Jonah is the story about the guy who was supposed to go tell a whole city about God but he flaked out and tried to take a little cruise.
God sent a storm in response.
Jonah gets thrown overboard and eaten by a big fish/whale/whatever.
He finally gives in and cries out to God (which took three days by the way….talk about REALLY trying to run away from your calling).
He prays this “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me;…yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.” Jonah 2:1b, 2:6b.
He gets to the city and walks around shouting this “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Jonah 3:4b
What happens? The WHOLE city repents. Even the king.
God has this response – “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” Jonah 3:10
We look at this story and say, wow! Look at that! This guy tries to run away from what God tells him to do…finally does it….it’s almost like a cake walk, really….and he responds like this….
“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.” Jonah 4:1
What? Seriously dude? God gives you this huge job, you try to run away, finally give in like a kid (I can totally picture him like, “FINE!” and doing a little toddler pout.), shout a short line and the city is saved.
I’d be jumping up and down and going nuts!
But would I? Or would I question every thing about what just happened too? Would I say, you know, I can’t believe it took them THAT long to repent. I should’ve been able to just send them a letter to fix this.
But God. Ah, what wonderful words. He didn’t leave Jonah in this state. He loved him enough to lovingly show him how ridiculous he was acting. He loved him enough to not leave him in his anger. “And the Lord said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?'” Jonah 4:4
Then God grows this plant for Jonah to chill out under while he stews in his anger. Then God sends a worm to eat it up and take away his shade.
Here’s what happens next:
“But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you do well to be angry for the plant?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.’ And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?'” Jonah 4:9-11
That’s it, cliffhanger. But I imagine Jonah had another melt of heart like in chapter 2. What’s so awesome about God in this exchange is He doesn’t take the approach of “I’m a holy and just God, but also a loving God. They deserved punishing, but because of my mercy, I’m forgiving them.” Which was a very true approach. But God took it as a teachable moment, where He puts things into perspective. Aren’t you thankful God doesn’t leave us where we are?