But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 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. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
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. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 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.” 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.” 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. 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 4:1-11, ESV
There is a reason many children’s Sunday School lessons stop at the end of Jonah 3. In the first three chapters, Jonah is the bad prophet who runs away from God but, through an experience of God’s disciplining grace, is offered a second chance to serve his Lord. His reluctant sermon reaches the king and leads to city-wide repentance. If we were making up the story, we would end it there. But nobody is making it up—the story is true.
After the repentance of Nineveh and God’s forgiveness of that wicked city, Jonah gripes and grumbles. He is angry with God for being merciful. He is so angry that he asks God to kill him. Jonah does not want to go on in a world where God forgives evil Ninevites. When God challenges his right to be angry, Jonah goes out to a hill to sit and watch the city. I believe he is still hoping that they will slip up and God will destroy them after all.
There on the hill, God teaches Job a lesson. He brings him comfort in the form of a shade tree. Then God kills the shade tree and lets Jonah suffer sunstroke. Jonah is again angry enough at God to wish to die. God says, “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. 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?”
Friends, there simply cannot be anything more important to us than the life of our fellow man. It is a great shame that a policeman in Minneapolis did not believe that to be true. It is a great shame that violent rioters and looters who are killing and ruining lives across our nation do not believe that. May God hear our prayers, change their hearts, and bring peace to our land.
And may we learn the lesson of Jonah. When God calls us to go make disciples of all peoples, he is calling us to go to those who are different from us, be it their nationality or skin color or culture. We should go simply because God is the one calling. But we should also go because we love them, for they are our neighbors. And that love should not only propel us to go but also lead us to show that love whenever we can.
I am prying for you and praying with you that God will heal our land by the power of the gospel.