The Pouty Prophet Pt 1
Devotion In Motion
Jonah 4:1-5 NKJV
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.
Vs.11 says 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?”
(in other words, children who still haven’t learned to distinguish their right from left) – and much livestock?” Jonah cared more about a miserable plant than he did the people of Nineveh – even its 120,000 children. Let me share a news story that parallels what we just read… Just recently the US government said that they were going to restrict a life saving covid therapy Called monoclonal Antibody Infusion.
The reason the US government is doing this is because those in Power have a very different political view than that of the Governor of Florida. The Governor of Florida is thinking about how many people this therapy could save while the US Government is using the packets as a tool to hurt The Governor and all it’s doing is hurting the people because of a different political philosophy. Well, if you think through it biblically ,the state of Florida has the Bible on its side. The Creator made men and women after His own image. Humans are far more important than hurt feelings or any political agenda.
This is the message in Jonah 4. As far as God is concerned an eternal soul is infinitely more valuable than a thing or a feeling. People are of greater worth than plants. Men and women are more significant than feelings. After Jonah’s exit from the fish, God spoke to Jonah again, and this time he obeyed. He answered God’s call to travel to Nineveh and warn the city of a coming judgment. The people, even the king, repented. A great revival broke out. The largest city in the world turned to the one, true God.
The Lord spared Nineveh. The last verse in Chapter 3 tells us, “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” At the end of chapter 3 everyone is happy! Heaven is happy. Angels are happy. God is happy. The citizens of Nineveh are happy. The king of Nineveh is happy. Even the livestock in Nineveh are happy. They can finally lose the sackcloth and eat again. Remember, in Luke 15:10 Jesus said, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” It takes just one person to admit their sin and turn to the Savior, for all heaven to throw a party. Well, imagine the celebration that went down in heaven when a whole metropolis repented. At the end of Chapter 3 everyone is rejoicing with one exception…
Chapter 4:1, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.” When God called Jonah a second time to go to Nineveh his movement was different – he ran with God, not from God. But though his direction changed, his motivation was the same. Jonah still hated Ninevites… When he talked about God’s coming judgment on Nineveh he did it with a smile on his face. He relished the thought. He probably smiled as he warned. It’s as if he was saying, “Yet 40 days and I can’t wait until Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Jonah thought the Hebrews were the only people entitled to know God.
In fact, he’d rather die, than share God with Gentiles as bad as the Assyrians. How would you like to have a pastor like Jonah? A pastor you knew hated you and despised the fact God saved you? A preacher who stayed away from you because he expected that at any moment fire from heaven would fall on your head. That’s how he prayed! Well, that’s the kind of preacher God sent Nineveh, yet remarkably mighty things occurred. The Assyrians were saved more despite Jonah than because of him. This is why Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:41, “The men of Nineveh will rise in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”
Nineveh believed a man who hated them, while the Pharisees rejected Jesus, a man who loved them enough to die in their place. And as Jesus said, these Ninevites will be called to testify against the Pharisees on the day of judgment. Evidently, Jonah couldn’t turn loose of his past or his prejudice. When Jonah preached he obeyed in action, but not in attitude. Jonah was like the out-of-control school boy who was running around in the classroom. His frustrated teacher made him sit in the corner. Later he told a friend. “I may’ve been sitting on the outside, but I was still running around on the inside.”
And this was Jonah. His feet might’ve obeyed God, but his heart was still in rebellion to God’s will. Jonah went to Nineveh and preached… but he was upset with the results. Jonah had been waiting for fire to fall. He was angry that God chose to show mercy. Realize, Jonah hated Assyrians for all the right reasons. Their crimes were savage. They preyed on the innocent. Nineveh deserved justice not mercy… In Jonah’s mind, it was okay for God to be merciful to him, but how could God be merciful to Ninevites? And this is the mistake we make at times. We’re happy to be the miracle case – the trophy of God’s grace – but then we pick out a person or people, and say it can’t happen for them?
They’re too far gone. They’re not worthy to be saved, as if anyone is worthy to be saved. Jonah didn’t realize that God is “rich in mercy,” and eager to extend it to anyone who repents! Verse 2, “So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country?” This is why Jonah didn’t want to go in the first place. This is what he feared would happen. Some people accuse Jonah of not knowing God, but the opposite was true. Jonah’s problem was that he did know God. He knew Him very well. He knew the width and breadth of God’s love.
How eager God is to save. There’s a hymn with these lyrics, “There is a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea.” Not even the boundaries of the sea are broad enough to take in God’s mercy. To realize how encompassing are the mercies of God you have to go to the cross and see Jesus’ outstretched arms. That’s how wide His mercies are! Every sin and every sinner are taken into account within His outstretched arms! Jonah knew God was so kind and gracious that if the Ninevites showed a mere inkling of repentance and faith God would jump at the chance to save them…
He says, “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.” This is how God revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 34. Usually, Exodus 34 is read as a praise, but Jonah quotes it as a complaint. “I knew this would happen. Assyria deserves to fry in hell, but God is so gracious, and merciful – give Him half-a-chance, and He’ll mess everything up and show forgiveness!” This is why he tried escaping to Tarshish. We need to realize, prejudice made Jonah one sick pup. Instead of rejoicing, he became resentful and pouty. Racism can make a person irrational.
A bigot makes dumb statements. In fact, Jonah is so bummed out he wants to die. He says, “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” Jonah is a Jew, and God’s Law forbids suicide. In fact, suicide is the ultimate selfishness. All the person pulling the trigger thinks about is his or her own pain, not his loved ones who have to navigate the results. His loved ones will be worse off without them. Jonah could never commit suicide so he asks God to take his life. The prophet is so proud in the stance he’s taken – so stubborn in his bigotry toward Ninevites – he would rather die than be wrong and show mercy.
I know people like Jonah. They’re so eaten up with pride and prejudice – that even when confronted with the truth, they refuse to admit the error of their ways. What happens next is so wise. Verse 4 tells us, “Then the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Notice, God doesn’t confront Jonah with a stern rebuke. He doesn’t engage the prejudiced person in an argument, or a shouting match. God is patient, gentle, and kind. He appeals to the Prophet’s sense of right and wrong… “Is it right for you to be angry?” God loves to ask questions. This is how he humbled Job. He asked him a series of questions he couldn’t answer. God loves to stir our thinking with questions. Here He asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?” But Jonah refuses to answer.
He has no response. He pleads the Fifth. He doesn’t answer on the grounds it might incriminate him. Jonah isn’t interested in discerning right from wrong. He’s just into Jonah. Which leads to Jonah’s actions in verse 5, “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.” Jonah hasn’t given up his prejudice. He’s still hoping God will rain fire down on Nineveh, like He did on Sodom – send the city up in smoke. That’s why Jonah keeps his distance. He climbs a hill east of the city. Of course, the summer heat in Mosul, Iraq can reach 125-130 degrees, so Jonah builds a lean-to with an awning that’ll provide him shelter from the blistering sun.
In essence, Jonah builds a luxury box, and settles in to watch God torch Nineveh with some fireworks. Even after the greatest spiritual awakening of all time, Jonah still believes God will torch Nineveh. Jonah hated Nineveh. He believed they were beyond redemption, so he denied all the evidence that contradicted his belief… This revival never happened. Nineveh didn’t really repent, and God couldn’t relent. Jonah’s bigotry blocks out all the evidence, and he retreats into his own little world to wait for judgment. Always remember “Denial” is not just a river in Egypt. You can build your own false reality with planks of prejudice. Jonah’s bigotry had denied the truth.
And a loving and merciful God is about to worm His way through Jonah’s denial to break into his isolation. The story of Jonah reminds me of the wise way Jesus dealt with the bias of the Jews. Jesus engaged them not with confrontation, but with an illustration. He told the story of two sons… The younger brother asked his father for his inheritance; then wasted it on wild living and loose women. The boy ended up as low as Jew can go – he took a job slopping hogs. That’s when Jesus says the boy “came to himself.” It dawned on him. He realized his father handled his servants – his hired-hands – better than he was being treated. So the son humbled himself, and returned to his father, and begged for mercy – a job back on the ranch. But when the son returned home the Father saw him at a distance, ran to greet him, fell on his neck, kissed him, and showed compassion. The dad forgave his son, clothed him in his finest clothes, he even killed the fatted calf, and ordered a feast to celebrate his return. Everyone was happy when the prodigal son returned, except… the older brother… As a side note there was one other person who wasn’t really happy with what went down? Any guesses? The fatted calf The calf’s last words were, “Eat Mor Chikin.”
When people remember the parable of the Prodigal Son they usually forget there were two sons … Jesus though, emphasized the reaction of the older brother. When mercy was shown toward his kid brother, “He was angry and would not go in. Therefore his Father came out and pleaded with him.” Sounds like Jonah… After Nineveh repented Jonah should’ve gone into the city and started a Bible study, a holy party, to teach the people about the one true God and their newfound faith.
Instead, Jonah camps outside on the east-side of the city. Jonah also got angry and “would not go in.” In Jesus’ parable the Father has to leave the party to reason with his son. And this is what God does with Jonah. He leaves the celebration inside the repentant city to reason with a stubborn Jonah. And God is going to speak to the prophet in a powerful, yet personal way. And The Lord still works the same way with me and you. We need to understand that the Lord left heaven to come and save you and me and he did that by showing us the tremendous love he has for each of us. All we have to do is look at the cross and all prejudices, anger, lust, poutiness, should be pushed to the side.
Amen, Victor Tafoya
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