When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.
Jonah’s preaching worked.
The city, from the greatest to the least responded in belief and repentance over sin.
Probably one of the greatest revivals in the history of the world happened at Jonah’s preaching.
And we see that this revival, this spiritual awakening in Nineveh was not the result of the super spirituality of the preacher. This man had run from the task in the opening of this book and in this chapter he will pout about it being successful.
It wasn’t the spiritual strength of the preacher.
It wasn’t a wonderfully complex message from a great orator.
We spoke of this last week.
The message was simple. It was a message of judgment.
“Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
That message isn’t elaborate.
That message will get you an F in a preaching course in seminary.
Essentially the message is “Repent or Perish.”
And God, in what can only be described as a divine act of grace and power, turns the hearts of this wicked city to repentance.
It wasn’t the piety of the preacher, it wasn’t elaborate communication. The revival of Nineveh was the result of divine power and grace.
The hearts of the people of Nineveh turn to God because God turned the hearts of the people Nineveh to Him.
Because that was His will. To turn the hearts of the people of Nineveh to Himself. This pleased God.
And what pleases God, displeases Jonah. Verse 1 says-
But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.
Why would God spare these people? Their wickedness was unparalleled during this time.
Why would God use Jonah’s message of judgment to turn the hearts of one of Israel’s strongest enemies?
Jonah was fully aware that this might happen. And now, he prays to God angrily.
Why is he angry? The wording here in the passage can be translated, It was evil in the sight of Jonah.
Jonah felt that God sparing the wicked people of Nineveh was evil.
Jonah wanted God to destroy Nineveh, to give them what they deserved. In his heart, he is crying. Give them justice!!
Come down on them.
And here we see the arrogance of man who was self obsessed. His behavior is like the Pharisee of the New Testament, where somehow he believes he is more worthy of God’s grace and pardon than these clearly MORE wicked people.
Sometimes maybe even some of us think or act this way. Where we believe God didn’t have to reach very far to save us. We believe we were low hanging fruit.
Beloved, that is far from the truth. And until we understand from Scripture the totality of our depravity as sinners, we will vastly overestimate our righteousness and vastly underestimate the grace of God in our own lives.
Jesus died on the cross and took the eternal wrath of God for me. On the cross, he suffered the eternal punishment of God for my sin.
Listen to Jonah’s prayer in verse 2.
He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.
Essentially, Jonah is acting like a child. I told you this would happen.
This is why I ran. He is coming back and slipping back toward justification of his own sin.
I knew this was how you are.
Listen to his complaints about God’s character.
He complains that God is gracious.
He complains that God is compassionate.
He complains that God is slow to anger.
He complains that God is abundant in lovingkindness.
He complains God is one who relents concerning calamity.
Hopefully, you see this. None of those are bad things.
In fact, Jonah has himself personally experienced those very attributes on full display in this very book.
Rather than praising God for these attributes that were personally present in his own life, he uses them in a rant prayer against God for his use of these divine attributes for the benefit of what he saw as people too wicked to save.
What is the root of this anger? Surely any preacher of the Gospel would want to see this type of movement of God.
At this point, some have suggested a few reasons for Jonah’s initial rebellion and his anger now.
Some have suggested that Jonah is nationalistic.
That he has an overwhelming love for Israel.
He desired Israel to prosper, Israel to be blessed by God, and if every other nation perishes, so be it, as long as Israel prospers.
Others have suggested that Jonah is a flaming racist.
That his nationalism, and his overwhelming allegiance to Israel has provoked in him a hatred of those in other countries especially Assyria.
This could be true as well. Israelites were well known for this type of superiority of thought when it came to the Gentile nations.
Other have suggested, and I think this sort of goes with the first, and this is what I think is the best explanation of these events.
That is this. Jonah certainly loved Israel. He has no shame in identifying himself with Israel. Remember what he told the sailors.
He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”
He loved His country.
And Nineveh, the city God called him to preach to as the capital city of Assyria which at this time was one of Israel’s greatest enemies, and, at that time wasthe greatest threat to Israel’s freedom as a nation.
Nineveh, Assyria was the last people Jonah desired to preach to and for God to save.
I believe Jonah had the foresight to know that god sending Him to Nineveh was so that the nation of Assyria would repent.
Upon repentance, God could and would now use Assyria to overthrow the nation of Isreal.
Let me give you a few dates that help establish this whole idea.
Jonah ministered during the reign of Jeroboam the 11. We learn that in 2 Kings 14. The time period he was ministering in was around 793-753 BC.
Assyria invaded Israel beginning in 740 BC. A little over ten years after Jonah preached in its capital city, God used this nation to bring judgment on the people of Israel.
The pinnacle of the invasion came years later in 722BC when the Assyrian Army captured the Israelites in Samaria and enslaved them. We learn that in 2 Kings 17:5-6.
Most scholars agree here that Jonah’s main motivation wasn’t racial necessarily, it wasn’t just a selfish man who didn’t want to go. Mot agree, Jonah was running out of fear of what God would use the Assyrians to do to Israel if Nineveh was to repent.
This is why Jonah is so upset here. He would have much rather sat outside the city and watched the city be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah.
And Because God is
Gracious, Compassionate, Slow to Anger, Abundant in lovingkindness (mercy), and because he is one to relent concerning calamity, God spares Nineveh.
Because God is compassionate to save wicked people.
And Jonah is devastated.
“Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.”
I’d rather die to than to go on living knowing that Nineveh repented because of me.
To be frank here, this is sinful.
Jonah’s attitude is wrong.
He seems to be at odds with God’ s plan.
Satan seems to be at work here. Tempting Jonah. He couldn’t stop God’s plan to save Nineveh, so he attacks the instrument God’s used, Jonah.
Sinclair Ferguson is His book Man overboard which is an exposition of Jonah says this regarding Satan’s tactics with Jonah at this moment.
“The dying embers of [Jonah’s] sin were being fanned into a flame when he least expected it.”
He goes on to say.
“The Christian who loses his taste for what God is doing must look to see who, as well as what, is dulling his palate.”
In other words, whenever we lose a taste for seeing God work and move in the lives of people bringing them to faith, we must reexamine our hearts.
If/When our reaction to someone professing Christ as Savior and repenting over sin becomes cynical or critical or even doubtful, we should check our hearts, because we could be down here pridefully and cynically turning our nose up at a work God is doing, while all heaven rejoices.
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
We should be joyful over sinners repenting. We should long for this.
Jonah has come to the point where he would rather die than to go on living as a result of the repentance of Nineveh.
Jonah wants God to act the way he wants him to act.
Jonah wants a god like Jonah. We see this often in people. You hear people, I just cant believe in a God who would [fill in the blank].
Be careful there.
God is who he is and does what he pleases, and he is good and right and just in everything he chooses to do regardless if it aligns with what we think or not.
Jonah is outside the will of God. He is essentially yelling at God and expressing his hatred of God’s actions, and its clear here, his anger is not directed to the Ninevites. His anger and hatred is expressed and directed to God.
And God Responds.
The Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”
Is that how we would have responded?
To be honest here, if I’m dealing with Jonah here, I’m saying, where’s that fish again? This time I’m gonna let him experience the fullness of the digestive system including the teeth.
But God is not like me. And God is not like Jonah.
Because God is compassionate to save wicked people
Jonah in his rant has properly identified God.
He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.
So he asks Jonah a question.
While studying this week, one of the sources I consulted pointed out that God often does this.
In the Garden of Eden, God asks Adam and Eve questions.
After Cain murdered Abel- Where is your brother? WHat have you done?
With Judas, he asked him “Do you betray me with a kiss?”
After Peter’s denial- Peter, do you love me?
God confronted Saul on the road to Damascus- Why are you persecuting me?
God ask Jonah and all these questions to reveal their hearts toward him.
Do you have right/ Do you have reason to be angry?
Now this is rhetorical question. Of course he doesn’t.
but Jonah doesn’t even respond to God here. He walks out of the city and pouts.
Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city.
We aren’t told here why Jonah sits down. We are just told Jonah built a little shelter and sat down and watched.
Maybe Jonah is just watching the city.
Maybe he questions the legitimacy of their repentance.
Maybe he is waiting for the first sign of sin to point out for God to judge the city
Maybe Jonah is hoping God would judge the city of Nineveh anyway and give Jonah what he wanted so he decides he’ll wait until the forty days are up. After all God had originally given them forty days.
So Jonah made himself a little makeshift tent, but it wasn’t enough to shield him from the heat of the day. We are told he is in discomfort in verse 6.
So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.
Again the Lord appointed something in creation for Jonah and he’ll do it again in a a few verses.
God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to give him shade.
Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.
but it wouldn’t last long. Jonah has a lesson to learn. Look at verses 7-8
But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”
God once again uses his power over all Creation to humble Jonah.
The plant, the worm, the sun. All instruments in the hand of God to humble Jonah.
We must see the grace of God here. God is graciously and faithfully pursuing Jonah. Why? Because Jonah, as selfish and ignorant as he is, Jonah is still his child and he loves him. And God disciplines those he loves.
The plant grow, the worm eats, the sun beats down on Jonah’s head. And he is ready to die again.
He’s angry again.He says
Death is better to me than life.
And again, if I’m God here, I’ve about had it with the whining and the drama.
but God is compassionate and saves wicked people. So he asks him more questions.
Look in verse 9
Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.”
Jonah answers God here and its clear, Jonah was particularly found of this plant.
So fond, that its dying provoked Jonah to want to die.
And Listen to what the Lord says.
Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight.
You had compassion on the plant. This is key here. Jonah loved the plant. and God points out.
Jonah did nothing for the plant. He didn’t cause it grow. He didn’t plant the plant.
The plant was there for less than a day, and Jonah had compassion on the plant. He loved it. He did nothing for it. But he loved it. He valued it.
God then teaches the lesson. Look at verse 11.
“Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”
Follow God’s logic here. This is what is called an argument from the lesser to the greater.
In other words, if this is true of that which obviously lesser, than surely at least the same should be true for the thing that is obviously greater. Again- Argument from Lesser to the greater.
In verse 11. Its clear.
120,000 Persons in Nineveh has Highest Value
The many animals- lower value than humans but still higher than something.
The plant- lowest value.
God is using Jonah’s own actions as a means of teaching him a lesson.
You had compassion on the plant over which you did not do a thing for.
Should I not have compassion on that which is supremely more valuable in the 120,000 people that don’t know their right hand from their left? These people are of supreme value and concern to God.
Jesus Himself taught this very principle.
“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
God loves wicked people. People are the crown jewel of creation. The apple of His eye. Those made in his image.
And he has chosen in his grace and mercy and of no merit of our own to save wicked people.
Jonah wanted this nation, this city to perish, while he and Israel prospered, but God’s compassion thank God is not limited to Israel or to Jonah.
God has made it clear that his intention is to be the God of the world. The God of the nations.
He told Abraham in Genesis 17
“No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.
Listen to what he told Israel and ultimately the Suffering Servant of Isaiah is the Messiah
He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
God’s plan from the beginning was to do just that. To be a God surrounded by people worshipping from every tribe tongue and language.
Some will say that God’s plan for the Gentiles is a New Testament thing.
No its not.
Ruth was a Moabite who by the way, finds her way into the genealogy of the Messiah. She is the great grandmother of King David.
Rahab was Canaanite who is the genealogy as well.
God saved the Ninevites.
In other words. Saving the nations was not plan B.
When Jesus comes, He comes as the light of the World.
And isn’t it fitting that some of the first people to come and worship him are Gentile Magi.
Jesus is the hope of Israel. Jesus is the hope of the nations.
And he has given us a command, often called the The Great Commission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The command is clear. As clear as it was to Jonah when he said, “Arise Go to Nineveh, cry against it.”
The question is, will we be obedient?
If we are saved, We are the result of God’s grace and someone’s faithfulness to share the Gospel.
Now the question is as we complete this book.
Will we gladly surrender our lives to God’s plan to save wicked people?