Summary: How is it possible for believers, or even entire congregations to sideline themselves and keep from being part of what God is doing?
Each chapter of Jonah has a story to tell. In chapter one, we read a story of rebellion. In chapter two, we read a story of repentance. In chapter three, we read a story of revival. Now, let’s look to chapter four.
We would think the story of Jonah would have ended on the high note found in chapter three. But as is so often the case, folks in the Bible have their faults as well as good points revealed. So it is with Jonah. We would like to think that Jonah’s walk with God continued on a high plane. But in chapter four, we read about how Jonah became angry with God when He spared Nineveh. The city of Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, the enemies of Israel. Even though Jonah obeyed the commission given to him by God, he wasn’t happy about the outcome - he didn’t want the Ninevites to repent, he wanted them to perish! So in chapter four, we read a story of resentment.
After all Jonah had been through with God, we find chapter four a little hard to believe. We wonder, “How in the world could Jonah act like that after all that had happened?” The story told in chapter four seems unbelievable. But as we look at this chapter today, I believe that we will not only see how such a situation could happen, but I’m afraid we also will be able to see that what was true of Jonah could easily also be true of us! What caused Jonah to act as he did?
In chapter four, we find that God asked Jonah three questions. The first two questions reveal something about Jonah’s heart, while the third question reveals something about the heart of God.
1. Jonah’s Heart - vs. 1-9
A. Jonah was selfish - vs. 1-4
Jonah was angry that God had spared Nineveh, rather than destroying them. And in verse four is God’s first question, “Have you any right to be angry?” The implied answer was “No.” The purpose here was to reveal something that was wrong with Jonah’s heart - he was selfish.
Jonah was unconcerned about the people of Nineveh and unconcerned about the will of God. He wanted his way, and when he did not get it, like a spoiled brat, he pouted! His statement in verse three, about not wanting to live, is reminiscent of an angry child who holds his breath until he turns blue in an effort to get his way. Jonah was saying to God in effect, “I don’t want to live if I don’t get my way!”
Likewise, too many believers today have the attitude, “I don’t want to give if I don’t get my way.” When things aren’t done their way, they don’t want to give their time, or their talent, or their treasure to support God’s work. Like Jonah, they sideline themselves.
Too many congregations have had their doors closed because the focus of the people was more on themselves and their preferences than on the Lord and His purposes. Too many Christians are saying, “Give me what I want,” rather than asking “What does God want?”
God wants us to be focused on how we can partner with Him on mission to reach a lost world. But because of selfishness, many believers, and too many churches, have been sidelined, like Jonah was.
B. Jonah was petty - vs. 5-9
Jonah was angry that a worm caused a vine to wither that had provided him with some shade. Again, Jonah pouted and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” In verse 9, we find God asks a
second question: “Do you have the right to be angry about the vine?” The implication being that answer to the question was the same as before, “No.” But that wasn’t Jonah’s answer. Jonah revealed the pettiness of his heart when he says, “I do, I am angry enough to die!” Jonah was more concerned about a withered vine than he was about the will of God or the souls of his fellow man!
For too many believers today and for too many churches, the focus is on petty concerns rather than the priorities of God.
Mike Yaconelli, wrote an article called “The Tyranny of Trivia” in the January 1984 edition of The Wittenburg Door that still has relevance today. Allow me to share his insight with you.
There is something wrong with the organized church. You know it. I know it. We all see that something is wrong - drastically wrong. Just one semi-close look at the organized church - with its waning
influence, its corruption, and its cultural impotence - tells us that something has gone awry. But, the question is, what has gone awry? What is wrong?