The Pouting Prophet

Krista Williams

Day: 33 | Plan: Prone to Wander

Today's Reading: Jonah 4

Jonah 4:1 (ESV) "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry."

Jonah 3 ended with these thrilling words: "When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it" (Jonah 3:10).

Cue the confetti! It's time to celebrate!

Isn't this what should happen next? After all, what prophet wouldn't be excited after seeing God's merciful salvation come to more than 120,000 people who radically repent of their evil ways? Not Jonah; he is furious. In fact, he's so angry that he wants to die. (Jonah 4:3)

Seems like an odd reaction, except when we remember Nineveh was known for its sinfulness, idolatry and brutality. Jonah knows God is merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love — but Jonah must have thought the Ninevites didn't deserve God's grace, even if they repented.

Emotionally, Jonah's in a bad place. There's a tone of discontentment and dissatisfaction in Jonah's prayer, as he turns the height of praise into a complaint. Not only is he angry and dramatically ready to die because of God's mercy and compassion toward the wicked Ninevites, but he also decides to find a strategic spot outside of the city to sit and sulk.

Scripture doesn't tell us exactly what Jonah wants to happen, but based on his state of mind, it seems he secretly desires for God to destroy the great city of Nineveh.

Jonah watches and waits in anticipation to see what happens to Nineveh. Will Nineveh's repentance and revival be short-lived? Will they revert to their old ways again? Will God overturn Nineveh in 40 days?

Then all of a sudden, to Jonah's surprise as his anger burns inside, God appoints a plant or vine to grow. This vine is such a beautiful, unexpected blessing from God, shading and saving Jonah from any discomfort he might be experiencing while he waits.

Now Jonah's ready to celebrate! And he's not just a little happy; Jonah is very happy. He is "exceedingly glad" because of the plant (Jonah 4:6). Well, that is until the next day when God appoints a worm to attack the plant, and it withers. Then God appoints a scorching east wind to blow, making Jonah feel faint. Instantly, Jonah is so angry that he's ready to die … again.

We usually don't get all of these last chapter details in the Sunday school version of Jonah's story. However, if the book of Jonah was merely the story of a reluctant prophet who after being swallowed by a big fish prays and surrenders, obeys God, delivers God's message, people repent, revival breaks out and salvation comes to the entire city of Nineveh, this book would have ended on a celebratory note in chapter 3.

Yes, the book of Jonah teaches us that God's grace and compassion are limitless and He extends it to the whole world. But God is up to so much more. God is tenderly tilling the soil of Jonah's stubborn heart (and ours) to show him (and us) there is something selfish and spiritually stingy sprouting inside.

You see, the truth that God is gracious and merciful … slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love is pleasing to Jonah as long as it's applied to him and the nation of Israel. But when God widens the scope of His compassion to include the Ninevites, Jonah is not so pleased with the character of God.

Perhaps the last chapter of the book of Jonah is written to unveil the places in our hearts that are unresponsive or unyielding or unloving. Maybe there are places deep in our hearts where we are holding on to hurt, and we are unwilling to trust God's sovereignty. Possibly, like Jonah, we've become consumed and concerned with the wrong things. Or maybe worse, we have become spiritually stingy.

This chapter is convicting because it makes me stop to examine my heart by asking serious questions like:

  • Do my concerns line up with God's concerns?
  • Am I genuinely concerned for the lost souls around me or is my concern for my own comfort what consumes me?

Then it goes deeper to beg the questions,

  • Who are the Ninevites in my life — the people who have hurt me or persecuted me?
  • Am I ok with the fact that God extends His mercy and compassion to them?
  • Am I willing to extend the compassion of Christ to them?
  • Where am I being selfish … or self-centered … or stubborn … or spiritually stingy when it comes to sharing the mercy and compassion of Christ?

Friends, the real scope of the width of God's mercy is found in the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross. That's the length and depth and breadth to which the love of God will go. So how can we, who know the grace and mercy of Christ in our lives, be less than gracious and merciful to others?

I wonder if after studying Jonah, each of us will be willing to get out of our places of comfort to move into areas of discomfort for the sake of others and the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Thank You for Your abundant provision of grace and mercy and love extended to me through Jesus Christ. Today, tenderly reveal those areas in my life where I'm unloving or ungracious or unmerciful toward the challenging or difficult people in my own life who stir up wrong emotions in my heart. Lord, would You widen my soul and deepen the scope of Your mercy and love extended through me far beyond anything I'm capable of doing on my own. In Jesus' name, amen.

More Moments:

Have you ever been concerned about the wrong things?

In our chapter today, Jonah is... Read More

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