Will You Surpass Jonah?
Thank you to everyone who opened their homes yesterday for the Pool Hop. It was a great event and really fun to get time with a variety of people at homes around here. You missed out if you weren’t there.
It was also an amazing time because it was HOT yesterday. As my wife and kids will attest–I hate the heat. I am convinced that God didn’t intend for anyone to actually live in a place that gets this hot. Each year, during the month of August and part of September, I start thinking about where we could move that would be cooler. What keeps me here is the church. But if I could ever convince you all to flee the heat with me, I would be immediately in.
The heat is my nemesis. I can fight through pain and sickness. I have left a dinner table, vomited, then returned and never mentioned it. But the heat? It’s the thing you’ll hear me complain about.
Starting somewhere before the age of 7, most everyone begins to learn the art of complaining. It starts with a whiny voice that irritates those around you. Parents often hear it on car rides in confined quarters. “Mom–he took one of my crackers . . . he’s breathing my air!”
Over time, we learn to control the pitch. And then we learn to disguise the complaint. “It’s a new record–I got 26 mosquito bites today . . . Sorry it took so long to bring your drink, I had to finish cleaning the kitchen by myself.”
Left unchecked, you find people who are a bit Eeyore-ish. They move to pessimism, sarcasm, and discontent as part of their being. We all have a bit of Eeyore in us–like Israel in the wilderness, we can be prone to grumbling and complaining. The longer you walk with God, the more probable it is that you have experienced something in your life that led you to question God’s plans.
Maybe you become unhappy with God because He has made demands on your life that aren’t easy. You’re married to a fool and a drunk. Your adult child is cruel with her words. You become unhappy with God because your desires contend and fight against His desires. You want to be married and you’re still single. You want to leave California and you’re stuck here because of your spouse’s job.
We grow angry with God because His ways don’t always seem best to us. Why would you let my husband have cancer? We need him! My kid is in the hospital because of what that guy did. How is that fair? Sometimes we use feelings like these to justify our actions and our anger. We justify our sin because we feel that what’s going on is beyond what God would ask of us.
Be honest–are you prone to complaining? Haven’t you ever disagreed with God that what happened is best? It’s more common than we’d like to admit. We do not always see eye-to-eye with God about life. The decisions He makes don’t always seem best to us. Sometimes it’s what sins we’re to forsake. And sometimes it’s what events that God caused to have happen.
We say, “I can’t believe they hired that guy to work at our company. Why is this bill coming now? Money is already tight. Who invited us over for dinner? I can’t believe how hot it is!” Every time, we’re asking, “Why is God allowing this to happen?”
How things go in our day can have a moderate or even severe effect on our attitude. You may just be slightly unhappy or you may become visibly upset, but your frustration with a situation can often be traced back to questioning the wisdom and will of God.
We can be unhappy with God for making us give something up. We can be unhappy with God for how circumstances beyond our control turned out. At the root, that means we grow unhappy with God for acting according to His will, rather than ours. In essence, we can be like Jonah.
This prophet is almost the opposite of Isaiah. We heard last week of the holiness of God and his response to the Lord, saying, “Here I am send me.” In contrast to that, Jonah is a man who would not volunteer willingly. He would plead, “Send someone else.” Today, we are looking at Jonah 4. Go ahead and turn there because I know it will take you some time. The minor prophets are just before the Gospel of Matthew. If you get to Ezekiel and Daniel, you’ve gone too far.
Now while you look, if you have never read the book of Jonah or at least seen Veggietales, here is a short account of what happened in the first three chapters. Jonah was a prophet who lived in Galilee near Nazareth in Northern Israel. He ministered just before Amos at a time of prosperity before exile. Israel was prosperous and it was a time of peace. With the ease, religion in the north grew idolatrous and justice was gone.
Jonah’s ministry in Israel is largely forgotten, but he is known for being called to go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The Assyrians were life-long enemies of Israel and famous for their cruelty. Many of the worst tortures and punishments originated with the Assyrians. Crucifixion was one of many brutal methods they developed. Many ancient secular writings and art from that time show their methods.
When Jonah heard God’s call to go to Nineveh, he immediately went to the harbor and jumped on a ship headed the opposite direction. He had zero desire to go and call them to repentance–so he boarded a ship and settled in for a long journey.
As many of you know, a storm blew in once the ship set sail. It grew so strong, the sailors feared for their lives. After tossing cargo overboard, they finally cast lots and identified Jonah as the man at fault. Though he confessed, they continued to try and fight for shore. It was not until the boat itself began to be near destruction that they relented.
They prayed for mercy from Jonah’s god and cast him into the water, just as Jonah had instructed them. Now you probably know that a large fish came and swallowed him. The sailors didn’t know that. Jonah 2 describes how he sank deep before being rescued by the fish God sent. Three days and three nights, Jonah spent in it before he repented. It was that long until he prayed and sought forgiveness.
Once he had, the Lord commanded the fish to spit him up near dry land. Again God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh and this time he obeys. He goes east this time for some days until he arrives at Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. It was one of the largest cities of the time–three days walk across. On the first day, he walks through it and cries out, “Yet 40 days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” And the response is like nothing he’s ever seen.
Israel had sat hardened through the best of God’s prophets. They had heard from him repeatedly with minimal fruit. Nineveh, on the first day, believe Jonah and believe in God. People are praying and fasting and everyone is mourning. The king implores all his people to turn from wickedness and violence, in hopes that God may relent.
And God does just that–much to the pain and anger of Jonah. Jonah preaches–he has one of the most fruitful ministries of any prophet of God. Nineveh repents–and Jonah? Jonah is angry about it. In chapter 3, the Ninevites repented. But rather than rejoice, Jonah is full of wrath.
This is how Jonah 4 starts–let’s begin at 3:10. “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.
4:1“But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. 2And 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 Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.’ 4And the Lord said, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry?’”
External circumstances had made Jonah unhappy. God had acted according to His will, rather than Jonah’s and Jonah didn’t like it. God had shown mercy to Jonah and Jonah had forgotten. Jonah’s words here in chapter 4, verse 2, echo God’s statement about Himself in Exodus 34:6 to 7, when the Lord passed by in front of Moses.
Look at Jonah’s words in verse 2 and compare them with Exodus 34 in your outline, where God describes Himself. “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.”
Jonah uses God’s words to justify His feelings about what happened. He says, “I knew You. Back in Israel, I knew you would do this. In order to forestall or delay this, I fled.” He says in essence, I was trying to save You from Yourself. You are the God of Israel–You are compassionate. These people are not deserving of compassion. I knew who you were and what you would do, and I knew it was wrong. I know these people–they deserve your judgment! God–what you did is not best!”
How many times have you thought something like that? Jonah justifies himself, his actions and his feelings by what happened and by Scripture. Just like us, he feels that he is in the right. But we know, from looking outside, that Jonah is wrong. His use of the Bible to justify himself is wrong. We should never use the Bible to justify our behavior. God made the weed.
If you are start reading it for that, you are in severe spiritual danger. We do not read the Bible to justify our behavior. We read the Bible to expose our behavior–to bring the light of God to bear on our darkness.
So this is our starting point in Jonah 4. We’ve got an angry prophet. The hope, repentance and joy of chapters 2 and 3 have gone away. While God’s wrath has been averted, Jonah is full of wrath. He’s boiling. And as we look at this last chapter of Jonah this morning, I’m hoping you’ll see God’s mercy towards Jonah’s anger and our complaints.
The point of chapter 4 is to leave us motivated to do better than Jonah . . . to love and obey God more . . . to be more obedient to our commission . . . to be more satisfied with God’s ways. Let’s see how that plays out by reading through the whole chapter.
3:10 ”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.
4:1 But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. 2 And 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 Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.’ 4 And the Lord said, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry?’
5 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. 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. 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day, and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 And it came about when the sun came up that 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.’
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.’ 10 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. 11 And 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?’”
Jonah’s anger shows us our failures and God’s mercies. How?
1. How are we like Jonah here?
a. Jonah thought he was better Verses 1 to 4
Better than who? Better than the Ninevites . . . and maybe even wiser than God. We see this in verses 1 to 4. Jonah’s hostility in verses 1 to 2 reveals that he had forgotten God’s mercy to himself. Verse 10, “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.
4:1But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. 2And 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 Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.’”
A month or more prior, Jonah had experienced the ultimate mercy from God. His attempted suicide had been aborted by the sovereign intervention of God. God had brought Jonah to repentance over his disobedience in fleeing. And God had shown mercy to Jonah by preserving his life and setting him free from the fish.
It’s likely that Jonah bore the marks of, and had the skin of, a man who’d been in a fish’s stomach for three days. This would be physical evidence to the Ninevites of God’s mercy to him and his authority. Archaeologists have uncovered a fair bit of Nineveh. And as they did so, they found many sculptures, idols, seals and engravings of Dagon–a god which the Philistines, Assyrians and Babylonians all worshipped.
He was the father of Ba’al–half man, half fish. Carvings show him with the tail of a fish and the head of a man. He was worshipped everywhere along the coast, and word would’ve made it to Nineveh of this strange man spit up by a fish. God definitely prepared them to hear the message.
But when revival broke out, and the Assyrian inhabitants of Nineveh began to repent–Jonah saw a side of God’s mercy that he didn’t like. The mercy of God which came to Israel should not be extended to people like those in Nineveh. Verse 1 reads, “But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry.” More literally it says it was evil to Jonah–a great evil, and it burned to him.
Jonah didn’t like what God was doing. He had forgotten God’s mercy to himself. Jonah thought he was better. He believed that the Ninevites were unworthy of mercy and that he was. It is just like us—”I am not going to witness to him. No way would he care. Why is she the one with the cancer? She loves God. Why am I sick now? The Lord knows I need to work.”
We often look upon our neighbor, our coworker, or our children’s teacher and we think ourselves superior to them. We forget our own wretchedness. We look down on the other parents on the sports team, a clerk at a store or a leader in the church–we subtly proclaim that we are more deserving of God’s favor than they are. We forget that we were just like them before Christ. And without Christ, we’d be no better off–and maybe even worse off!
Jonah’s hostility shows that he had forgotten God’s mercy to himself. He genuinely felt that the Ninevites were not worthy of God’s mercy and that he was. In fact, he was trying to help God when he fled. That’s what he communicates–I knew you’d relent and so I fled. I knew you’d have compassion on these undeserving people and I tried to prevent it. He does not like what God is doing. God’s decisions don’t feel best.
God begins to confront Jonah in verse 4, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” The implied answer is “no”. The mercy I gave to you was no more deserved than what I gave them. When you grumble and complain about life–Jonah’s anger here displays our failure, our sin. Let’s go on and look at how else we are often like Jonah. When God challenges Jonah’s viewpoint . . .
b. Jonah isolated himself Verse 5
We see this in verse 5. “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.” It may be that Jonah had deluded himself into thinking that he’d convinced God to destroy Nineveh. It may be that Jonah thought that they would quickly revert to their old ways if he left town.
Whatever the motivation, Jonah pulls up stakes and leaves the city. He leaves Nineveh proper and goes and sits a bit east of it—likely, on a bit of a hill or sand dune that would’ve given him a view of the fireworks he was hoping for. Jonah sought separation and isolation. It seems likely that God’s intent had been for Jonah to be there long enough to cultivate worship among the Ninevites. His commission was to preach. He was intended to serve as a prophet to Nineveh.
Traditionally, the role of a prophet was both foretelling and forthtelling. A prophet would prophesy words direct from God and he would personally exhort his audience in what to do. Prophesy marked a prophet. But a prophet would also preach. He would proclaim to his audience what he already knew to be true of God and their relationship to Him.
Jonah, though, left. As he sought to be separate on the ship, now that he was free from the obligation to obedience, he could get away, sit and simmer. Jonah has been doing all that he could to obey the least he could. He preached–a short, five-word sermon, and they still repented.
Now perhaps, if he left town quickly and did not minister to them and teach them more about the Lord and His holiness, then, maybe God would come and destroy them, after all. And so Jonah left town. He didn’t like what was happening. He did not finish the work, but chose to separate himself and become a spectator.
One of the most common marks of someone in sin and unrepentant is that they isolate themselves from others. They find ways to escape God-given responsibilities. They find ways to escape accountability. They seek isolation. When you don’t like what is happening, do you isolate yourself? Are you like Jonah, just a little bit?
I remember in the early years of our church, when we were only a couple hundred people at Bella Vista, there was a family that would sit outside during the worship time and then come inside for the preaching. Week after week, they would be there–never a smile. Eventually, we learned that they loved the preaching and hated the worship. Their actions and their faces reflected the unhappiness they felt during much of our church service.
Are you prone to sitting on the sidelines, critiquing, criticizing and complaining? You choose to isolate and separate yourself rather than be involved in God’s plan? Maybe you used to be active until you got tired, or you got hurt, or you got angry about something. Jonah’s anger displays our more subtle sins in high definition.
In the other two services, there are some people who show up every Sunday, sit in the comfy chairs, watch the show, join the sing along, eat a donut and go home–with as few words said to others as possible. Thankfully, there’s no one like that in this service.
When we choose to isolate ourselves and spectate, we act like Jonah. And notice how intentional verse 5 states it, when he pulled out of the city. “There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it.” His heart is self-focused. His prayer to God in verses 2 to 3 was focused on himself–it used “I” or “my” eight times.
Now here in verse 5, we see that same self-focus in him building a shelter “for himself”. The shelter is for him–it is for his use. It is for the purpose of being away from the Ninevites. This is not a place for others. This is a place to circle the wagons and be alone.
Based on the response of the king, Jonah could probably have had his choice of lodgings. He could stay in the palace. He could ask for someone’s home. He could leave the city and stay with an Assyrian peasant on the eastern hillside. But he had no love for Nineveh–he was filled with wrath towards them.
He wanted to be alone. He wanted to sit by himself and grumble about life. He thought he was better. He wanted to be separate. We are far too often like Jonah. Rather than find pleasure in what God was doing in Nineveh, we also see that . . .
c. Jonah enjoyed physical pleasure more than spiritual good
We see this 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 [greatly] happy about the plant.” This is the first thing in the whole book that Jonah has been genuinely pleased by–and what is it?
Is it some new understanding of God? No. Is it joy in the work that God has given him to do? No. Is it the spiritual response of the king? No. Is it the revival in Nineveh? No. In fact, look back at verse 1. Verse 6 is the foil to verse 1–it shows the contrast. In verse 1, Jonah is greatly displeased–why? Because Nineveh repented and God relented. In verse 6, Jonah is greatly happy–why? Because he got some extra shade while he sat alone, in the heat, waiting and hoping for God to destroy Nineveh.
Do you get the contrast? Jonah’s pleasure was in something physical that only benefited himself. Jonah found far greater joy in this plant than he did in the spiritual renewal that was happening in Nineveh. What excites you the most? Is it spiritual things? Is it the good of others? Is it self-serving?
There is something wrong when we are more excited about the new phone or the new laptop or the new SUV or the upcoming vacation, than we are about people coming to know God, or to love Him more? I think that this is a way that our church is a great deal like Jonah. Want to come to Bible study and encourage other people in their walk with God? “Just can’t find the time.” Want to take the family to the beach? The zoo? Disneyland? Padres? “Sure–in fact, I’ll take the day off.”
Can you free up some time to teach a preschool class and share some basic Bible study? “It’s not really my thing.” Hey, can you serve as the assistant junior coach for the soccer team? “I’ve never done it before, but I’d love to!” Betty Lou had surgery and we’re hoping you could make a meal for her and her four kids. “You know, things are kinda busy right now.” Honey, can you watch the kids for a couple hours? I need some “me” time.
Christian, what excites you the most? What makes you smile? Jonah’s pleasure with his little plant that did nothing but provide him shade should convict us. His happiness here is written to show us our sin. Jonah looks a lot like us, doesn’t he? Now the last thing we see in the text here is . . .
d. God-ordained circumstances increased Jonah’s anger Verses 7 to 9
We see in verses 7 to 9 that Jonah’s anger increases as his situation goes downhill. After a day of happiness with the plant, we read in verses 7 and 8, “But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day, and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8And it came about when the sun came up that 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.’”
Jonah’s wrath had begun with the Ninevites’ repentance. Now, as his focus shifts more and more onto himself, the little things are beginning to bother him. And that principle is always true. A singular concern for yourself makes little things into a big deal. As God’s wrath turned away, Jonah’s wrath increased. What first took a whole city to arouse, now the smallest of acts–the death of a plant brings on.
God had appointed the plant to shade Jonah. And he appointed a worm to kill the plant. And he appointed a scorching east wind. A wind called a sirocco that is much like the Santa Ana winds we get here. The average heat in the area he was in was 110 degrees. Whenever it’s over 90 degrees, a breeze actually makes you feel hotter rather than cooler. Wind chill adds degrees to perceived heat when it gets that hot.
Humidity dropped, the temperature increased, the shade of his plant was gone, the paltry shade of his shelter didn’t do much. And now Jonah is losing it. As a prelude to heat stroke, Jonah probably would’ve experienced a pounding headache, nausea and dizziness, stomach cramps, rapid breathing, a weak pulse. Life hadn’t been great for a while, and now things seemed horrible. Rather than destroy Nineveh, it appeared to Jonah that he was the one being punished.
Do you see how God-ordained circumstances increased his anger? God brought Nineveh to repentance. God appointed a plant to grow that Jonah would like. God appointed a worm to kill the plant. God appointed a scorching east wind. In all likelihood, Jonah could’ve packed camp and returned to Nineveh when the plant died. But he was angry. And then the wind blew and he got hotter and hotter and madder and madder.
How do you respond when life is sour–when nothing seems to go your way? Your boss has it in for you. Your coworker cheats you. A guy cuts you off on the road. You blow a tire. You lose a twenty. Your kids are arguing. Your spouse is not affectionate. Your electricity bill is 1/3 of your paycheck. Your cell phone broke. Your parents are nagging you. Your dog got hit. Your phone was smashed. And there’s no food in the house. How do you respond when your life is like a country song?
When you respond to God-ordained circumstances with anger and hostility, you are acting like Jonah. Isn’t it amazing how much his anger reveals our own common sins? Do you see yourself in Jonah? But understand, the point of the book is not to make you feel guilty. The point of chapter 4 is to leave us motivated to do better than Jonah. To love and obey God more. To be more obedient to our commission. Jonah’s anger, in fact, shows how often we are like him
2. How does God’s mercy confront our sin?
God answers that question in verses 9 to 11. “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.’ 10Then 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. 11And 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?’”
In the final words of Jonah, God argues from the lesser to the greater. He says to Jonah, “Your compassion for the plant vindicates my compassion for Nineveh. Jonah, you cared about a plant which you did nothing for, and it lived for a day. How much more should I care about Nineveh, which has been important to me, in which many people live, and which has existed for many years? If you care so much about a little plant, cannot I care about so many people? Can I not care as much about the animals, even?”
Jonah’s anger emphasizes God’s mercy. The fact that Jonah would get so frustrated by such a petty thing. Jonah found more pleasure in the plant than in the souls of the Ninevites. His anger about how things have gone is a proof and evidence and vindication of how great God’s mercy is. It is another proof that God is utterly unlike man.
God has mercy on whom He chooses, not on whom we think are deserving. Romans 9:15 to 16 say, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. 16So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
We read these verses and we often think of them as a limitation. Oh, you see Romans 9–God only chooses some. Jonah balances our understanding of this. We learn from Jonah that God extends mercy to more than we ever would. His mercy is greater than ours every will be. His wisdom . . . His ways . . . His decisions . . . all better than ours.
Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does. In heaven and earth, in the seas and in all deeps.” God has not done as Jonah thought best. God resolved to save Nineveh. Jonah wouldn’t have. Jonah’s anger exalts God’s mercy. And the reality is that all of us have felt as Jonah does. He just expresses it with more force. He says, “Death to me is better than life.” Lord, please take my life.
Some of you have felt suicidal. All of us have gotten sad, silent, angry, questioning, pouty, depressed. This is how we naturally feel when what we think is best is not God’s best. Like Jonah, we don’t like God’s ways. But we’re more prone to blaming someone else–my kids, my husband, my boss. Why are they like this? My job, my health, my home–why is this happening?
Jonah’s anger in chapter 4 mirrors how we often think and feel. Jonah wants to die. God has not done as Jonah thought best. And God uses Jonah’s anger to communicate how great His mercy is. And the book ends with God asking this question—”Shouldn’t I have compassion?”
Now take a step back and think about this–why does the book end the way it does? God was confronting Jonah. Why not show him repent? It is a horrible ending. It’s the kind of movie where you walk out disgusted. The hero never recovered. There was no wrap-up. It doesn’t feel good. Why did God end the book this way? The answer lies in the purpose of the book.
The book was written to Israel to display God’s heart and their commission. Each part of the book is a display of Jonah’s failure, God’s mercy and God’s intention to save. The way the book ends intentionally leaves a question hanging. It asks, “Who will go? Who will get over themselves? Who will forsake comfort and what they think is best? Who will trust God and His choices? Who will go and serve in Jonah’s place? Who will go and be a faithful minister to these Gentile people to whom God wants to show mercy?”
The answer was supposed to be Israel and Judah. Whether this was written right after the event, or later on–they would soon be living in captivity among Assyrians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Persians, Medes, and eventually Romans. God uses this book to ask the question, “Who will go?” Israel was supposed to, and they didn’t.
They mourned over their exile. They stayed separate from the Gentiles. They thought they were better than the others, for they were God’s chosen people. God’s heart was for Israel to go. God’s covenant with Abraham showed this intention. Psalm 145 shows that David understood this. Solomon’s prayer inaugurating the temple in 1 Kings 8 recognizes God’s continual concern for other nations and Israel’s responsibility toward them.
But Israel did not do this. Jonah exemplifies Israel’s heart toward the Gentiles. God asks, “Who will go and care for these poor people who lack discernment? Who will go and minister to the people on whom I have compassion?” And his question finds its fulfillment in Jesus, who is the greater Jonah. Jesus, the other prophet from Galilee. Jesus, God incarnate, who singled out Jonah and used him alone as a comparison to Himself.
Where Jonah brought revival despite his rebellion, Jesus brought redemption due to His obedience. When God asks, “Who will go and care for these people?” –the answer is Jesus. He came and lived among the Jews. He ministered to a stiff-necked people whose hearts were hard. He went and brought salvation to a Samaritan woman and her village. He came and brought salvation to the Centurion and healed his servant. He is the one whom Simeon said would be “a light of revelation to the Gentiles.” He is the one who said, “I have other sheep, who are not of this fold; I must bring them also.”
He died on the cross and bore the wrath of Nineveh’s sin–and our sin. He is the one who fulfilled the lingering question of Jonah. And after His resurrection, He commands His followers to go. He commands us to be His ambassadors in cities like Nineveh and Los Angeles and Irvine and San Diego and Wildomar and Menifee and even in Hemet.
God confronts and answers our grumbling. His ways are better. He can be trusted. Get your mind off of yourself. Get on mission with God–He has things for you to do. God ends the book of Jonah the way He does to ask, “Who will go?” The lasting answer was not Israel, but Jesus. And now, by his commission, the answer is us–you and me.
The book of Jonah confronts us. It comforts us. And it calls us to stop our grumbling and keep moving forward in trust. As Peter said, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9 to 10).