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Feb 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 19, 2017 – Jonah 4:1-4

Anger Mismanagement

But it greatly displeased Jonah and the became angry. Jonah 4:1

Intro: The story of Jonah has harbored a mystery from the start

Jonah received his assignment from God
– and then he did what no prophet had ever done; he tried to run from God
• but this entire time we have not been told why
◦ it was, in fact, one of the questions the sailors asked that Jonah dodged (1:10)
• now the mystery will be revealed and we will finally know his reason
– the very thing he feared has now happened
• although his mood is darker than ever, there is more light in his words than ever

Jonah’s emotional state takes center stage

Displeased translates a word that means it was “evil to”–i.e., upsetting

Phillip Cary, “At this point two words that recur throughout the text come together for the first and only time in the story: ‘great’ and ‘evil.’”

– the first four verses form a unit, enclosed within Jonah’s anger
• God’s question in verse 4 rephrases the storyteller’s statement in verse 1
◦ rather than, It was a great evil to Jonah and he became angry, God turns this around
◦ he asks Jonah, Is it good to you to be angry–i.e., Does it seem right to you?
• What God is doing is creating a context for Jonah’s thoughts and feelings
– one of the ironies in this story:
• God could turn from his anger, but his servant, Jonah, could not
• Jonah had cried to God from inside the fish and God rescued him
◦ then he did as he was told — but he had not changed!
◦ now his tension with God’s will was so great, it reached the breaking point

Jonah was angry at God, angry at the world, angry at life
– angry enough to beg for death
• he refused to yield his belief regarding what God should have done
• if God is the ultimate Judge, he should uphold justice
◦ if evil isn’t punished, justice ceases to exist
– mercy is a problem for people who need certainty
• mercy interferes with the finality of justice
◦ the outcome of individual cases cannot be determined in advance

Mercy makes the final determination of a case unpredictable. This was precisely the very factor where both the sea captain and the king of Nineveh placed their hope, with their Perhaps and Who knows? (1:6 & 3:9)

Despite Jonah’s ugly mood, this scene isn’t without  a hint of beauty
– he was broken and furious – and I believe it is accurate to say he was angry with God
• but still, he prays
◦ he is not worried about expressing his anger toward God
◦ or maintaining his opposition to God
• he doesn’t care if God kills him; in fact, that’s what he wants
◦ but what he hasn’t done is stop believing in God or stop conversing with him

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 an compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” Jonah 4:2

At last the mystery is revealed (and this is a big verse!)

Jonah begins politely and humbly, “Please LORD”
– but what he says next is more accusation than prayer
what I said . . . in my own country? He had not necessarily said it out loud
◦ literally, was not this my word – here is the heart of Jonah’s conflict
◦ the word of LORD came to him, but he had his own word
• he tried to prevent God from fullfilling his word by running away
for I knew – Jonah had known something all along
• he had kept it from the sailors and wanted to keep it from Nineveh
• what he knew was the foundation of Old Testament theology
◦ but we will have to back-up to appreciate this
◦ how did Jonah know? Where did he get this insight?

The answer takes us back to the bedrock of God’s self-revelation
– in the wilderness and after Israel’s radical failure, Moses interceded for the people
• as he wrapped up his conversation with God, he was told that he “found favor”
• basically God asked him, “What can I do for you?”
◦ immediately Moses said, I pray You, show me Your glory (Ex. 33:17-18)
◦ God answered, I can’t do that, because you could not survive it
– what God did offer Moses, was to cover his eyes, pass by him and proclaim his name
• the name was so intensely identified with God as to embody his presence
◦ Moses would be closest a person could come to actually seeing God–until Jesus

The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished . . . (Ex. 34:5-8)

This revelation became the foundation for Israel’s understanding of God
– later, when Israel again rebelled after spies returned from the land with a bad report,
• Moses again interceded for them; only this time his argument had even greater force

I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, “The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity … etc. (Nu. 14:17-19)

• Israel knew they could always depend on God to be true to this revelaton
◦ these statements in some form reappear again and again in the Hebrew Scriptures

Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate . . . .
[and the prophet adds something that echoes the king of Nineveh]
Who knows whether He will not turn and relent . . . (Joel 2:13-14)

– something thst was not clear to Israel:
• the God he was to them, is the God he is to the whole world
• but that was the possibility Jonah feared and the reason he ran

Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life. Jonah 4:3

The point of Jonah’s prayer–what he requested

Again, he uses language of polite humility, O LORD, please take my life
– “my life” translates nefesh, my soul — the soul he praised God for rescuing in 2:6
• but now, if God was not going to act per Jonah’s expectations, he did not want to go on living
“I prefer death to a world in which God spares our enemies”

The LORD said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” Jonah 4:4

God’s first step in responding to Jonah

God wanted to communicate with Jonah
– but Jonah was not in a communicative mood
• his emotions were in the way, obstructing their conversation
• God posed a question, but he did not demand an answer
◦ for now, he just wants to get Jonah thinking
– God calls attention to Jonah’s emotion; labeling and intensifying it
• he does not bother to address his complaint
◦ and it would have done no good to tell him not to be angry
• rather he asks, “Look at this anger of yours; is it good?”
◦ there was no response from Jonah, but I assume he still felt his anger was justified
◦ in his mind, God had betrayed Israel (or forced him to betray his values)
it seemed that Israel was no longer special, no longer uniquely God’s people (De. 7:6)

Peter Craigie, “. . . he felt in the very marrow of his bones that this special love of God to Israel should not be extended to gentiles, above all to evil gentiles such as the inhabitants of Nineveh.”

Conc: This is the point where we can bring these insights home

I have often read God’s criticism of Israel’s stubbornness and assumed “I’m not that
– and reading Jonah, I have always considered him a scoundrel
• but going through the story this time, my eyes been opened
• I do resist God; I get stuck; I want my enemies to be God’s enemies
◦ inwardly, I am convinced that bad things should happen to people who have wronged me

Rowan Williams said that Christians act “as if we were the proprietors of a system that we alone were licensed to manage or administer. . . . We become anxious about the gospel entrusted to us, about how easily it might be corrupted by error or fashion, and so we corrupt it by trying to put up fences around it.”

– in his parables and teaching, Jesus said in effect:

“Forget thinking that you own God, that you can say who enters his house and who is to be locked out. God will love whomever he pleases and will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. You are not the gatekeepers of the kingdom of God.” (cf. Mt. 8:10-12; 20:1-16; 21:28-31; 23:13)

I now realize that f I do not see how I am like Jonah, I have missed the point of the story

In the meantime, thank God he does not give up on us
even if we have given up on ourselves

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