Jonah Runs Ahead of God
Jonah Four  

          Jonah chapter four provides us with a picture of a man running far ahead of God. Jonah, God's pouting prophet wanted the people of Nineveh destroyed. He thought that He knew better than God did as to what their destiny should be. He was displeased with God and with God's will. If we are not careful we may find ourselves in the same spiritual condition as Jonah.


          It is true that the Ninevites were both a cruel and wicked nation. Jonah wanted them destroyed because they were basically hated and despised by the Jews. His wish was that they would just be wiped away. But, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) God loves all people and He wants everyone to be saved. (John 3:16) He could not understand Jonah's wicked attitude. Jonah was more concerned about a gourd vine than about the people of Nineveh. God said, "should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:11) Let us never be like Jonah. We must show mercy on the lost and prayerfully provide them an opportunity to be saved. 


          Jonah's angry prayer to God -- Jonah 4:1-3: The Lord's compassion toward Nineveh displeased Jonah greatly. He was really upset and angry with God because Nineveh had not been destroyed. A person can be angry and yet not sin. "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath." (Ephesians 4:26) It was not the case with Jonah that he was angry and did not sin. He allowed his feelings of anger to cause him to tragically despise God's mercy. It may have been that both his prejudice and all that he had been through because of the Ninevites had caused him to want them punished.


       Jonah "prayed to the Lord and said, I pray You, O Lord, is not this just what I said when I was still in my country? That is why I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and when sinners turn to You and meet Your conditions You revoke the sentence of evil against them." (Jonah 4:2) Jonah wanted Nineveh punished severely, but he recognized that God was full of mercy. Jonah was not at all a man that would consider suicide but he was in such misery that he asked God to take his life. (Jonah 4:3) When a man in his right mind takes his own life it is murder just as if he had deliberately killed another person. Jonah felt disgraced and he was looking for a way out. A man is not a fit prophet or preacher if he cannot accept God's justice, mercy and truth.


          What right do you have to be angry? -- Jonah 4:4-5: Jonah's anger was not justified. So the Lord asked, "Do you think you have reason to be angry?" (Jonah 4:4) The question was not asked to provide information to God, rather it was asked to provide instruction to Jonah. The Lord wanted Jonah to understand that his prayer would be answered in a negative way and that his feelings were unjustified. Anger is a destructive attitude. Solomon said, "It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman." (Proverbs 21:19) We are reminded in song, "Brightest links in life are broken by a single angry word." Anger opens the door for sinful attitudes and sinful behavior. Prayer and love for others can help us remove anger from our lives.


       Jonah became a pathetic, pouting prophet. "So Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city, and he made a booth there for himself. He sat there under it in the shade till he might see what would become of the city." (Jonah 4:5) It seems that Jonah went to Nineveh, delivered God's message and then went out on the east side of the city and waited. He was determined to stay until he could see what became of the city. When the forty days past he became angry because instead of receiving destruction the people received mercy. Sadly, God's pouting prophet was hoping for Nineveh's destruction instead of their salvation.


          Jonah's gourd vine and a worm -- Jonah 4:6-8: God continued to love his pouting prophet so He "prepared a gourd and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to deliver him from his evil situation. So Jonah was exceedingly glad to have the protection of the gourd." (Jonah 4:4) Jonah had built a little booth and now the gourd vine would provide him with additional shade and insulation from weather, much like a tent. Sadly, Jonah was very happy to have the vine but not happy about the repentance of the people or about the mercy of God.


God used the gourd vine to teach Jonah a visual, but very sobering lesson. "God prepared a cutworm when the morning dawned the next day, and it smote the gourd so that it withered." (Jonah 4:7) The lesson began with the worm and the vine and continued when "God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah so that he fainted and wished in himself to die and said, It is better for me to die than to live." (Jonah 4:8)  God sent a quiet but intensely hot wave of air that was terribly depressing to Jonah. Now Jonah wanted to die for a different reason other than the fact that the people had repented and God had shown mercy.


Jonah's unconcern for the city -- Jonah 4:9-11: Jonah was concerned about the gourd vine but was unconcerned about the people of the city. God said to Jonah, "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." Jonah was now faithful to God in his preaching but he still had his same old angry heart. Jonah should have realized that though his gourd vine was gone his God was still there. God's love and care makes up for all of our losses. 


Jonah should have been thankful to God for sparing the city of Nineveh. The gourd was small and insignificant. The city Nineveh was a "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 4:11) This number might have refereed to children but more likely it refereed to the ignorance of the people as to what is right and wrong.


          While Jonah wanted Nineveh destroyed, but God wants all men to fear and reverence Him. To become a Christian you must hear the gospel and believe (John 6:44-45), repent of sins (Acts 2:38), confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized into Christ. (Romans 6:3-4) Fear or reverence for the Lord will also keep you in faithful service to God. (Matthew 10:22) Solomon said, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)