The Book of Jonah: A mini-series
God’s Mercy Exposes A Heart of Malice
01 November 2015
The conclusion to the book of Jonah is startling and somewhat counter-intuitive. Instead of God’s prophet rejoicing, and a pagan nation being crushed, a pagan nation is saved, and God's prophet complains. This ending to the book of Jonah is a reminder of God’s incredible mercy, and the heart of malice every Christian is capable of harbouring.
Jonah was angry at God’s compassion for saving Nineveh (v. 1-3). After having preached to the Ninevites and seeing them repent, Jonah was mad, still wishing for their destruction. He prays, complaining to God, “you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and you relent of doing harm” (v. 2). Seeing himself as the one wronged by God, he overlooks the fact that all “have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Again he seeks death, asking of God to end his life.
Jonah’s problem was his heart, and God’s solution was to point it out (v. 4-11). God asks him, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (v. 4). But, still frustrated at the Ninevites’ repentance, Jonah “went out of the city... and there made himself a booth, and sat under it in the shade, until he might see what would become of the city” (v. 5). Here, God prepared a vine for shade, but then prepared a worm to kill the plant, and a scorching wind to blow. Jonah once more asks to die, and it is here we see God’s mercy anew, and Jonah’s heart of malice. Jonah says, “I am right to be angry, even to death” (v. 9) and God says, “You have been concerned for the vine, for which you have not laboured, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night. Shouldn’t I be concerned for Nineveh, that great city” (v. 11)?
The account of Jonah is both troubling and wonderful. On one hand, we see God’s incredible mercy to Jonah, a band of pagan sailors, and a whole nation of violent men. On the other, we see Jonah’s constant heart of malice that should remind believers of their own bent towards sin. Jonah is a book about God, and his sovereign intentions towards man. May we align with Him in His work, instead of following our own agenda.