Jonah 3:10-4:11 (ESV)
10 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's Anger and the Lord's Compassion
4 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly,[a] and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plant[b] and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort.[c]So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered.8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Jonah is in fine form in today's passage, claiming that he is so mad and that God the parent is so unfair, that Jonah would rather be dead: “And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live;” “It is better for me to die than to live.” Then, just in case God didn't hear him the first two times, “Yes, angry enough to die.”
Admittedly, Jonah had good reason for righteous anger towards Ninevah, Assyria’s capital. The Lutheran Study Bible says that Assyria was a feared enemy of the people of Israel, defeating them in 722 B.C.E. and forcing many people to leave their homes.
It has been decades since I made dramatic statements to my mom, incredulous that she didn't recognize how irritating my little brother was, and how deserving of my vengeance. But like Jonah, I can still be blinded by anger, losing perspective about all the ways God blesses me that deserve my gratitude. Often I am like Ninevah, needing God’s mercy and correction.
I love that like a good parent, God doesn't give up on whiny Jonah. God teaches him, so that Jonah too can repent and be reconciled to God: “And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” And I love that God can use us, like Jonah, even when we are grumpy.
Gracious God, thank you for forgiving us, teaching us, and reconciling us to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Written by Kristen Schmid Schurter Coordinator of Spiritual Gifts Ministries firstname.lastname@example.org