Have you ever read “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”? It is quite an interesting child’s story. Little Alexander just cannot seem to cut a break. Everything he hates seems to happen in one day. Everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. No matter what the circumstances, Alexander seems to have all the bad luck in the world in just one day. Ever feel like Alexander? It seems like if something could go wrong, it will and does. But how often do we get into a funk thinking everyday is like that, no matter what the circumstances? Often times we fail to see the blessings simply because of a few unexpected changes. This is the truth Jonah reveals to us in the final chapter of the story.
A man whose job (being the prophet that he was) depended on his obedience to God’s call and message, Jonah seemed to respond in all the wrong ways. God gives him a message to preach to Nineveh and what does he do? He runs the other way. He is given an opportunity to tell about the God of the universe and what does He do? He sleeps on the bottom of the boat. Over and over again, Jonah shows that Resistance is Futile. Two weeks ago we saw Jonah exemplify that God is still in the business of rescuing, even if the Rescue is Fishy! Last week we saw that with God Repentance is Favored! Today we will see that despite the positive results Jonah experiences (over 1/2 million people repent and believe in God), Jonah’s Reaction is Flawed! We will see this through Jonah’s Attitude and Jehovah’s Actions.
God’s plan for Jonah caused him to be quite possibly the greatest evangelist of all time (Jonah 3:10). Jonah spoke a mere five words and an estimated half million people repented of their sin and came to believe in God. So we would expect Jonah to have a joyful, worshipful attitude, but that is not the case. Instead of being full of joy and worship, Jonah’s attitude is full of bitterness and anger. He is displeased. Jonah sees what God has done, in relenting of disaster, as a great evil (4:1). Jonah thinks what God has done is wrong. He is showing the anger of a mortal man (James 1:19-20). It is here that Jonah reveals his heart attitude and why he is so angry. In a prayer to God, Jonah tells the reason why he originally ran from God…because he knew God’s character (4:2). Jonah knew God would be gracious, merciful, patient, loving, and forgiving to the Ninevehites, people who are Jonah’s sworn enemies. And the prophet does not like it.
Jonah’s attitude is like mine was when I was a child at Christmas. I was so excited to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Christmas day. I knew there would be great gifts for me. When I got there I could not wait to open my gift. With all the family around, I sought mine out, began to tear it open and was thrilled to begin to play with it. However, my attitude quickly change a few minutes later, when I realized my cousin, who was only two months older than I, received a gift from Grandma and Grandpa as well. “What gives?” I thought. I believed that Christmas, and specifically Grandma and Grandpa giving gifts, was exclusive to me. I did not like it that my grandparents generosity and grace extended to anyone but myself.
That is the attitude of Jonah here. He cannot believe that God would be gracious, merciful, and forgiving to his enemy. Jonah wants God to be gracious, merciful, loving, and forgiving, but he does not want God to be that all the time to all people. Jonah throws a pity party similar to Elijah after he killed the prophets of Baal. Elijah questioned if God had done all He had through Elijah just to see him on his own, secluded, and lonely as a righteous prophet (1 Kings 19). But God reminds Elijah, as he will Jonah shortly, that His grace falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45).
While Jonah’s attitude was misguided, it is through Jehovah’s actions that we will see Jonah’s Reaction is Flawed. Jonah because of his anger, self-pity, and selfishness, he goes out from the city (and away from God) to continue pouting (4:5). But even when the prophet “runs” from God a second time here, what does God do? He appoints a plant to relieve Jonah’s discomfort due to the heat (4:6). Jehovah is showing Jonah grace and mercy despite his sinful attitude (Psalm 103:10). But God does not stop there. Next He appoints a worm to eat the plant and an east wind to teach Jonah a lesson (4:8). God is showing Jonah that the prophet is more content with creature comforts than with the Creator’s control. And even at this point we see the prophet’s Reaction is still Flawed.
Jonah responds to God’s blessing in the plant and discipline in the worm and wind by requesting to die one more time (4:8). However, Jehovah reveals His character once again by patiently dealing with Jonah. He simply asks Jonah a rhetorical question to get the prophet thinking (4:9). Then God drives home the lesson. He shows Jonah patience, love, forgiveness and grace, not by wiping the complaining prophet out, but by drawing the real life application from the real life illustration (4:10-11). God points out Jonah’s pity for the plant that he did nothing to create or sustain. Then God compares that to His own pity for Nineveh which He did everything to create and sustain. Jehovah’s point is this: Jonah cared more about a plant, than he did for people! Jehovah’s actions show mercy, grace, patience, love, and forgiveness unconditionally to all, both a disobedient prophet and a disobedient people.
While Jonah’s Reaction is Flawed demonstrated by his attitude, Jehovah’s actions are perfect. His grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness are all exhibited in His dealing with Jonah and Nineveh. And these attributes of God are exhibited perfectly years later on a hill called Calvary. It is at this hill and on a cross that God mostly clearly reveals His mercy, grace, love, patience, and forgiveness. And He does so not just for prophets and priests, but for the enemies of God (Romans 5:8). Have you recognized this love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness? More importantly, have you recognized yourself as the enemy of God in need of a great Savior who loves and forgives you? Or are you like Jonah, whose Reaction is Flawed? Are you grateful when God is gracious, merciful, and loving with you, but upset when He is with others? Do you realize the mercy God has shown for you a great sinner and desire for others to see that as well?
Thanks for joining us for this series on Jonah. In case you missed any part of this series you can find part 1: Resistance is Futile and part 2: Rescue is Fishy and part 3: Repentance is Favored by following the links. Thanks for reading! As always I love to read from my readers!
October 3, 2013 at 11:31 am
I hope you are preaching through this :-). So thankful for God’s great grace in our lives as well!
September 30, 2013 at 12:41 pm
Great teaching and application from Jonah. Thank you!
September 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm
Thanks for reading Debbie. It’s good to know there are others benefiting from this. I appreciate it. Hope things are going good for you and yours, miss ya around DBCS!