Jonah 4 shows us the true colors of our prophet. He grudgingly did what God asked, after a detour through the belly of a fish, and now he is unhappy with the results. Usually a prophet or preacher is ecstatic when people repent. But not Jonah. “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry”. He didn’t want the people of Nineveh to repent as they were his enemy. This is an intense response. So he goes to God with his complaints and anger. He isn’t content to just be frustrated himself – he wants God to hear all about it.
“O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster”. Jonah knew that God would forgive them. That what why he fled in the first place. And now it has happened, much to his dismay. In fact, he is so dismayed he wants to end his own life rather than live with the outcome of their repentance. “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live”. A bit dramatic, but it certainly makes the point that he doesn’t want to be saddled with this positive outcome for his enemies.
God challenges his attitude. “Do you do well to be angry”? God asks a question that reveals his heart. Jonah is honest in expressing his feelings, but that doesn’t mean our feelings are right. And in this case, they definitely were not. Jonah is off base. Jonah doesn’t understand what God is up to, but that doesn’t mean he gets to question God. In fact, we need to realize that God’s ways are always right even when we don’t understand them. When we are angry with God we also must realize we much repent before God for that anger.
Jonah goes off and pouts about what has happened. He went out on a hill overlooking the city and sat there. God brings a plant along to give him shade, but soon causes a worm to come destroy the plant so it withered. Then God brings a strong sun and scorching east wind to make it unbearable for Jonah sitting there having his own little pity party. He again tells God he wants to die. Then God gives him an object lesson. “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh”? Touche.
Guzik points out three errors Jonah made which many angry people tend to make:
- He quit
- He separated himself from others
- He became a spectator
These things put him in a worse place than he was before.