But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
— Jonah 4
Anger seems to be a daily part of life; whether it is the subtle annoyance that occurs when your phone rings at just the wrong moment, the deeper frustration of dealing with Atlanta traffic, or the profound anger that can be brought about by witnessing injustice in the world, this emotion pervades our lives and society. Think through your last few days. When have you been angry? What has sparked this feeling?
Jonah grows frustrated with God since the Almighty has chosen to spare Nineveh of the destruction which he had prophesied for them.
God’s response to Jonah’s angry prayer is to ask “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Read Exodus 32:1–14.
Jonah relishes the shade that God provides him through the plant that grows over him.
When Jonah loses his shade and sits beneath the hot sunlight, he again grows angry with God.
God’s response to Jonah’s continued anger is to remind him that God’s concern for the inhabitants of Nineveh is greater than any human concern.
Jonah has been called the Silent Prophet, as the majority of his speaking occurs not to those to whom he has been called to prophesy but rather with God. Even once he has relented in his avoidance of God’s call, Jonah still cannot accept God’s grace and mercy for either himself or other people.
Lord God, we tend to view You and Your actions through our own eyes and our own understandings, rather than seeking to see them through Your eyes. We can grow angry with things that are completely out of our control, even while they are working towards Your ultimate good. Help us to see the world as You see it. Help us to understand Your plan, as much as is humanly possible, and most of all, help us to grow with You that we might live our lives in accordance with Your will for us. In Jesus’ name we pray; amen.
The book of Jonah is much more than a story about a man who went overboard and ended up in the belly of a whale; it’s also about the way God goes overboard to show his love to the world. Join us as we look into the book and listen to God’s heart!