Time To Learn a Lesson – Jonah 4
Is it possible to know a lot about God, have a special ministry from God, experience the amazing grace of God and yet be angry with God?
Is it possible to believe that God is all-powerful (omnipotent) and sovereign, and yet imagine that you can actually keep God from doing something?
Is it possible to believe that God knows everything (is omniscient) and is perfectly wise, and yet think that God has made a mistake?
Is it possible to understand the difference and significance between material things and the human soul, and yet be more concerned about material things?
The book of Jonah answers all these potential scenarios with a definite “yes!” Jonah was a prophet who knew God, received but rejected God’s special commission, experienced God’s grace in the sea, and proclaimed the Lord’s message to Nineveh. It seems that Jonah has learned his lesson. Does he now recognize and welcome God’s sovereignty over all things?
How did Jonah respond to the sovereign mercy of God? Well…
Jonah Pitched a Fit, 4:1-4
In 4:1 Jonah demonstrates our own thick-headedness: he just refuses to get it. His attitude toward the repentant Ninevites is the complete opposite of God’s (cf. 3:10). Jonah took no joy in the outcome – he sank (“became angry”) into a selfish mind-set and missed the joy of serving the Lord.
This chapter reveals several different evidences of sin harbored in the heart, and here is the first one: festering anger.
The object of “pitching a fit” is to get your own way. While we often think of children as those who throw a fit, there are many adults who do a fine job of it! Jonah’s prayer expresses his presumption that God’s mind should match up with his own! We read in chapter two how Jonah was delivered from death; what does he ask for in 4:3? Death!
These two verses (4:2-3) reveal several more evidences of sin in the heart: disobedience to God, unreasonable desires, and selfish demands.
The Lord’s response to this prophet’s tantrum is a rhetorical question (4:4). Note that no answer from Jonah is recorded; we read instead of how…
Jonah Threw a Pity Party, 4:5-8
Think back to Jonah’s first response to the word of the Lord in 1:3—what did he do when God commanded him to go and preach? He went the opposite direction! Here Jonah refuses to answer God’s question in 4:4—he refuses to examine himself in light of the Lord’s question. Instead, Jonah goes outside Nineveh to see if God would come to His senses!
During the hottest time of day in that area, the temperature can average 110 degrees. If we were in God’s shoes, we’d probably let Jonah go his own way and suffer in the heat: “you deserve it buddy.” As God is holy, he does not respond as we do. Instead, he miraculously caused a tree with large leaves to grow 8-10 feet high—and Jonah is thrilled! The result: for the first time in the book we read that Jonah is happy!
Another evidence of sin in the heart: refusal to rejoice when others are blessed. Jonah refused to think that the Ninevites should experience any of God’s mercy.
God’s sovereign power and will is abundantly clear in this passage, and he exercises his power to set the stage to make his point. God appointed a plant to shelter Jonah from the heat (4:6). God appointed a worm to destroy the plant (4:7). God appointed a scorching wind to make Jonah miserable (4:8).
Amazingly, Jonah was displeased when something important to him was destroyed. Jonah’s sinful response was shown in his selfishness and refusal to love what God loves.
Thus far, we have seen how this “man of God” has responded to God’s sovereign display of mercy toward the Ninevites: he threw a fit because he didn’t get his own way. When he refused to answer God’s probing question, God sovereignly appointed events to make his point clear to Jonah.
God Makes His Point, 4:9-11
The last exchange between God and Jonah goes something like this: “So Jonah: you feel you’re justified in your response?” “Absolutely. In fact, it’s such a conviction to me that I’m willing to die for it.”
Jonah was upset when God removed his personal air conditioning unit because something good for him was taken away. In essence the prophet says “I had a right to that!” Jonah demonstrates one last evidence of sin in the heart: misplaced values.
How skewed were Jonah’s values? In practically the same breath Jonah called for the death of the Ninevites while demanding his own personal comfort: “I want them dead! Now, where’s my gourd???”
God makes his point in 4:10-11—“Jonah, your values are way out of line. You’re concerned about a thing, and absolutely unconcerned about people. You’re obsessed about something that’s here today and gone tomorrow, but dismiss those who will live for eternity. You’re passionate about material objects and completely indifferent about moral creatures made in my image.”
“Jonah, as God I have the right to show mercy to whomever I want to. You’re response—as one who has experienced that mercy—is to submit, get on board, and rejoice in my mercy.”
When God does something, you too must recognize and accept his sovereignty and rejoice in his mercy. When you elevate your plans and expectations to the level of “This is what God should do,” you are no longer humble before God.
Remember the marks of sin in the heart that Jonah demonstrated in this chapter:
- Festering anger
- Disobedience to God
- Unreasonable desires
- Selfish demands
- No joy when others are blessed
- No desire to love what God loves
- Misplaced values
Have you learned your lesson? What is your attitude toward God’s plan and purposes today? Where are your values and priorities?
Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, September 9, 2007