Jonah 3:10, 4:1, 5-8
3:10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened
1This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it. 5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 8 And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed
If I were to tell you that people have disappointed me at times throughout my life you wouldn’t be surprised. As a matter of fact, you probably can recall times of disappointment in people. It’s simply not uncommon in this life for people to fail to meet our expectations. Sometimes people disappoint us unintentionally, while at other times our disappointment is the result of a person’s character flaw. Either way we have all been there, we have all experienced disappointment. But what if I were to tell you that God has, at least on occasion, disappointed me? Would you think I was mad, that I’d lost my mind, that I was a bad person for even suggesting such a thing? I’m not saying that one is justified in being disappointed with God, but I believe that if we are honest, most of us would have to admit that there have been times when God didn’t respond like we expected Him to and we were disappointed.
Jonah was God’s reluctant and rebellious prophet, even when he finally agreed to deliver God’s message of judgment to Nineveh, he was terribly disappointed with God’s handling of the Ninevites. If we are willing to look closely enough, we may find shades of our own attitudes in this account of Jonah. So what led to Jonah’s disappointment with God?
- Jonah was committed to his will not God’s
The fact is Jonah wasn’t unconditionally committed to God’s will. He had his own ideas about how God should handle the Ninevites. When it didn’t turn out that way, when he didn’t get his way it made him mad.
• Jonah Was Displeased. Jonah 4: 1 “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.”
God had just spared the lives of over 120,000 people, and Jonah was exceedingly angry about it, most preachers would be overjoyed to see such an overwhelming response to their message, but not Jonah.
- Jonah had a heart issue, he had a bad attitude
There are times in our lives when we too need an ‘attitude adjustment’. Jonah appoints himself as theological advisor to the Almighty, and makes it clear that he is out of sympathy with divine policy. He engages in a sit-down strike outside the city limits, separating himself from the people and God. Talk about an attitude, so how does God give us an “attitude adjustment”?
1. He asks us challenging questions. (v.4) “Have you any right to be angry.”
God is challenging Jonah’s perceptions. Atitude change begins with asking, Do I have a good reason to feel this way? Should I be thinking like this? Should I be acting like this?” Many times if we are truly honest and let our emotions step aside for the sake of truth we’ll find that we shouldn’t have the attitude that we do.
2. He gives us challenging experiences. (v.6-8)
God delivers a practical object lesson consisting of a plant, a worm, and a wind. He uses circumstances to expose Jonah’s sinful rebellion, his misguided heart attitude, and his warped value system. So God causes a vine to grow to provide Jonah with some needed shade (vs 6). Jonah’s reaction “Jonah was very grateful” This is the first time Jonah is happy! He wasn’t happy when God commissioned him to preach to Ninevah; he wasn’t pleased when the sailors were converted in ch 1; and he was far from thrilled when a pagan city turned to God. Jonah is selfishly pleased that God is finally doing something for him, his joy is in his own comfort, not that of others. Destruction finally comes, but not upon Ninevah, a hungry worm arrives and eats the plant, which had become very important to Jonah. Now we might say, wasn’t Jonah’s bad attitude caused by the experience? I don’t think so; God saw what was inside Jonah and knew what Jonah’s attitude was. God simply put Jonah into a place where he was exposed and the attitude became exposed as well. Isaiah 16:7 ”Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Like Jonah there are times when we need an attitude adjustment and God allows us to go through an experience that exposed our attitude so it can be dealt with. We say that people or situations make us angry yet the anger is in us and the situation just brings to the surface what was lurking underneath. We are like the skunk that gets stepped on, the bad smell comes from inside us, we want to blame the circumstances but the circumstances just exposed what was inside us!
The ending may seem abrupt and unresolved, and we might like to know how Jonah responded, but it’s not important to know what he said or did. Jonah’s missing final answer isn’t an oversight or the result of our lacking the last page of the manuscript. Jonah’s not the main character here, God is. We’re left with an intentional, powerful statement concerning God’s grace. Rather than show us Jonah’s response, God invites us to respond. Will we show compassion, or will we run from our responsibility? As Christians, we’re compelled to care. God didn’t hang up on Jonah. Do we hang up on God when He doesn’t meet our expectations? Jonah cared more about personal comfort than an entire city! He was bothered by the hot rays of the desert sun, but could care less about the burning fire of hell that would fall on a city. What makes you happy? For Jonah it was a plant. What gives you great joy? When you answer that, you will discover where your heart really is. God cares about people. Is it time to get alone with God and get a heart adjustment?