Jonah 4:1-4 (NIV)
Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion
4 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing 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. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
4 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
The book of Jonah contains only four chapters. Sunday school lessons and even sermons are built around the first three chapters of this book. You know the story of Jonah. In the first chapter, the word of the Lord came to Jonah, commanding him to go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against its wickedness. And we all know that Jonah “ran away from the Lord and headed to Tarshish.” God then sends a “great fish” to swallow Jonah, and from inside the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed to God for forgiveness. God commands the fish to free Jonah and the “word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” to go to Nineveh and proclaim God’s message. Jonah obeys God this time. The people of Nineveh repent and God does not bring destruction upon them. End of story, right? Wrong!
In chapter four we find that Jonah is still angry because God has chosen not to destroy the Ninevites, an enemy of Israel. Jonah cannot believe that God would have mercy and compassion upon a group of people that Jonah dislikes. Jonah even goes so far to “pray” to God that it would be better for him to die than to stick around and witness God’s compassion upon the Ninevites. This time, Jonah prays to the Lord out of anger instead of distress. And God asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Jonah expected God to show special favor only to the Israelites. It’s likely that he even desired God’s wrath upon those who were enemies of Israel. Jonah wanted revenge against those he believed were undeserving of God’s mercy. However, God admonishes Jonah’s way of thinking and declares his own gracious kindness and divine compassion upon the Ninevites. God, not Jonah, is in control!
How often do you become angry when God bestows mercy and compassion upon people who are unlike yourself? How often do you judge other people because of the way you perceive them? God’s mercy and compassion extends to all people and God demands for us to be caring and compassionate to everyone. We are called to be a witness of God’s everlasting love and mercy; we must not judge those we are called to witness to or care for.
John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
1 Peter 3: 8-9: Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.