mind telling you why.
I guess you could say that it all started with the way I was brought up. In my home and in my town we were taught that we, Israel, were the chosen people of God. The only chosen people. My father said, “Jonah, just remember that everybody else is wrong and wicked and way off base, and someday God will punish them for all their wrongdoing.” When my mother would say to him, “Don’t you think it would be best to teach Jonah to love the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength,” my father would reply, “My boy Jonah is going to be a man. He’s going to know that you have to be tough in this world. Jonah, when you grow up, just remember: don’t ever let anybody put anything over on you. Do them before they do you. And if they cheat you, Jonah, the Bible says, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. Get ‘em.”
As a child I took a secret pleasure in that; it felt good to know that we were right and they were wrong. It felt very good to know that ours was a loving and compassionate God, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy for us. But that same God, we could count on it, would rain down fire from heaven on idolaters and thieves and liars and, well, on other people. Praise the Lord of hosts, the avenger of Israel! In my childhood I learned that it was good to feel anger about all those people out there, the ones who were not us.
Angry? You bet I’m angry! And particularly in recent years, when the dirty pagan hordes of Assyria swept into our beloved Israel. Samaria, our great city, destroyed! Those filthy Assyrian kings, Shalmaneser and Sargon, treading the roads of our country! Our king, Hoshea, disgraced, and thousands of our people exiled! Worse than that, thousands of Assyrians, Babylonians, Edomites, the unwashed, brought in to our towns. The Assyrians want to ruin us with all these foreigners, who don’t speak our language, don’t live the way we live, and have their own gods. It’s horrible! Truly horrible!
I didn’t understand what God was doing then; and I don’t understand it now. But one thing I do know – that I burn with fierce anger at these wanton warriors from Assyria’s capital city, Nineveh. I hate them. I hate them with a perfect hatred! And I want nothing more than to see them punished.
So you can imagine what I felt when the Lord God of Israel, He who is gracious and compassionate toward His own, but who judges the wickedness of other nations – you can imagine what I felt when He put it in my mind that I must go and preach in Nineveh. I told Him I would not; that I could not; that He must be mistaken. I told God that the prophet Jonah would not lower himself to pick around the slums of Nineveh. After all, there was plenty for me to do at home. If it was preaching that He wanted, I could do that in my hometown. If I was supposed to prophesy, I could do that among my own people. Nineveh?! Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be right. Won’t work. In fact, it makes me angry just to think about it. I was not going to lower my standards and go over to that garbage heap, Nineveh! No!
So I paid my fare for a ship, bound for Tarshish, way out west. I just sort of got busy, you know, like saying to God, “Uh, you think it over, while I’m on this trip, and when I get back, maybe you’ll come up with a better plan.” I couldn’t very well tell God that He didn’t know what He was doing, but I sure could get real busy in a hurry. I could find so many other things to do that I could put this nagging call stuff out of my mind. I figured that if I ran away from what God wanted me to do, He’d find somebody else. Somebody who might even like it. There are folks who like to slum, you know. They can have their ministry to Nineveh if they want it. It’s not my thing. And, yes, again, I am angry at the very thought that somebody thinks I ought to go over there and deal with that mess. Why, do you know they practice child sacrifice? That they have prostitutes in their temples? That they eat rich food and drink hard liquor until it’s coming out of their ears? That’s not the place for God’s man! I could not bless that sort of mess.