Summary: After all that’s happened so far – Jonah’s initial disobedience; God’s humbling of Jonah; Jonah’s going to Nineveh at the second time of asking; the Ninevites’ believing the message and being spared – surely you’d expect there to be a happy ending!
JONAH CHAPTER FOUR
Most of us love happy endings! My girls when they were little loved Disney’s, ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ In the closing scenes the beast lies dying from a wound inflicted during combat with Gaston his enemy. Belle the beauty finally confesses her love for the beast and just in time gives him the kiss that breaks the curse. The beast is transformed back into a handsome prince and they live happily ever after. Beauty brings life to the beast, we could say.
But we don’t always get a happy ending! The original 1933 ‘King Kong’ Movie is heartbreaking. Having escaped from his chains Kong creates havoc and mayhem in New York searching for the object of his affections, Anne Darrow, played by the actress, Fay Rae. A climactic battle takes place between the air force and Kong as he hangs onto the top of the Empire State building. Kong is injured and plunges 1,000 plus feet to the streets below. In a very moving scene Anne Darrow watches Kong, as he lies dying. A Police Lieutenant says to Carl Denham, who captured the giant gorilla: ‘Well, Denham, the airplanes got him.’ ‘Oh no,’ says Denham, ‘It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.’
Well, these films are of course fantasy stories put together for our entertainment. But with Jonah we’re looking at the true story in history of one of God’s prophets. Now with all that’s happened so far – Jonah’s initial disobedience; God’s humbling of Jonah; Jonah’s going to Nineveh at the second time of asking; the Ninevites’ believing the message and being spared –you’d surely expect there to be a happy ending!
But it isn’t quite as simple as that – life usually isn’t. Gordon Keddie says ‘There is something deeply disturbing, even unsatisfying about the last chapter of the book of Jonah.’
We saw in JONAH 3 V 10 “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.”
What was Jonah’s response? Wouldn’t you expect him to be joyful and glad? ‘This is great! Look at what God has done among the Ninevites!’ But Instead CH 4 V 1 tells us that ‘Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry’!
Don’t you feel like asking: “What’s going on Jonah?” I believe there are valuable lessons God teaches us here. Rather than Jonah’s story ending negatively for us, we’ll see that it is in fact positive and challenging.
There are three basic things I want us to explore in this last chapter: Jonah’s spiritual setback; God’s generous grace and God’s immense mercy.
JONAH’S SPIRITUAL SETBACK
You can’t believe it! Jonah, after all that had happened in Chapters 2 & 3 reverts to his old attitude and ways of thinking. CH 4 V 2 ‘He prayed to the LORD, ‘O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee 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.’
Some people see God as a harsh tyrant, who can’t wait to send people to hell. Others see him as a benevolent indulging old father figure. Both are a million miles away from the way God truly presents Himself in the Bible.
Yes, God is immensely serious about sin – the cross of Jesus is the greatest proof of that! Someone once said: ‘If sin is man’s contradiction of God and His expressed will, God cannot be complacent about sin and still be God.’ No sin in the universe can fail to be accounted for, otherwise creation would fall into moral chaos. Hell is solemnly real.
At same time God is immensely serious about salvation –the cross of Jesus is also the proof of that! H C Trumbull put it like this: ‘Calvary shows how far men will go in sin, and how far God will go for man’s salvation.’ Heaven is gloriously real.
Jonah knew God’s nature and he just didn’t like the fact that God had mercy on the Ninevites. His old fears and prejudices flared up again: ‘I knew it. You’ve spared Israel’s great enemy; been kind to those who deserve calamity. Isn’t that what I said at the beginning of this whole saga?”
Jonah is a warning to you and me that the best of men are men at best; that we are still sinful and inconsistent. The bible doesn’t record men’s failing so that we can point the finger, but in order that we can learn about human nature, our nature. We have to be on the look out! Watch out; be on guard! Never think that sin in this life is totally tamed!