(3) 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
(4) 1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’
4 But the Lord replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’
5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live.’
9 But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’
‘It is,’ he said. ‘And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.’
10 But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 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?’
Has there really ever been a year as prominent, as disappointing, as anger provoking as 2020? I cast my mind over a year where we have seen the bush fires burn Australia’s flora and fauna alive; where racial tensions and police brutality have bubbled over, Coronavirus took some of those we loved, and changed the way we live forever. Shops have closed and businesses have gone bust leaving millions of people are wondering how they will put bread on the table.
In this passage, Jonah is frustrated with God.
He’s incapable of believing that God wants more for his people than all this suffering. He struggles with God’s identity as not just a God of Holiness, but a God of sincere and unlimited love. He sees and acknowledges a God that is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love but he can’t stomach it. His anger for everyone else around him, and his anger towards everything that is going on is too much for him to bear.
I understand Jonah’s feelings. I understand the frustrating activity of life that draws us into that negative headspace and turns our minds inward. But is it right? Whilst Jonah was focusing on his hate for God’s abounding love, he managed to forget that God rescued him in the boat, He failed to recognise that even the fish was more obedient to God's voice than he was. Because fortunately for all of us, in Jonah’s day and now, even though we forget who we are, God never forgets who He is.
God of unfathomable Love,
steadfast in your forgiveness
forever holding back your wrath
forgive me for the times where my eyes
have focused more on the things that have gone wrong
than the things that have gone right.
Give me a new sense of your lovely nature
Help me question what I know about you,
guide my eyes to your living word
and root out my own resentments
so that through the power of the Holy Spirit
you can shine in me as a light to the world. Amen.