THE POUTING PROPHET
by Dean Robinson
Chapter 3 concluded with the scene of Nineveh experiencing genuine revival sent from God as the people repented of their sin and believed on the true and living God. The abundant mercy of God had been gloriously displayed as the entire city was spared the righteous judgment of God. Instead of rejoicing at what had just transpired, we see Jonah in chapter 4 upset and angry over the tender lovingkindness of God. In this chapter Jonah was made to realize that God in His love and compassion for others was not only gracious and infinite, but also reasonable and just, according to His own sovereign purpose and will.
I. JONAH'S DISPLEASURE vs. 1-3
A. His Angry Outrage, v.1.
1. Jonah was extremely unhappy over the results in Nineveh. While the city was no doubt rejoicing over God's divine demonstration of His unfailing mercy, Jonah was upset and frustrated.
2. Jonah's outrage over what had happened is emphasized by describing him being “exceedingly” displeased and “very” angry. He should have fallen on his knees in gratitude and praise to God for Nineveh's preservation. The Bible teaches there is joy in heaven over "one sinner that repenteth", Luke15:7, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
B. His Bitter Outcry, vs.2-3.
1. Jonah delivers a weak excuse for his disobedience by explaining that he knew God to be a God of unlimited grace, mercy, patience, and kindness and he was afraid the Ninevites would be spared and forgiven, v.2; Exodus 34:6-7, “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” Joel 2:13, “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” Jonah was more upset over God's abundant mercy than his own flagrant disobedience. What Jonah completely overlooked was the fact that he himself was a product of the mercy of God. If it had not been for these divine qualities of God, Jonah would still be in the belly of the fish.
2. Out of total frustration and displeasure, Jonah foolishly cries out to God to take his life away, v.3. Death seemed more preferable to Jonah than to submit to the perfect plan and purpose of God. He had already concluded that Nineveh did not deserve God's pardon. While he had received pardoning mercy from the Lord when he repented, he was not willing for Nineveh to have the same because they were Israel's enemies. Jonah was not complaining that God was a God of mercy and grace, rather he was displeased where God chose to display that mercy and grace.
II. GOD'S DENUNCIATION vs.4-11
A. Divine Preparations Made For Jonah, vs. 4-8.
1. In order to get Jonah to see his own sinful behavior of sulking and resentment, God pointedly asked him if there was any reasonable grounds or justification for his anger, v. 4. The question God asked Jonah implied that his anger was totally uncalled for and dishonoring to God.
2. Jonah's response to God's question was to go outside the city walls on the eastside and build for himself a small temporary place of shelter in order that he may watch and wait to see what the ultimate fate of the city would be, v. 5. This booth served to provide Jonah shade from the burning rays of the hot sun. In spite of the fact that Nineveh had been spared divine judgment, Jonah still foolishly thought that maybe some form of punishment would fall upon the city. Jonah hoped that the justice of God would exceed or surpass His mercy and waited to see whether there might be a change in the plan and purpose of God concerning Nineveh. Such is the folly of a pouting and fuming spirit. With Jonah comfortably entrenched under his place of shelter, God caused a plant to grow at a miraculous pace over Jonah's booth and head, providing further shade and relief from the heat of the sun, v.6; "Grief"==wickedness, evil deeds or attitude. The principle reason for the prepared gourd was not just for Jonah's enjoyment but to reveal and correct the evil attitude of his heart. His response and reaction to the gourd ("was exceeding glad") demonstrated that he was more concerned with the comforts of the flesh than with the spiritual problems of his heart.
4. The next day God divinely prepared a devouring worm and a dry, blistering, hot wind to destroy and demolish Jonah's place of shade and rest, causing him to even despair of life, vs. 7- 8. These divine appointments or preparations made by God (1:17; 4:6-8) were God's way of showing to Jonah that a loving and longsuffering God could shield or slay His servant just as easily as He could destroy or spare a city, according to His sovereign will and purpose.
B. Divine Pity Shown By God, vs.9-11.
1. God asks Jonah if he had a justified reason to be angry because of the gourd to which Jonah stubbornly and arrogantly replies by declaring with emphasis that he had every right to be angry, even to the point of death, v.9. The question by God was to once again expose and denounce Jonah's proud and callous heart.
2. As a stern rebuke of Jonah's own self-centered attitude, the Lord compares and contrasts Jonah's pathetic sympathy for the gourd and God's boundless love and compassion for the Ninevites, vs. 10-11. God in His tender love was willing to spare the entire city of Nineveh, including 120,000 precious souls of innocent children. Jonah's care and concern was out of balance; his spiritual eyesight was blurred to the point he had a sense of pity for the gourd destroyed by worms but was greatly perturbed at God for manifesting His mercy and grace towards a city full of people in desperate need of God's forgiveness and salvation.
A key lesson on this entire book was to reveal the heart of a servant of God whose heart was not touched with the love of God for the souls of mankind. He was willing to challenge and dispute with the goodness, mercy, and love of God and try to escape from fulfilling God's will for his life in telling those without God of His marvelous grace and power to save unto the uttermost.
Like our Saviour, Jesus Christ, we must be moved with compassion towards others who are lost in their sins, Matthew 9:36, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” We must be willing to move out of our comfort zone and go into the highways and hedges to preach the gospel of Christ to every creature. If we become all wrapped up in the "gourds" of life, if we are more concerned about our own material and physical well-being than about spiritual matters and souls of men, God will send His whales, worms, and winds to wake and shake us up out of our lethargy, indifference, and apathy. We need to renew our commitment to carry out our tremendous responsibility of telling others, by our lives and lips, of Jesus Christ and His saving, life-changing gospel. Being a living testimony and witness for our Lord is our God-given duty that should be carefully and consistently obeyed "for the love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).