by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions
Jonah 4:1-5 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, "Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You [are] a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. "Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for [it is] better for me to die than to live!" Then the LORD said, "[Is it] right for you to be angry?" So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.
We continue looking at Jonah, and find him in Chapter 4 displeased with God's mercy toward Nineveh. The Assyrians were arch-enemies of Israel and among the cruelest nations in history. Instead of being elated that God spared 120,000 Ninevites Jonah preferred to see his own pronouncement of judgment executed by the Lord. "Let those Assyrians get what's coming to them – they deserve to go to hell without any mercy for how they've treated Israel!" The Hebrew word "charah", " to be hot, furious, burn, become angry, be kindled" is a very strong expression for Jonah's feelings as he leaves the city of Nineveh and sets up a shelter to watch what will happen – he seems to be hoping that God might change His mind and destroy Nineveh anyway.
Have you ever felt this way? Someone has really hurt you; really done evil to you more than once – you knew from God's point of view he was "begging for a bolt" (of lightening), and you wished judgment would rain upon him. The last thing you want to do is warn him to stop; you want justice, not mercy; maybe even ... revenge! Would you have the courage to admit that? To be really honest with God? Tell Him how disappointed you are that your tormentor hasn't been hit by a truck or developed a brain malignancy?
Jonah's honesty is commendable. How many of us would try to hide feelings like that, even from ourselves? "Please take my life." Jonah says. But the Lord understands. Instead of condemning Jonah for his merciless attitude He tries to reason with His prophet. "`Is doing good displeasing to thee?' He asks Jonah. Then Jonah's misery is compounded when the plant God gives him for shade withers and dies. Depressed and angry, Jonah reveals the depth of depravity in human nature. "“It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” he pines. He cannot find joy in the mercy of God.
I shudder to think of what would happen to me if I received God's justice for my sins. I would not want to wish His punishment even on my worst enemies. Perhaps Jonah didn't realize that his own attitude was displeasing to God and also deserved His judgment. I'm so thankful for God's mercy to us. We should bless our enemies and pray for those who despitefully use us; we should overcome evil with good. Mercy triumphs over judgment. The Lord gives us the power to be like Him. He did it by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, after three days. Jonah was a sign of this, remember?