This is part of a 7-day series on Jonah in the Lent 2016 reading plan.
Can you think of a time you have been blinded by anger? Your sense of justice was insulted. The clarity of the failures of others was on display in high definition. If you’d had the floor for ten good minutes, you could have really put the offending party in their place.
Now imagine that this anger is pointed at God. Or don’t imagine. Maybe it already is.
Here is a valuable question from today’s reading: Are you right to be so angry? (Jonah 4:9)
The last chapter of Jonah tells the story of a man who has been seething with anger toward God for the entire book, but now is given the chance to voice his fury. In short, Jonah is angry with God for being too kind to Nineveh and not kind enough to him. Both seem unfair to Jonah.
The hypocrisy of his anger is that it rests on the presumption that, while Nineveh deserves no mercy, Jonah does. Jonah treats his relationship with God as a sort of partnership, and when God does something that doesn’t meet with Jonah’s approval, Jonah assumes the posture of the senior partner, and demands that God give an account of Himself.
When in your life have you felt that God owed you an explanation? Are you right to be so angry?
One of the key themes of the book of Jonah is that God is always doing “immeasurably more than we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). His compassion always extends beyond what we imagine. Jonah thinks his mission is all about God being kind to Nineveh. What Jonah doesn’t see is that God is being kind to him as well by exposing Jonah’s contempt for the very divine compassion he himself so desperately needs.
In this book, God seems to push on Jonah like He’s pushing on a bruise. God hurts Jonah for the purpose of breaking his heart (Jonah 4:5-8). And when we read about it, surely we see the kindness of God in it, don’t we? Don’t we see how God is giving sight to His blind prophet so that Jonah might rightly grasp the wonder of God’s compassion?
The point of Jonah is this: we all need saving, and in the end, the only One who can ultimately perform that work is God. And when He does, it will always be a work of mercy and grace. This is the message of the Gospel: “If while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10)!
Maybe the reason the book of Jonah is in the Bible is so that, just as God used His compassion toward Nineveh to expose and disassemble Jonah’s self-righteous anger, He might use His compassion toward Jonah to do the same to ours.
Are you right to be so angry?
Written By Russ Ramsey