“But the Lord replied, ‘Have you any right to be angry?’ Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.” — Jonah 4:4–5 (NIV84)
I marvel at those who say that the God of the Bible is cruel and judgmental. Do they not see what God consistently does throughout the Scriptures? It doesn’t matter whether you are Adam and Eve, Abraham, Saul, King David, or Jonah — God takes the initiative when there is a problem. He responds first to the brokenness of the relationship. He came to Adam and Eve in the Garden. He visited with Abraham. He sent Nathan (the prophet) to King David. And here in our text He came to Jonah. The question to Jonah is similar to the question posed to Cain. To Cain, God said, “Why are you angry and why is your face downcast?” To Jonah, He said, “Have you any right to be angry?” To Cain God went on to say, “Sin is crouching at the door, but you must master it.” In our verses for today God implied the same thing to Jonah. What was Jonah’s response? The same as Cain’s. Silence. Jonah did not respond. He stubbornly sat down east of the city to see whether God might relent from His grace and punish the Ninevites as Jonah would have liked them to be punished.
Jonah couldn’t see what we can’t help but see. His relationship with God was collapsing. Jonah had lost the understanding of true grace and in doing so had severed his own connection to it. His relationship with God was broken. Interestingly, He knew the theology. He had the head knowledge about God, but he no longer had the heart connection. Even though he himself had been redeemed by God (most recently during his own bout of disobedience on the ship bound for Tarshish), he had quickly forgotten the love and compassion behind such an act and so refused to support such an act expressed toward the Ninevites. So he sat and pouted in his sorely misguided worldview.
Sound familiar? Ever get frustrated and angry with God because He showed grace and compassion to someone you felt didn’t deserve it? Have you ever chosen to ignore what the Lord was telling you and to sit idle, waiting to see whether He would conform to your image? Let’s be honest — we all have! But it doesn’t need to be this way. We desperately need to make sure that we are connected to God’s Word and His acts of grace on a regular basis. We need to see His grace toward us as undeserved as opposed to entitled. Satan so desperately wants us to have the wrong view of God so we will have the wrong view of the world around us. We must “submit therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from us” (James 4:7). Let’s make sure our concept of God’s grace rings true to our head, our heart, and the reality we experience. I think this is why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” This was Paul’s way of making sure that he saw the world around him as God saw it. Grace was as much a gift to Paul as it was to those he was preaching to.
May this be true for us as well.