Debra Isenbletter, PastorChristian Assembly, Springfield, Missouri
In this final chapter (Ch. 4) we have another insight into Jonah’s character and another revelation of God’s Grace. Jonah is angry and disappointed at the sparing of Nineveh, he still has much to learn and the Lord patiently teaches him another lesson. God had prepared a great fish for Jonah in chapter 1. Now He prepares three additional things for Jonah. He prepares a gourd, a worm and a vehement east wind. Each are instruments He uses to teach Jonah a lesson. It is a lesson he cannot ignore and at the end of the lesson we do not know if Jonah has learned anything.
I like to believe that he did finally see what the Lord was trying to teach him. He had learned it in the belly of the fish but it had not taken hold. He learned it pertaining to himself but not others. Now that previous lesson is reinforced gently but strongly, it is the lesson about God’s grace and His sovereignty. In chapter 1 Jonah is like the prodigal son who went his own way, went to a far country. In chapter 4 Jonah is like the elder brother who is angry and unhappy at how his father responded to his younger brother. (Luke 15:25-32). Jonah is also like the unmerciful servant (Mat.18:32-33) with his unforgiving attitude. Both the elder brother and the wicked servant did not understand grace through it had been revealed to them.
This is the lesson Jesus tried to teach the Jews that the majority refused to see or accept. This is the lesson the remnant will learn through tribulation. When they learn it, they will finally be able to minister to the Gentiles with the right attitude during the Millennium.
Jonah 4:1— “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.”
This chapter begins with Jonah’s anger, with his strong emotional reaction to what God has done and not done. What God has done is spare Nineveh. What God has not done is destroy Nineveh. We see the little word “it” but this little word points to something that is great. It points to Nineveh’s repentance and to God’s grace. Both were visible, both were obvious and both were wonderful, yet Jonah was “displeased,” he was upset, he was angry. The word “displeased” comes from a root that means “to be broken up with any violent actions.” It can be translated as “tremble, quiver” or “grieved.”
You can just picture Jonah’s anger, it is such that he trembles with it, he can hardly contain it. It is not a little anger, it is “exceeding” anger, or “great” anger. If we use the word great in connection with his anger, then it can be added to the other greats in this book, “great city;” “great storm;” “great fish;” “great kindness.” Jonah’s great anger stands in stark contrast to God’s great kindness and shows just how different he is in his attitude toward these Gentiles from God’s attitude. What is so sad is that their great repentance and God’s great grace brought great anger instead of great joy.
Jonah was not just “displeased exceedingly” but he was “very angry.” There is no doubt about what he is feeling, he does not hide it and he cannot contain it. The phrase “very angry” comes from “to glow, to melt, to burn, to blaze up.” This really expresses the strength and intensity of his feelings. Being “very angry” can express several different emotions, “anger,” “jealousy” or “zeal.” I think Jonah felt all of these emotions and felt they were all justified. It seems like this anger was warped or twisted, that he was stuck in that angry mode. All he could see was that they were wicked Gentiles and they deserved to be punished. There was no room for that attitude to change even if they changed.
Jonah did have a right to be angry at Nineveh’s wickedness but he did not have a right to be angry at Nineveh’s repentance. This is not righteous anger and it is not justified anger, it is not godly anger, it is fleshly anger. God can be angry with sin and He is but He can also have compassion on the sinner and He does. If he did not have compassion on the sinner who repents, how could the sinner be saved?
What is sad is how soon Jonah forgot God’s response to his own repentance in chapter 2. Jonah forgot that God showed compassion to him, or he did not make the connection to two lessons. First, if God could show compassion to Jonah, He could show compassion for Nineveh. Second, if God could show compassion to Nineveh, Jonah could show compassion to Nineveh.
You can see a parallel in the parable of the prodigal son in the elder son’s anger (Luk.15:25-30) and the father’s gracious answer (Luk.15:31-320) and in the parable of the unforgiving debtor, who was forgiven by his master (Mat.18:26-27) and would not forgive another servant (Mat.18:28-30).
Jonah’s attitude is a picture of the attitude of the Jews in the New Testament. They felt their anger was justified. They had a religious zeal, they saw themselves as righteous. They had a religious anger toward the Gentiles, they saw them as unrighteous. They also had a religious jealousy when the Gentiles were accepted through the gospel. They did not think they were worthy.
Jonah’s attitude is also a picture of the saint’s attitude in forgiveness. The saint is to put on the character of Christ which seen in the garments Paul speaks of in Colossians (Col.3:12-13). When those garments are put on, then the saint is able to forgive as he has been forgiven (Col.3:13; Eph.4:31-32).
Jonah experienced the grace of God and His forgiveness, he did not realize this lesson was to be passed on to others through him. The Lord will hear Jonah, say very little but He will show him a lot and what He shows Jonah will speak volumes. In the end, the choice will be left up to Jonah to receive or reject the lesson the Lord teaches him.
To be continued