Summary: It is sad when someone gets to a place in life where the misery of others brings satisfaction. Rather than desiring repentance and restoration, a desire to see judgment can outweigh compassion.
The Pouting Prophet
Jonah 4: 1-11
We have discovered an interesting journey while studying the book of Jonah. The prophet’s life was filled with several twists and turns after hearing the call to go to Nineveh. Initially making the decision to flee from God, Jonah soon discovered such an endeavor was impossible. His rebellion was not fatal, but it certainly was most difficult and horrifying. Following three days and nights within the belly of the great fish, Jonah was spit out on dry ground. No doubt, this got his attention, and he wisely decided to make his way to Nineveh in obedience to the Lord.
Unsure of how the people would respond, Jonah was surely surprised at their reaction to his message of repentance in the face of impending judgment. Hearing such a dire warning, the people of Nineveh, including the king, repented of their sin and turned to God. It would appear that Jonah could have returned home with joy and satisfaction, praising the Lord for his graciousness and sovereignty. However, Jonah’s story doesn’t end there. Rather than being thankful for all God had done, Jonah becomes angry and pouts about the results of his endeavor in Nineveh. He was not concerned for the people in Nineveh, and was quite upset they had responded favorably toward the Lord.
Our last chapter finishes open ended. We find Jonah pouting about the events in Nineveh, facing a stinging rebuke from the Lord. At times we respond in obedience to the Lord’s will, but we aren’t always pleased with what He is doing in our lives or the lives of others. We need to guard against an attitude like Jonah’s. As we finish our study, I want to discuss the realties within the text as we consider: The Pouting Prophet.
I. The Displeasure of Jonah (1-4) – Here we discover the genuine displeasure of Jonah regarding the events in Nineveh. Consider:
A. His Attitude (1) – But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. Jonah’s displeasure and anger are directly associated with the repentance of Nineveh. While Jonah had reluctantly been obedient to go to Nineveh, he never desired them to respond favorably to his message. He is the only preacher I’ve ever heard of who genuinely hoped the people would not respond to his preaching. He had no compassion for Nineveh, and hoped God would judge them. (It is easy for us to be critical, and even judgmental of Jonah, but we have all had similar desires. No doubt we have all wished for individuals or groups to get “what they deserved.”)
B. His Argument (2) – And 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. I am amazed at the boldness of Jonah as he argued with the Lord regarding the outcome in Nineveh. “This is what I told you in the beginning. That is why I fled toward Tarshish. I knew you were a gracious God, one who is merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness. I knew they would repent and you would turn from bringing judgment. I told you God; and that is why I didn’t want to come!” (We maybe aren’t as bold, and may not actually speak like this to God, but I am sure we all have had similar thoughts and emotions. Sometimes we too get angry when God reacts in a way that we hoped He wouldn’t, or chooses to move in a way we thought should be different.)
C. His Assessment (3) – Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. At least Jonah is honest, but his honesty reveals the true condition of his heart. He admitted that he would rather die than live, all because Nineveh had repented and God chose not to destroy them in judgment. Jonah’s hatred for Nineveh exceeded his desire to live. Bitterness had taken root in his life and it has consumed his being. Heb.12:15 – Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. Bitterness is a poison that destroys the vessel in which it is stored from the inside-out. It has been said, “Bitterness doesn’t affect those upon whom it is poured; it destroys the vessel in which it is stored.”
D. The Admonition (4) – Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry? God had been gracious with Nineveh, and He continued to be gracious with Jonah. He urged Jonah to look deep within his heart. “Is such anger right? Do you bring honor to God with such an attitude? Is your current state adding to your spiritual growth and relationship with God?” He wanted Jonah to wisely consider his attitude and approach toward the events in Nineveh.