By Pastor Jenna Couch, Zion Lutheran Church, Jubilee
Read Jonah, chapter four. This chapter is perhaps the most powerful part of this whole story.
Here, we encounter an angry prophet. The reason that Jonah gives God for being angry is almost comical. Jonah tells God that the whole reason he fled from God’s initial request in the first place was because Jonah knew that God would forgive the Ninevites if they repented. Jonah says, “for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” He then requests to die. This is the ultimate temper tantrum. God says, “Now, Jonah, is it right for you to be angry?”
While Jonah is waiting outside of Nineveh, God provides a bush for Jonah to protect him from the sun, which God later destroys by way of a giant worm. Then, God provides a sultry wind that causes Jonah more discomfort, which leads him, again, to say, “I’m angry enough to die.”
God then gives Jonah a wake up call. He points out to that Jonah has no right to be upset about the Ninevites, that Jonah was happy about a bush that lasted only one day, even though Jonah never did one thing to care for or help grow. If Jonah was that concerned over a bush that he had no relationship with, then why can’t God be concerned with the people of Nineveh?
How do our ideals of who God is and what God does shape or influence who we are and how we act towards others? Jonah was angry that God chose him to give the Ninevites a message that resulted in forgiveness. It’s clear that Jonah thought the Ninevites deserved punishment. Sometimes, when others around us receive grace and mercy, it doesn’t seem fair to us. We have our ideas and beliefs about what should happen to people that mess up, but ultimately, it’s not up to us. Luckily though, God IS a “gracious God, merciful and slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and ready to relent from punishing.” Thanks be to God for that!