Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Pouting Prophet

Jonah 4:1-10

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.  And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.  “Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:1-3)

Jonah hated the Assyrians and refused to go to Nineveh when God told him to.  Three days and nights in the fish’s belly convinced him to go despite his hatred, but he was like a rebellious child, doing the least possible, to keep from receiving more punishment.   He offered no reason for hope, just the eight word message, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”   He is so upset that they have turned to
God and will not be destroyed he asked God to just let him die. 

When the people of Nineveh repented of the sin, Jonah got mad and blamed God.  He had deliberately gone toward Tarshish because he was afraid those people would repent, and that if they did, God was a merciful God and would forgive them.  He was far more concerned about what he wanted than what God wanted.  Unfortunately many Christians today have a similar attitude and think they deserve great rewards for doing what God has told them.  Luke 17:10 says that if we have only done what we were commanded to, we’ve not produced anything extra and don’t deserve special praise or rewards.  “likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

In I Corinthians 9:16-17, Paul makes a similar statement.  “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!  For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.”  We’ve been commissioned to tell others.  It is our duty to tell others.  Our attitude about it is what will determine whether we receive rewards for doing it.  When we are resentful about having to do it, we cannot even have the pleasure of having done our job well.   

“Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)

God asked Jonah if he had the right to be mad.  After all he was doing what God had told him to do, which was the job he had undertaken as a prophet.  Jonah never answered God. 

“So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.” (Jonah 4:5)

Jonah went out and set up a place to sit while he sulked and watched to see whether he would get his way or not. 

“And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” (Jonah 4:6)

God caused a gourd vine to grow up over the booth Jonah had made and give him shade while he sulked, probably to remind Jonah that he did care about Jonah, and that he was God.  Jonah thoroughly appreciated the shade God gave. 

“But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.  And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:7-8)

The next day, a worm ate through the stem of the gourd, killing it.  A little later a strong east wind started blowing and the hot sun and east wind quickly dried out the gourd so the leaves blew away, leaving Jonah sitting in the sun, like he had been before.   In a very real, practical way, God showed Jonah that as God, he could bless him or not as he pleased.  Jonah reverted back to his pity party, insisting he would be better off dead since God wasn’t blessing him. 

“And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?

And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:9-11)

God again asked Jonah if he really had the right to be angry about God letting a gourd vine die.  Jonah insisted he did because the vine meant so much to him, justifying even his wish to die.  God then pointed out that the vine had was just a weed that had grown overnight, and Jonah had had nothing to do with its growth.  If Jonah thought he had that right to be upset about such a gourd vine which has no ability to think or make decisions, didn’t he think God had the right to be upset at the death of more than 600,000 people who God had created, who didn’t know how to choose what they should do, besides the thousands of cattle they had? 

Over the years, I have observed a lot of Christians with attitudes like Jonah’s.  Sometimes it is a pastor or missionary who has not attained the fame and fortune they hoped to get in the ministry or who keep looking back at some career they might have had if they hadn’t gone into the ministry.  Sometimes it has been a husband or wife who resents having to fulfill their marriage vows to a mate who isn’t as attractive or successful as they had hoped to make them.  Other people resent being stuck in a certain town or living in a house that is not as nice as they wanted because of where God has led them.   Like Jonah, they are more concerned with their own desires and comfort than with what God wants.

As I mentioned earlier, present day estimates place Nineveh’s population at 100,000-150,000 people,  Those estimates are based on the size and number of permanent structures in the inner fortress, the structures built by the wealthy or at government expense.  As the scripture indicates, the actual population of the area was at least four to six times that large, but since most of their homes were not constructed of such durable materials or protected by the walls, they have not survived.    Even official census records do not provide accurate population figures since they are primarily concerned with how many men are available for military service or to pay taxes.  As a result modern estimates of ancient populations are far smaller than ancient records indicate.  


  1. Dear Donald,
    Giving the attitude and threat of the Assyrians to the nation of Israel, it is easily understood how Jonah felt about his mission to Nineveh. Yet despite his wilful disobedience and anger against God, this short but enlightening story tells of God's patience towards the prophet. If his salvation remains secure, due to God's sovereignty and predestination, how much more for us, who are also recipients of the Holy Spirit, are able to love and serve the Lord out of the willingness of are hearts.

  2. Amen. Jonah did not lose his salvation because he disobeyed. We who have recieved the Holy Spirit will not either.