Jonah was called by God to go to Ninevah, he didn’t really want to. He tried to run away from God, but ended up in the belly of a whale. He came out and went to give God’s message to the Ninevites. He expected to be killed, but instead all 120,000 people repented. Jonah should have been ecstatic.
Let’s catch up with him in Jonah 4:1 and let’s see what’s going on. It says, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.” Confusion. What? “Jonah, do you understand what just happened?” But, Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. Man, that’s a big win for Jonah. That’s a, “Let’s grab the cooler of Gaterade. Let’s dump it on his head.” If he were alive in our world today, Jonah would be booked at every church conference, speaking all over the world. Magazines, he would be on the front cover. People would be calling him.
That’s not how Jonah responded. He was angry. Matter of fact, if you dig into the original language here, you are going to see that the word “greatly displeased” in the Hebrew is the word harah, which means to burn with fire. So literally, Jonah was a man on fire. So, if you look at the original meaning of this text, basically what it’s saying is that when Jonah looked back on the past 24 hours and Nineveh’s repentance, what he saw was evil, and he was a man on fire, burning with anger. What’s really interesting to me is that when God looked at Nineveh before they repented, God looked at that situation as evil, and he was angry. But after they repented, Jonah looked at it and Jonah saw it as evil and he became angry. So, Jonah has got some issues.
Let’s continue on. Let’s look and see how he deals with his anger. Jonah, chapter 4, verses 2 and 3. It says, “He prayed to the Lord.” This is really interesting to me. It’s kind of a side note. Jonah, if you look in the four chapters of Jonah, he only prayed twice. The first time he prayed was when he was in the belly of the whale and his back was up against a wall, and the second time he prayed was now, when he was angry. And I am curious if that’s a mirror to your life. Do you pray when tragedy strikes? Do you call out to God when you’re hurting and when trials come your way, when tribulations come your way? Is that the extent of your relationship with God? Don’t settle for a crises driven relationship with God. So, let’s keep going. I could talk about that all day long.
So, Jonah’s sitting there. He’s angry. 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. 3Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Jonah’s angry. You guys remember about the Ninevites. And basically, they were they most evil, the most vile, the most corrupt city around. And if you guys were walking through Nineveh and you were an enemy of Nineveh, they would grab you. They would pull out their filet knife, and they would literally filet every bit of skin off of your body and sit there and let you suffer. And if you had a good friend, and you guys were walking around, and you were an enemy, they would grab your friend, immediately cut their head off, hand to you their head and make you walk around the city of Nineveh, showing how proud you were of your friend. It was a sick nation, and so this is what Jonah is saying, “God, look at this. Look how sick they are. Look how corrupt. I cannot believe that You would ever even have compassion on these people.” And if you really dive into the text here, here’s what you are going to see is that Jonah is saying, “God, thank You for being patient with me, but I will never be patient with Nineveh. God, thank you for giving me a second chance. I will never, ever, ever give Nineveh a second chance.”
We find Jonah living smack dab in the middle of a great contradiction. In essence, what Jonah is saying is, “God, thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for forgiving me for running away from You. Thank you for giving me forgiveness, but I will never ever, ever, forgive Nineveh.” Jonah was angry because he had been hurt by Nineveh. Some of you are angry. You are harboring bitterness. You are harboring resentment toward someone, because you’ve been hurt. Maybe it’s sexual abuse. Maybe it’s physical abuse. You’ve been beat up. Maybe you’ve been verbally abused. You’ve been told that you’re not good, you’re not worth anything, and you’ll never amount to anything at all. Maybe your friend has completely hung you out to dry. They‘ve walked away. They said, “I’m done with this friendship.” They’ve slandered you. They’ve spread rumors, and they spread lies, and you’re lying there and you’re broken and you’re fragile, but you’re hanging on to unforgiveness. You are bitter and you are angry and you are hurt. Here’s the thing. We have to forgive. God has called us to forgive. We have to live in freedom. We can’t live in bondage. We have to get rid of it.
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, He had been abandoned. He had been abused. He had been lied about. He had been slandered. He had been spit in the face. He had been hit, and what did He do? What was His response? His response was to hang on the cross and to look them in the eye and say, “Father, forgive them. Forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus hits this topic head on in Matthew 6:14-15. Listen to what this verse says. It says, “For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Talk about the great contradiction, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” We have to be a group of people that forgive unconditionally. It hurts, and it’s painful, and it doesn’t make any sense. Who do you need to forgive? Right now, write it down. “This is them. I’ve got to do it, and do it today.” Let’s be a people that live free.
Jonah’s not interested in that concept right now. He’s pretty angry, and so God looks at him, and He looks into his life. And He tries to engage Jonah in a conversation. Here’s what He says in 4:4-8. 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. 6Then the LordGod 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.”
Are you excited about where you are in your life right now? Think about that for a moment. A lot of people aren’t happy with their marriage and where it is. A lot of people aren’t happy with their career. A lot of people are unhappy with the decisions they made. A lot of people are unhappy with the job that they’ve done parenting. A lot of people, literally, are wrestling right now with where they are in their place in life, and they are not very happy about it. That’s where Jonah is. He’s not very happy about it.
When I was in elementary school, I had a teacher that would always read a book to us called, “Alexander And The Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” How many of you guys remember that book? So, Jonah’s having a horrible, no good, very bad day, but here’s what we’ve got to understand, God is the God of the horrible, no good, very bad days. Okay? God provided. So, what this verse is saying is that God loves Jonah so much, and He knows when Jonah was born. He knows when he was going to die. God knew exactly what it was that He needed to send into Jonah’s life. And sometimes, He would send a vine to protect him, but sometimes, God would send a storm into Jonah’s life. Sometimes God would send a worm, and sometimes God would send a scorching wind. Why? Not because God is mean, but because God’s the provided, and He knows that Jonah needs a season to where God would provide the wind and the worm.
That’s not the God we want to serve, though. Right? We want to serve the God of the vine. We want to serve the God that makes us prosperous, the God that blesses us. We want to serve the God that writes a check and sends it in the mail anonymously. “God, provide for me. Make my kids well. God, don’t let me struggle financially.” We want to serve the God of the vine, but the reality that God is so much bigger than just the God of the vine in His character and in the fullness of who He is, God loves us enough to specifically allow a wind and a worm.
God is the God of the vine. He’s the God of the worm. Become a person that not only begs for the vine, but become a spiritually mature person that asks God to send a worm, because He’s developing Christ in you. He’s developing patience, endurance, and He’s developing you into the man and woman that He’s called you to be.
Jonah’s just a mess right now. He’s not interested in any provision. God tries to engage him,.... Jonah 4:9 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.” Jonah is suicidal over a stupid plant. It’s ridiculous. Let’s cut through the chase for just a second. Here’s the reality of Jonah, chapter 4, it’s that life is about Jonah. It’s all about Jonah … about his anger, about his unforgiveness, about his comfort, about God taking the vine. Jonah, it’s just all about him.
My question for you. Is life all about you? Look at your checkbook and look at how you spend your time, and then answer. Is life all about you? Is it all about your house? Is it all about your remote control? Is it all about where you want to eat, all about where you want to go, all about your Facebook, all about your work, all about you money?
So, Jonah’s lying on the ground in a fetal position, because he just lost his plant. Poor guy. Man, I just feel for him, and he’s buckled over, and here is what God says to him. In 4:10-11, 10But 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. 11And 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?”
Jonah, life is not about you. It’s not about your anger. It’s not about your unforgiveness, but life is about Nineveh. Life is about Nineveh. What is Nineveh? Nineveh is when you walk out of your front door and you immediately lock eyes with someone. Life is not about us. Life is about Nineveh. Can you guys imagine what would happen as a church, if Good Shepherd came together and said, “God, I’m not going to run anymore, but I’m going to Nineveh. I don’t care what it costs me. I don’t care how bad it hurts. I’m going to do what You have called me to do and go to Nineveh. I am going to invite my neighbor over for dinner. I’m going to build a relationship with them. I’m going to paint somebody’s house. I’m going to mow their yard. I’m going to go to prison and visit with an inmate. I’m going to extend somebody grace that doesn’t deserve it. God, I am committed to go to Nineveh.” Can you imagine the lives that are going to be changed? Life is not about us, and life is short. Touch somebody’s life. Make a difference.