I am guessing everyone has some basic knowledge of the story of Jonah. In the lead up to Chapter 4 God has asked Jonah to God to Nineveh and warn the people there to repent. Jonah of course does everything he can to avoid this task against his sworn enemies but eventually ends up there with God’s intervening hand. Of course the people of Nineveh repent and Jonah is rippin mad at God!
Before we go further please stop a moment and think on the title of this devotion, Am I More Righteous than God? As we will see in the verses that is exactly what Jonah’s anger and pity party amount to. He decided he knew better than God. The same applies TODAY, anytime we take the inerrant, infallible Word of God and twist it to our own liking we are saying I More Righteous than God? I do not know about you but in the day when every knee shall bow do you really want to be the one standing there saying ‘you ain’t all that’?
But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still in my country? That is why I ran to Tarshish, because I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and great in lovingkindness, and [when sinners turn to You] You revoke the [sentence of] disaster [against them]. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, just take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 Then the Lord said, “Do you have a good reason to be angry?”
5 Then Jonah went out of the city and sat east of it. There he made himself a shelter and sat under its shade so that he could see what would happen in the city. 6 So the Lord God prepared a plant and it grew up over Jonah, to be a shade over his head to spare him from discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about [the protection of] the plant. 7 But God prepared a worm when morning dawned the next day, and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God prepared a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he fainted and he wished to die, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have a good reason to be angry about [the loss of] the plant?” And he said, “I have a [very] good reason to be angry, angry enough to die!” 10 Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 [innocent] persons, who do not know the difference between their right and left hand [and are not yet accountable for sin], as well as many [blameless] animals?” Jonah 4:1-11 (AMP)
For context I have included the whole discourse between Jonah and God but I will only concentrate on the first four verses this morning.
v.1 But it greatly displeased Jonah- God send you on a task, he gives you purpose in life and your response is to be displeased and worse he became angry. Jonah was not angry at himself he was angry at God.
1. angry–literally, “hot,” probably, with grief or vexation, rather than anger [FAIRBAIRN]. How sad the contrast between God’s feeling on the repentance of Nineveh towards Him, and Jonah’s feeling on the repentance of God towards Nineveh. Strange in one who was himself a monument of mercy on his repentance! We all, like him, need the lesson taught in the parable of the unforgiving, though forgiven, debtor ( Matthew 18:23-35 ). Jonah was grieved because Nineveh’s preservation, after his denunciation, made him seem a false prophet [CALVIN]. But it would make Jonah a demon, not a man, to have preferred the destruction of six hundred thousand men rather than that his prophecy should be set aside through God’s mercy triumphing over judgment. And God in that case would have severely chastised, whereas he only expostulates mildly with him, and by a mode of dealing, at once gentle and condescending, tries to show him his error. Moreover, Jonah himself, in apologizing for his vexation, does not mention the failure of his prediction as the cause: but solely the thought of God’s slowness to anger. This was what led him to flee to Tarshish at his first commission; not the likelihood then of his prediction being falsified; for in fact his commission then was not to foretell Nineveh’s downfall, but simply to “cry against” Nineveh’s “wickedness” as having “come up before God.” Jonah could hardly have been so vexed for the letter of his prediction failing, when the end of his commission had virtually been gained in leading Nineveh to repentance. This then cannot have been regarded by Jonah as the ultimate end of his commission. If Nineveh had been the prominent object with him, he would have rejoiced at the result of his mission. But Israel was the prominent aim of Jonah, as a prophet of the elect people. Probably then he regarded the destruction of Nineveh as fitted to be an example of God’s judgment at last suspending His long forbearance so as to startle Israel from its desperate degeneracy, heightened by its new prosperity under Jeroboam II at that very time, in a way that all other means had failed to do. Jonah, despairing of anything effectual being done for God in Israel, unless there were first given a striking example of severity, thought when he proclaimed the downfall of Nineveh in forty days, that now at last God is about to give such an example; so when this means of awakening Israel was set aside by God’s mercy on Nineveh’s repentance, he was bitterly disappointed, not from pride or mercilessness, but from hopelessness as to anything being possible for the reformation of Israel, now that his cherished hope is baffled. But GOD’S plan was to teach Israel, by the example of Nineveh, how inexcusable is their own impenitence, and how inevitable their ruin if they persevere. Repenting Nineveh has proved herself more worthy of God’s favor than apostate Israel; the children of the covenant have not only fallen down to, but actually below, the level of a heathen people; Israel, therefore, must go down, and the heathen rise above her. Jonah did not know the important lessons of hope to the penitent, and condemnation to those amidst outward privileges impenitent, which Nineveh’s preservation on repentance was to have for aftertimes, and to all ages. He could not foresee that Messiah Himself was thus to apply that history. A lesson to us that if we could in any particular alter the plan of Providence, it would not be for the better, but for the worse [FAIRBAIRN].¹
v.2- You are a gracious and compassionate God- Yes folks this is the very best reason one can have to be mad at God, the fact that He is slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. All because Jonah knows God forgives the sins of those who repent of their evil ways. Obviously Jonah had never sinned in his life, yeah right!!
my saying what I said–my thought, or feeling.
fled before I ran—I anticipated by fleeing, the disappointment of my design through Thy long-suffering mercy.
gracious . . . and merciful, &c.–Jonah here has before his mind Exodus 34:6 ; as Joel ( Joel 2:13) in his turn quotes from Jonah. ¹
v.3 – take my life from me- Jonah throws the ultimate pity party and asks God to kill him. Why because he is suffering greatly from some incurable disease or maybe he is like Job and has lost everything in his life? No Jonah has only delivered a message of hope to the enemies of Israel and they have turned from their evil ways. One would think his reaction would be to rejoice.
Jonah’s impatience of life under disappointed hopes of Israel’s reformation through the destruction of Nineveh, is like that of Elijah at his plan for reforming Israel ( 1 Kings 18:1-46 ) failing through Jezebel ( 1 Kings 19:4 ). ¹
v.4 – Do you have a good reason to be angry? God asks Jonah what reason do you have to be angry? Can there be any justification for your anger? Is it righteous anger? For those of us who deal with anger issues these are all questions we need to be asking every time that monster rears its ugly head. One thing is for certain Anger against a gracious and compassionate God, (who is) slow to anger and (shows) great lovingkindness is never justified.
Doest thou well to be angry?–or grieved; rather as the Margin, “Art thou much angry,” or “grieved?” [FAIRBAIRN with the Septuagint and Syriac]. But English Version suits the spirit of the passage, and is quite tenable in the Hebrew [GESENIUS]. ¹
The application or lesson here is that God is God, He decides whom to send, whom to save, and what the circumstances for each will be. In other words God is all powerful (omnipotent) secondly and most importantly (in my opinion) God is sovereign that is He is in control of all things and His plan and ways are better than ours. If for example Jonah had considered this and accepted it he would not have complained. He may not have “liked” having to go to the Ninevites but he would have accepted God’s will.
Anytime we superimpose our will, our desires above God’s we are making the claim that we are more righteous than God and I dare say I would be afraid to go there.
¹ = Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible