By Toni Ford
Chapter 4 of the Book of Jonah reveals Jonah’s sins as well as the intentions and thoughts of his heart. We are reminded in 1 Samuel 16:7 that God looks at our hearts and weighs the motives of our heart. The root of every problem is the problem in the heart, and that’s where Jonah’s problems were to be found. Jonah 4:1 says, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.” The amazing thing is that God in his tenderness dealt with Jonah and the attitudes of his heart and sought to bring him back to the place of joy and fellowship. God does the same for us today, His compassions never fail.
God listens to us just as He did with Jonah. Jonah is angry at God and would rather die than not have his own way! Jonah 4:2-3 says, “So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” Jonah had good theology. He knew the attributes of God, but all that stayed in his head and never got to his heart, so much so that Jonah wanted to die! When our reputation is more important than our character, or pleasing ourselves or friends is more important than pleasing God, then we are in danger of living like Jonah instead of fulfilling our spiritual responsibilities. God’s tender response was to ask Jonah to examine his heart and see why he was so angry.
God comforts and provides for us just as He did with Jonah. In verses 5-8, we see that Jonah had made it to Nineveh but refused to go into the city and share with the Ninevites about the one true God of Israel. As Jonah sat outside the city watching the people, God graciously caused a vine to grow whose large leaves would protect Jonah from the sun and heat. This made Jonah very happy, but the next morning, God prepared a worm to kill the vine. God was reminding Jonah of what it was like to be lost, helpless, hopeless and miserable. Jonah was experiencing a taste of hell as he sat and watched the city. What a tragedy it is when God’s people are a means of blessing to others but miss the blessing themselves!
God will re-direct us just as He did with Jonah. In verses 9-11 we find Jonah angry all over again because the stem of the plant which was keeping him from the heat had shriveled up and died. His comfort had been affected, and thinking only of himself, Jonah was angry at God for allowing that to happen. Unrighteous anger feeds the ego and produces the poison of selfishness in our hearts. God challenged Jonah and his anger and reminded him that he had been sent to the city of Nineveh to save a people living in spiritual darkness. The city of Nineveh was never in Jonah’s plans, and he looked on that city with anger because of all the discomfort it had cause him in getting to the city. However, God intended to teach Jonah the lesson of God’s pity and having a heart of compassion for lost souls.
Watching and reading about Jonah, his response to God and God’s responses to him and seeing God’s heart for the Ninevites and His compassion to save them should lead us to ask some questions about ourselves. Like God, do we have a compassion for the lost? How do we show compassion? Do we have a great concern for those in our cities where there is so much sin and so little witness? Are we helping to send people – or willing to go ourselves – to these cities to share Jesus? These are the same questions God asked Jonah, and He is still asking these same questions of us today.
Lord, please make us open and willing to share you with others, even if it is not easy and makes us uncomfortable!
If you would like me to join you in prayer please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to pray for you!