Summary: Sermon series on the Book of Jonah. Some of my resources come from John Hamby’s sermons as well as Jerry Giffords
“Returning to God”
“The Pouting Prophet”
Judith Viorst wrote a popular children’s book called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It’s about a little boy whose day starts out bad and goes downhill from there. He gets gum in his hair and gets his sweater wet in the sink and he trips over his skateboard and doesn’t get a prize in his cereal box and that’s all before breakfast! He could tell right away that it was going to be a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. Then he goes to school and his teacher doesn’t like his drawing of an invisible castle, he doesn’t get a dessert in his lunch bag and his best friend doesn’t want to be his best friend anymore. And after school his mom buys him plain white sneakers instead of the ones with red and blue racing stripes, his dentist finds a cavity in his tooth, there are lima beans for dinner, and he gets soap in his eyes when he takes his evening bath. In frustration, he finally says, "I think I’ll move to Australia." If you’re like me you can relate to this story because we all have had days like Alexander, days when people treat us unfairly and nothing works out the way we want it to and by the time we fight our way home through bumper to bumper traffic we’re just plain mad. Well, chapter four of today’s text begins with Jonah thinking he has just experienced one of those days and Jonah was angry, but not at things or even people. No, he was mad at God.
If you are our guest this morning, you should know that this is the final segment of a series of sermons on the life and ministry of the prophet Jonah. When we last left Jonah he had just delivered God’s message to the Ninevites. They responded by repenting of their wicked lifestyle and by putting their faith in God in what was the greatest revival in the history of the world and if the story had ended here, Jonah would have gone down in history as one of the world’s greatest prophets. I mean to preach and have hundreds of thousands turn to God is no small accomplishment. But this account of the life and ministry of Jonah the prophet DOESN’T stop here because this is not just a story about God’s love for the wicked Assyrians. It is also a story of His grace, driven love for an angry, pouting prophet a very immature Hebrew preacher who thought he was having a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD day.
You know when you look back at the story from this perspective you can see that in chapter one of this little book Jonah acted like the prodigal son but here in the fourth chapter he is now acting more like the pouting elder brother. Jonah is not at all happy that the Ninevites have repented and come home to God. The story is not over because God’s work was not complete. The Ninevites were doing fine at this point, but not Jonah. He still needed work. You see, God is not satisfied with mere compliance to His will, which is apparently what He got from Jonah in chapter 3. What God wanted was for Jonah to value what He valued and God knew this had not happened yet. Take your Bibles and you’ll see what I mean as we look at Jonah 4:1-11.
Have you ever witnessed a child throwing a temper-tantrum in the middle of a department store (hopefully it was not your own). The child may do any number of things: He or she may pound on the floor with their hands and feet. They may lie on the floor and scream at the top of their lungs. They may throw things or sling their arms about. Or they may be very creative and do all of these things at the same time. But in all of this the child has a purpose - he is demanding that he get his own way. In today’s text we see Jonah throwing a temper tantrum with God. For our study today the reason for Jonah’s anger is not as important as the object of his anger. Jonah was angry with God!
In verse one of chapter four we read, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.” Jonah is angry. He had finally obeyed God. He was doing what God wanted done but God had not done what Jonah wanted. Jonah has just preached the most successful revival in history as a result the whole city of Nineveh from the King on down have repented. But because they have repented God spared the entire city and this in not what Jonah wanted to see or hear. He felt betrayed. Now church, before we look down upon Jonah we need to remember that none of us is immune to the spirit of resentment that ate at Jonah and the truth is we too can give in to that resentment. But as a Christian the one thing we need to recognize is that resentment affects us in several damaging ways.