November 3, 2019
Scripture: Jonah 4:1-4
I. You get angry with God when you can only see yourself.
A. We understand Jonah’s anger better when we read his prayer in verse 2. What is Jonah really praying here? He’s saying, “God, I knew you would forgive these losers! That’s why I didn’t want to go to Nineveh in the first place. I tried to go to the other side of the world, to Tarshish, to get away from you. But you wouldn’t let me! You forced me to preach to these evil people, and then they repented of their sin. And so you forgave them, like I knew you would. God, you are so weak. Why couldn’t you be tougher – like me?”
B. We can better see the selfishness of Jonah by comparing his prayer in chapter 4 to the one he prayed in chapter 2. In chapter 2 Jonah was praying desperately to God after he had been thrown overboard. Jonah prayed in Jonah 2:1, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me.” God saved Jonah’s life. And so at the end of his prayer in Jonah 2:9, Jonah cried out, “Salvation belongs to the LORD.” When Jonah’s life was saved by God, he rejoiced. But what was Jonah’s response when over 100,000 people from Nineveh had their lives saved by God? He was angry. Can you see the selfishness and hypocrisy in these prayers?
C. Jonah’s prayer in verse 2 quotes from Exodus 34:6-7: “The Lord passed before (Moses) and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” Jonah believes that God is all mercy. Jonah had read the Bible selectively. Jonah believed that God was not very good because God was not just.
II. You get angry with God when you worship an idol.
A. Jonah’s idol was his country and its national security. It was because Israel – the place Jonah calls “my country” in vs 2 – and its national security had become an idol for Jonah that Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. Jonah was right to be afraid of the Assyrians. And so Jonah prayed to God in vs. 2 by God’s covenant name that God had taught to Israel in Exodus 3. He prayed to Yahweh, the great I AM, who promised to be Israel’s God. But now it seemed to Jonah like God was abandoning Israel to its enemies. So Jonah was angry with God.
B. Sometimes, it’s right to be angry. When you are the victim of injustice, you should be angry. But sometimes anger is not right. Sometimes anger is a sign that there is something wrong in your heart. Sometimes anger is a sign that we love an idol more than we love God. When the idol that we love gets threatened – whether that idol be money or a person or our reputation or some form of power or pleasure – the response is the response of Jonah. It’s rage. So, the next time you are angry, ask yourself, “What’s going on here? Why am I so angry?” Maybe you should be angry. But maybe the anger is a sign of an idol. Maybe it’s a sign that you have been worshiping God not because you love God above all else. You are worshiping God in order to get something from God. You are worshiping God as a means to an end.
The worship of idols will lead to anger. But the worship of Jesus will always lead to joy.
The book of Jonah
Commentaries on Jonah by Desmond Alexander and Timothy Keller