Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
In chapter three we see the power of God’s Word. We see the impact that God’s Word has in people’s lives and hearts. The good news we see in chapter three is that an entire city repented. This is unusual, but it happened because God said so. Generally we will find some that will accept the Word of God and repent and be saved. The majority of those who hear the Word take offence to that. In some places, those who preach and live the truth are ostracized and persecuted. God tells us that we should expect this if we choose to honour God.
Now in chapter 4 we see that Jonah, the man God chose to preach the Word of God to the people in Nineveh, was not pleased with the good results of preaching. It is strange that a preacher would fight against the power of that message. Why bother preaching if you do not believe in the power of what you are saying.
As we mentioned, Jonah did not accept the power of God’s Word. He was happy to preach a message of judgment. He wanted God to wipe out this entire city. Jonah lacked the love of God in his heart and life. What a shame.
God gave us this text to show us His love and mercy and grace. God also shows us how hard a person who knows the true God, can be toward the Word and will of God. God directed David to write:
Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
We need to humble ourselves and ask God to check our hearts. We need to realize how easily we can be deceived into thinking we are doing right when we are not. God’s Word is the standard, not our opinions.
God directed Jeremiah to write:
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
Jonah was a prophet of God. However, Jonah had a severe hatred for foreigners. He did not care if a segment of people go to hell. God warns us here to be careful. Pride and arrogance cannot have any place in the saved person’s life. We must understand that the flesh is evil. We need to learn to walk in the Spirit. We need to put the old man to death.
It is important to understand that what the Bible teaches on this is not in support of the false teaching of gnosticism. The Bible teaches that the flesh cannot control the true child of God. The flesh must be brought under:
I Corinthians 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
The true child of God needs to learn to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Jonah is an Old Testament example of a man who believed in God, but had not surrendered to God in this important area. He was angry with the LORD for not “keeping His Word”. Jonah did not understand the mercy of God. He did not understand the heart of God. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. God did not break His Word in the life of Jonah. God warned the people of Nineveh to repent. They did as they were told to do. They did so in sincerity. Later in the history of this city, the descendants of these people would go back to paganism and God would destroy them. But at this particular time they listened to God’s Word and they repented and were spared the judgment of God. God is not ashamed to withhold judgment. He would much rather see people saved than suffering due to their sin. Jonah did not understand this. God would deal further with him on this important matter. Jonah shows us a picture of the general thinking of the Jews. Even at the time of Jesus Christ, the Jews looked down upon the Gentiles. We see this as well in the life of Peter in the early chapters of the book of Acts.
In verse 2 Jonah prayed to the LORD and stated that this was the very reason why he fled to Tarshish when he was first commanded to go preach in Nineveh. Jonah admitted that he knew that God was a gracious God. He knew He was merciful and slow to anger and of great kindness. He knew that God would withhold judgment when people genuinely repented. Jonah knew all this and he did not want the Ninevites to live. He wanted them dead and in torment. What a sad testimony.
We can be thankful that God is not like that. God does not take pleasure in seeing man suffer. He gave Adam instructions and fair warning about disobeying His orders. Some people say they do not like rules. They prefer to live by “principles” rather than rules. God is a God of rules. He is a God of order. If you do not like rules, you will be shocked to find out that there is a rule that will apply to you if you persist in your rebellion against the true God. You will suffer in torment for all eternity unless you repent now in this life and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation. God’s gift of salvation and eternal life is the hope of man.
For those who are saved, let us be careful not to allow this ungodly attitude expressed by Jonah to exist in our lives. We need to ask God to check our hearts and to show us what needs to be purged and what needs to be strengthened. We need to be faithful and effective witnesses unto Him. That is the great need of every hour.
In verse 3 Jonah was asking the LORD to take his life. He stated that he would be better off dead than alive. Jonah was not thinking very clearly here. He needed a reality check. God would give him that. He needed to stop and think of what was going on in his heart. God was certainly merciful with him. He reasoned with him and gave him opportunity to rethink what he was thinking and saying. God is good. What a blessing it is to know this just and righteous and merciful God. What a blessing to submit to Him and serve Him faithfully.