4 But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Come on, Lord! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. 3 At this point, Lord, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.”
4 The Lord responded, “Is your anger a good thing?” 5 But Jonah went out from the city and sat down east of the city. There he made himself a hut and sat under it, in the shade, to see what would happen to the city (Jonah 4:1-5, Common English Bible).
If you have never been angry with God, there is a fairly good chance you haven’t had much difficulty in your life. When those times in life happen and everything seems to be piling up around you and you start to wonder, what you did that was so wrong God has every angel in heaven ganging up on you. As a result, you start getting madder and madder with each passing event and all that anger is pointed squarely at God.
I think that might be how Jonah felt by the time of our lesson. We also learn here that it is just what Jonah expected. In this lesson we see the motivation for Jonah becoming a runaway. He seems to know what God was going to do before God ever did it. It isn’t prophecy or anything like that. It would seem Jonah was bothered by the loving nature of God!.
We really aren’t sure exactly why Jonah is so upset. So what, God is going to show compassion on the people of Nineveh. Why would Jonah be so upset about this? I think the first possibility is, if Jonah goes to Nineveh and proclaims God’s wrath is about to happen and then God relents, Jonah ends up with egg on his face. He just might have been concerned about his self-image.
A second possibility is, he just didn’t think Nineveh deserved God’s compassion. It is much like the Pharisees didn’t think some people deserved compassion, all those who didn’t follow the law. The early Puritans didn’t see a point in compassion when God was such an angry God (for further reference read Jonathan Edwards classic sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”).
Make no mistake, Jonah is not a happy guy for whatever the reason. He is upset with God. I am not so sure it was OK for Jonah to be angry with God, after all, the things that Jonah proclaimed were not about Jonah. The things God forgave were not about Jonah. The compassion God showed to the people of Nineveh were not about Jonah. So, why did Jonah get mad at God and was it OK?
Honestly, I can’t answer the question. What I do know is, I believe the concept of being angry with God is not a sentence to eternity outside the presence of God. The parent who loses a child is most likely going to reach a stage of anger with God. I think that is probably OK. There are other circumstances where it would probably be OK as well. I am just not sure about Jonah.
One of my favorite quotes says, “It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.” What probably isn’t OK is to let our own stupidity, our own self-righteousness, our own poor judgement to be the source of our anger.
I also think it is probably not OK to stay angry with God. Our anger is our problem, not God’s. Whether our anger is with God or with another person, we have to learn to work our way through the anger and let it go. After all, when we are angry, we probably aren’t acting very loving, to God or to neighbor.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
In Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved