Summary: What happens when Nineveh doesn’t fall? What happens when God does something I don’t like? What happens when my theology doesn’t sit comfortably with God’s Word? What happens when he shows me that my priorities may be religious, but they’re not his?
Many have been rejoicing that former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic has at last been arrested and brought to trial. Accused of terrible war crimes, of genocide at Srebrenitsa, of more. If convicted of these crimes, is prison a strong enough sentence for this man? Many long for justice. Justice demands that evil deeds are punished. That the punishment fits the crime. That those who purposely make others miserable should not get away with it.
Nineveh is evil. We sympathise with Jonah.
But 40 Days had passed. And the fire had not fallen, a foreign army had not invaded, there had been no terrible earthquake. Nineveh had repented and God had relented. God is different to us.
What happens when Nineveh doesn’t fall?
What happens when God does something I don’t like?
What happens when my theology doesn’t sit comfortably with God’s Word.
What happens when he begins to show me that my priorities may be religious, but are not his priorities?
In these verses we see a Greatly Displeased Believer, A Compassionate and Gracious God, and A Good Question For us to Ponder...
1. A Greatly Displeased Believer
Verse 1, Quite frankly, Jonah was hopping mad. One translation puts verse 1 like this: “This was absolutely disgusting to Jonah and he became angry.” God had accepted the repentance of those retched Assyrians, those vicious oppressors, those ‘Nazis’.
Verse 3, Jonah wants to die – he’s so angry. Just like before when he wanted to be thrown overboard (1.12). Why was Jonah angry enough to die?
Jonah was angry because the fire of judgement didn’t fall. No earthquake, no invading army, no revolution, no fire from heaven.
Jonah was angry because he thought that evil people should be punished.
Jonah was angry because he’d wanted to be shown to be right – and the Ninevites repentance meant they wouldn’t see God’s terrible wrath and so vindicate Jonah’s message.
Jonah was angry because he thought Nineveh had reacted to God better than Israel had and so Israel was put in bad light. The Lord Jesus actually makes this very point in Matthew 12:41. I.e. that Nineveh’s repentance makes those who don’t repent look bad.
But at the end of the day, the reason Jonah was angry is seen in the words Jonah uses throughout verses 2 & 3... I, I, I, I my, me... Jonah is deeply engrossed in himself and his own world and his own desires. It was all about Jonah. All about Jonah wanting to have God do what he wanted God to do.
How do we react when God does something we’d rather he didn’t?
When His word challenges us to do something we’d rather not?
When he allows us to suffer in some way?
When he doesn’t answer our prayers?
Are we so mad at God we almost want to die? Or do we let the potter mould us like clay?
In Jonah’s wanting to die, we’re reminded of Moses in Numbers 11, when the people complain about the manna, and Moses wants to die rather than keep pastoring these difficult people!
We’re reminded of Elijah in 1 Kings 19, who wants to die when he was afraid after there was a backlash against him following his great victory against the false prophets on Mt Carmel. We’re reminded of Job in Job 7 who desired death rather than the terrible physical and emotional suffering he was going through.
Stress from work, stress from relationships, stress from physical illness and emotional loss. Stress when things don’t go our way.
But God doesn’t grant Moses’, Elijah and Jobs’ requests for death! Instead he helps them through their difficulties; and, arguably, in each case takes them on to even greater fruitfulness. The question is, Will Jonah let himself be picked up and led on, too? And, Will we? You see, when we find ourselves as a Greatly Displeased Believer, God is often waiting to use the opportunity as a step of growth. But will Jonah grow?
2. A Gracious & Compassionate God
Verse 2a. This is Jonah’s second prayer. The first was from the depths of the ocean, the second is from the depths of his anger. Jonah had apparently guessed God would do this and so this was the whole reason he ran away. Doh! I knew that going to happen!
Verse 2b. How did Jonah know God was this kind of God? Because he knew the Scriptures. Prophets were people of the Book. All they were doing was reading the Book. All they were doing was under God’s inspiration calling people to faithfulness to the will and character of God as expressed in the Old Testament/Covenant. And the character of God was expressed in more or less these exact words in Exodus 34.6-7, Num 14.18, 2 Chronicles 30.9, Nehemiah 9.17&31, Psalm 86.5 & 15, 103.8, 111.4, 145.8, Joel 2.13. Again and again these words echo down the centuries... gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love...