Jonah #6 – Why Did Jonah Get Angry?
“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left–and much livestock?”” (Jonah 4:1-11).
It’s kind of ironic that Jonah got upset at the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness in this story, considering what had just happened to him. Jonah had disobeyed the Lord, and God sent a storm and a whale after him. However, when Jonah prayed for forgiveness, the Lord gave him a second chance. Yes when Jonah came to Nineveh – a city full of wicked sinners – he fully expected the Lord to rain down fire and brimstone upon them and destroy them completely. But when the Ninevites heard God’s message, they were quick to repent, and cried out to the Lord for forgiveness. And God forgave them, and that got Jonah angry.
That makes me think of something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5). Here Jonah was angry at a heathen nation of wicked sinners who didn’t know God. He thought that they should be destroyed for their wickedness. And yet, Jonah, who described himself as “a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9), was a prophet of God, and he was being rebellious. Jonah was judging the Ninevites, a job that belongs to God alone.
Here’s an important lesson we learn from this story. The Lord is a merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness. Therefore, let us “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32).
Pastor Chris Jordan