It’s hard for me to read the book of Jonah because I find myself written all through the pages. You remember the story…God sent Jonah to call the wicked people of Nineveh to repentance. Jonah did not heed the voice of the Lord and ran to Tarshish where he fled from the presence of the Lord by hiding away on a boat. The Lord caused a huge storm and the sailors soon realized Jonah’s disobedience was causing the storm. As if Jonah wasn’t already dramatic enough trying to hide from God, he tells the sailors the only way to calm the sea is to throw him overboard. How dramatic!
Then we read that after Jonah (a.k.a Mr. Drama King) was hurled into the sea, the Lord chose a great fish to swallow him up for 3 days where Jonah repented and re-affirmed the call God placed on his life to bring the news of salvation to the people of Nineveh. Once Jonah arrives in Nineveh, he offers the world’s briefest “sermon” as he declares that in forty days Nineveh would be destroyed (3:4). That was the extent of his exhortation; there was no call to repentance, yet the people repented anyway! All seemed like a total win for Jonah the prophet, but while Jonah was obedient to tell the Ninevites what he was commanded to proclaim, his heart wasn’t in it. In fact he was actually angry at the Lord for not destroying them—so angry he asked the Lord to take his life.
Now, if you’re keeping score here, this is twice in a few chapters where Jonah (a.k.a. Mr. Drama King) has asked the Lord to end his life. He was actually angry that his God was “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Have you ever been angry that the Lord did something you didn’t think was fair? Continue the story with me…
My favorite part of the story comes next. The Lord provides shade for Jonah as he waits outside the city and Jonah is pleased with how the Lord has provided for him, even gives thanks to Him for the shade. But then God sent a worm to eat the plant that was providing shade for him and AGAIN for the THIRD time in this book, Jonah (a.k.a. Mr. Drama King) decides he cannot live and wants to die. Geesh! So, here’s where it gets me every time—the Lord asks Jonah, “do you have a good reason to be angry about the plant?” To which Jonah basically says—“yeah, I do, so much anger that I’d rather die than burn in this sun.” Here’s the zinger: God says, you didn’t work to cultivate this plant which provided you such shade—yet you had compassion (and were thankful) for that plant, weren’t you? The Lord’s point was—I should show compassion on the city of Nineveh just as I’ve shown to you—YOU JUST THINK YOU DESERVE IT and they don’t. Just like Job, “the Lord gives and takes away.” God’s perspective cannot be understood with a finite mind.
My name is Will and I’m a “drama king” like Jonah! While I’ve never officially asked the Lord to take my life, I’ve wallowed in self-doubt and self-pity wanting to give up the calling God has called me to because I’ve been angry with God because I haven’t gotten my own way or thought I knew better than God what His will is for my life (ouch!). Yes, I admit it. My benchmark of “fair” is not always Kingdom focused. I often think I deserve XYZ because I worked hard for it—or earned it in some way. God’s perspective is always so contrary to my human nature. As Paul reminds us in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
He wants faithfulness from me.
Holiness from me.
Obedience from me.
He wants me to DELIGHT in Him and not the world.
Friends, we don’t deserve the compassion and mercy of God. Not one of us deserves it and none of us can earn it. Yet Jonah’s behavior and responses are often indicative of our own reactions. Yet the Lord’s question to Jonah will haunt us…”do you have a good reason to be angry?” Well…do you?
No we don’t. Not when we have a God that is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Ps 103:8 ESV)