Recently I read through the book of Jonah. I thought Jonah was an interesting book, because it has a really weird ending. It ends with an angry Jonah sitting in the sun. That’s it. God has saved an entire city of people from being destroyed and Jonah is sitting outside having a sulk. Uhh..Is there a problem? Jonah did have a problem and I wonder whether we today face a similar one. Are you ever angry with God or the way that God gets things done or about things that have happened to you? You’re not alone. I think that Jonah was angry at God for a few different reasons.
1. God told Jonah to leave his home and go to a place that he hated. Just for a bit of info..Jonah was around about the same time that the prophets Isaiah and Amos were around. It was a time when the nation of Israel was not obeying God…there were a lot of legalistic rituals, idols and injustices among the people. As a result, God sent people like Isaiah and Amos to warn them that if they didn’t change, they would be taken over by another nation – Assyria.
Ninevah was a major city in Assyria. So Jonah, who is an Israelite, is told by God to leave his home, leave his family and friends and go to this really wicked and terrible city called Ninevah and give them a message to follow God or be destroyed.
Hang on. What?
Jonah was told to go to Ninevah, a city in the country that is going to take over his own, and bring a message which will save them from being destroyed. He’s been instructed to save the people who will probably kill his own. I can kind of understand why Jonah didn’t want to go.
2. Jonah knew that God’s character was merciful and compassionate. He knew that God’s desire was for Ninevah not to be destroyed. So when Jonah delivers God’s message and Ninevah repents of their wickedness and God saves them..Jonah is thinking..’I knew that you would save them God..I said that before. That’s why I ran away instead of going to Ninevah the first time..I knew you wouldn’t destroy them. You’ve just wasted all my time and energy for what..nothing.’
3. Jonah leaves Ninevah in a rage because God saved a city of people from being destroyed. He goes and sits, probably on a hill looking over at the city in the burning desert sun. He’s so mad that he tells God that he wants to die.
God is kind to Jonah even though he’s having a major rant, and he causes a tree to grow to cover Jonah from the sun. The next day, a worm eats the tree and Jonah loses it, again. So Jonah is hot and frustrated and gets so angry again that he tells God he’d rather die than live like this. Again.
Instead of blasting him for being angry and rude and treating Him like rubbish, God asks Jonah whether he thinks it’s good to be angry at the plant that was eaten by the worm. Again, Jonah says ‘yep..it is good for me to be angry..i’m so angry that i want to die. That plant was mine and it was there to look after me and provide shade for me. And now it is gone and that makes me angry. I’m mad because you didn’t destroy Ninevah..I’m mad because you dragged me all the way here..I’m mad I’m mad I’m mad..and that plant should still be here because I’m too hot.’ Me, me, me, me, me. Jonah is angry because according to him, life just isn’t fair.
Jonah is one angry and bitter man. And he’s an angry, bitter man who is only thinking about himself – he’s selfish! Jonah let his flawed definition of love, fairness and what he thinks people deserve consume him. And you know what God’s response to Jonah’s anger was? He doesn’t wack him with a lightening bolt. Instead, God shows Jonah the same love and compassion that he showed to Ninevah. He gave him another chance.
‘Don’t you understand, Jonah? You’re upset because that plant, that plant you didn’t even make, died and couldn’t do what it was meant to do. How do you think I feel about Ninevah? I created Ninevah! I love Ninevah! I’ve invested my time and my energy into this city! Shouldn’t I care about Ninevah?’
The flaw in Jonahs thinking is that he was thinking about himself and how, if he were god, he’d let the Ninavites simply die. Jonah’s sinful nature couldn’t fathom why God would save such wicked people. There are so many times when I get angry at things in life because I don’t think they are fair. Why is it fair that people get hurt? Why is it fair that people lie? Why is there so much injustice? Why, why, why? And why would God forgive people like that? I think we need to remember that Ninevah was just like Israel and just like the world today. Created by the same God, loved and with purpose. The reality is that all fall short of Gods standard. None of us are perfect – not Ninevah, not Israel, not Jonah and not me. The world tells us that there is a standard on who deserves what..some people deserve love and others don’t. As His creation, who are we to judge God’s timing or the way he chooses to show love to all people? To God all sin is the same, be it pointing a gun at someone, to the lie you told your boss. To God it’s all the same. It doesn’t make us any more or less wicked than what we naturally are. God doesn’t distinguish between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ people around us because it’s a standard we’ve made up. Disclaimer: This in no way means I am not supportive of the rules and laws in place in my country..but that’s another issue altogether. Anyway..the point is: Jonah was not unlike like the Ninevites. He needed God’s compassion and salvation just as much. God doesn’t operate on the same justice system we do. And I for one, am pretty grateful that he doesn’t. Because if I got what was ‘fair,’ I’d be going to hell and I never would have met Jesus.