Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 6 2019 - Jonah 6 – Angry Jonah

The Lord saw the repentance of the Ninevites and heard their cry for mercy and did not destroy the city. But Jonah was not pleased. The Assyrians were Israel's enemies and remained a threat to the Israelite kingdoms. Jonah would have liked to see them destroyed. Indeed in his complaint against God he claims that this is why he had not wanted to preach to the city of Nineveh in the first place; he knew that God was gracious and compassionate and would use his preaching to bless them rather than destroy them.

Jonah still hopes that God will repent. He set up a rough camp for himself to the east of the city and sat to watch whether at the end of the 40 days God would destroy it. God caused a leafy plant to grow over Jonah's rough shelter to provide him with some shade and relief from the fierce daytime sun. Then, just as Jonah was enjoying the shade, God caused a worm to eat away at the roots of the plant and it withered. The sun rose and a scorching wind blew and Jonah, now angry and miserable, wanted to die.

The Lord asked Jonah if he was right to be angry over the death of a plant. Jonah said that he was right to be angry, even to the point of wanting to die. Then comes the punch line. The Lord replied to Jonah, "You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left – and also many animals?" (Jonah 4:10-11)

Jonah had lost sight of the plan and purpose of God. His plan and promise from the beginning was that through Abraham's descendants all nations on earth would be blessed. God had blessed his people Israel so that they might be a light to the Gentiles – to the nations. But Jonah was more concerned for his own comfort than for 120,000 inhabitants in Nineveh. Indeed, he thought that their destruction would ensure the blessing of Israel. He was out of tune with the heart and mind of God – and he knew it (see 4:2).

This incident reminds me of the reaction of the Jewish leaders and the Pharisees to the ministry of Jesus. The outcasts of society, those whom respectable people thought of as "sinners", loved to flock around Jesus to listen to his teaching. They knew that he cared about them. Jesus was even ready to eat with tax collectors and sinners. This made the Jewish leaders furious; it suggested to them that Jesus must be a sinner himself. Jesus had to remind them that he was the one who reflected the compassionate heart of God. He had not come to call the righteous but had come to call sinners to repentance and to welcome them into his kingdom.

And how about us? God has called us to continue the mission of Israel. He has commissioned us, as he commissioned Jonah, to tell the world of the judgment and salvation of God – to tell the world of Christ. Jesus has called us to be his disciples, welcoming repentant sinners into his kingdom because we know that this was the only way for us to come to God.

Having secured our place in the kingdom, are we now more concerned for our own comforts than for the thousands of people who are like sheep without a shepherd and need a Saviour? Do we, as it were, complain about our withered comforts while thousands around us are dying?

Lord Jesus, I am the one who needs to repent of my self-centeredness and self-concern. Make me more like you. Give me a heart for others and a concern that they may know the life which you alone can give. Give me a passionate love for those who feel lost and helpless that I may point them to you. And, with your angels in heaven, fill me with joy over every returning sinner.

Peter Misselbrook