This is when it’s comforting to return to church and listen to the same truths that have been repeated down through some two or more thousand years. Today’s sermon covered Jonah’s anger at God for being merciful to the people of Nineveh. It’s in Jonah 4:1-4. The anger Jonah felt vexed him to the point that he prayed a simple prayer, “…take, I beseech thee, my life from me…” Now, that’s mad. He returned to Nineveh, carried out the Lord’s mission and now he was done with it.
Yes, Nineveh was a great enemy of Israel. Crying against that city for its’ sins meant that Nineveh would continue to exist and bedevil Israel should they repent. They did repent and God was merciful to them. Jonah absolutely did not agree with God’s actions.
At the beginning, Jonah’s problem was that he was running from God. It was disobedience. It was his sin. God was merciful even to him. Rather than die by being thrown overboard, God prepared a fish to swallow him. It was then that he cried to the Lord, “out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” (Jonah 2:2) The fish spit him out on dry land.
After this ordeal Jonah was willing to go to Nineveh. While there he was an eyewitness to the glory of God. The hearts of the people, including their king, cried unto God. To see such a large city overcome with contrition had to be inspirational. But, no, Jonah saw how merciful God was to them and was moved to anger. So much so that he thought that he could tell God to just zap him and that would be it. But I Corinthians 6:19 tells us that we are not our own. We are God’s. After all, He is the Creator.
God answers Jonah a third time. “Doest thou well to be angry?” God is pointing out to him how he is living his life. He needs God’s grace just as everyone does. Not just for today but for tomorrow, too.