Not everyone is happy when God saves souls … be it one or two here and there or larger numbers. Some become furious whilst many sing with joy. True believers ought to rejoice when souls come to a true conversion experience and are Born Again.
Lk 15:7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Surely God would want all His saints to rejoice when even just one soul’s future eternity is diverted from eternal hell to eternal heaven. Yet … sometimes a parent, spouse, friend, colleague or employer might become seriously angered when a family member, friend, work mate or employee becomes a believer because there is an instant change. There is a new life in Christ and this means that all the old ways such as drunkenness, filthy language, under the counter business, gossip, deceit and sexual immorality, just to mention a few matters cease. In other words, no more drinking with the boys or girls; no more dirty business; not more one night stands, no more coarse joking and things like that.
1) Jonah was so unhappy that he was angry because the citizenship of Nineveh repented and believed
Jnh 4:1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.
People were saved and this prophet was “greatly displeased” which turned into anger! The text does not say that he was angry with the people or king of Nineveh. No … he was angry with God. The revised NIV states … “this seemed very wrong, and he became angry”. The first part might help us to understand his anger but the last part is far too weak. The words from the older edition … “greatly displeased and became angry” captures a better meaning of the first part … “greatly displeased” literally means “It was evil to Jonah a great evil.” The writer is picking up on the word “evil” from chapter 3v10. He is almost saying that God pardoning and saving the Ninevites is as evil as the evil ways of the people. One needs to be very careful here. Jonah was not in a space of understanding the salvific heart of God towards all people everywhere. Like us, he was on a learning curve. Although his reaction of burning rage towards God was very wicked … God did not punish him. Here we see the Father Heart of God! Although the Psalmist is not giving license to sin … God, he says:
Ps 103:10 does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
Having said the above, we may not replay God’s response to Jonah and think we can be irritated with God and allow this to gravitate to fury. To sin against God in a small way or big way is sinning against the person and character of God. We must never take His Loving Fatherly Heart for granted!
2) The good thing Jonah did was take his problem to God.
Jnh 4:2 He prayed to the LORD.
Other Old Testament prophets, when confused about God’s ways also resorted to prayer. Take two examples from Jeremiah:
Jer 12:1 You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?
Jer 15:18 Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?
Nothing is coincidental! I had some difficulties today. I never planned them nor created them, yet they hit and hit hard. The last was the lock of the study door would not work. For a specific reason I remove my laptop, tablet and chargers and put them in the study / storeroom once a week. Because the door was hard to close I would lock the door. Today when I wanted to open the door, the key was missing. When I eventually found the key the lock unlocked but the door handle would not release the trigger and there was simply no way for me to open the door. Eventually I needed to call a locksmith and pay the after hour fee. He struggled for more than an hour but succeeded to break the jammed part of the lock, piece by piece through the smallest hole. Why did this happen. I cried to the Lord. Why … I am under so much pressure and why this? The answer came to me … it was ridiculously simple! I watched the locksmith working away without complaining. When he was done I said to him … “I don’t have the patience you have. I would have broken the door.” There was my answer … “I don’t have the patience you have!” Stop. Slow down. Chill. Let the pressure pass. That was the answer to my prayer … “Why did this happen and happen right now?” Patience! Learn it, practice it … do it! Without being a hypocrite because my lesson was learned … When you don’t understand how God is working in your life and circumstances … stop and pray … cry out to the Lord … and be willing to receive the answer He is ready to provide you with.
3) The shape of Jonah’s prayer.
Jnh 4:2 “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee 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. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
(1) He is respectful. He addresses God by His real name … LORD. Irrespective of whether we are upset or angry, when we speak to God in prayer we must always remember to whom we are speaking. God is the Sovereign Being and He is the owner of the believing soul. He is totally holy in His majesty, glorious in His righteousness and perfectly upright in His justice. He spoke and all creation existed out of nothing. When created angels rebelled, He cast them into the fiery furnace.
(2) Having said that, he seems to imply that his word (what I said) ought to have overruled God’s Word to him. If we can read into the text it could be something like this … “Lord, You said I must go and preach repentance in Nineveh and I said to You, no, because You are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” He has not yet understood the deeper meaning of God wanting the pagans to repent from their sin. He could not see they influenced a wider region with their wickedness and God wanted him, Jonah to go there and preach God’s message to them. Yes God could have done it without Him … but God uses us weak, frail beings as His messengers.
O God, grant us wisdom to know and understand what You are doing in our personal sphere on an ongoing basis so that we avoid being angry with You because of our immaturity. We ask in Jesus name. Amen.