Summary: God's compassion
July 8, 2012
We’re going to finish our study through the book of Jonah today. It occurred to me this week to ask why we have this story preserved of all the possible stories that could have been preserved. Obviously it’s got some things in it that don’t happen every day, but I don’t think these are the main reasons we have it.
It is a big deal to be swallowed by a fish, but it’s really not as amazing as the Exodus or some of the other miracles of the Old Testament.
Why do we have the little book of Jonah?
I think the answer is in chapter four, and I think we can immediately tie it to a couple other verses:
Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call. 40And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. (Acts 2:36-40)
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Pt. 3:9)
When we read the Scriptures we find a God who is merciful and compassionate.
The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. 9The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. (Ps. 145:8-9)
And I think this is the reason for chapter four. Jonah wants God to save Israel, but he doesn’t want Him to save Assyria. These guys are the bad guys, and Jonah’s bitterness is deep.
So when they repent at his preaching he gets very angry:
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 2And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. 3Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
He says, “I knew this was going to happen.” And he’s not just angry, he’s very angry. He’s angry enough to die! I find this to be an enormous contradiction to the prayer of thanksgiving in chapter two. The same man who prays about being dropped out of sight to the bottom of the ocean and who finds that salvation is of the Lord is now praying to be taken away to Sheol.
He’s in complete disagreement with the will of God, and you can imagine him saying, “If I were God I’d have killed them all.” But God has a plan for this wayward sheep. If Jonah had been God then he would have done the very same thing because God is compassionate towards His people. Jonah is being very selfish and is willing for some heirs of the promise, some of the called, to perish.
4Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
God could have given him a glimpse into Romans 9:20 and said, Who are you, oh man, to talk back to God? He could have reminded him of Job and said, Gird up now your loins like a man; for I will demand of you, and answer thou Me (Job 38:3).
But instead He just asks a simple question: “Do you have a right to be angry?”
At the bottom of all this, Jonah is questioning (refusing!) God’s right to do as He pleases. In our day people say God has to give everyone an equal chance—He doesn’t have the right to elect some and not others. In Jonah’s case it was the same thing from a different angle—God has no right to save anyone we don’t think should be called elect.
And God doesn’t go off into a treatise like He did with Job, but instead He asks him this one simple question. And we don’t get to read the response; maybe because Jonah rudely didn’t answer, but more probably because there just isn’t anything a man can say against God when he receives His rebuke.