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Jonah Chapter Four: Arguing with God March 26, 2005

Posted by mjtilley in Uncategorized.
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The very person who should understand and appreciate God’s mercy, because of his own experience with it, is the same person who is offended by God’s salvation. The man who owed his life and renewed relationship with God to a no less a gracious act is the very man who demands justice for Nineveh.

Now Jonah, for the first time, speaks in his defense for running from the call of God. Laughably, he feels justified laying the blame on God’s propensity to forgive and withhold judgment.

His motives become even clearer when he notes that he’s fearful of being shown as a fraud after preaching a similar message for years in Israel with no effect. He also explicitly states what has been hinted at throughout the book – Jonah is essentially suicidal.

However, he’s got enough righteous indignation left in him to set up a booth overlooking the doomed city of Nineveh, hoping that God will follow through on His threat. In spite of Jonah’s completely selfish perspective and complete lack of compassion, God causes a plant to spring up overnight to offer shade from the hot sun as Jonah holds his sadistic vigil. And for a brief moment the perpetually depressed prophet is happy.

Then, God has a worm spring up – just as quickly as the plant came up – and destroy the plant. To make matters worse, God also prepares a hot wind to blast Jonah. And just like that, Jonah’s back to his usual, sad self.
God asks what seems to be (and in other parts of the chapter, is) a rhetorical question – “Are you right to be upset, Jonah?” And Jonah quickly, acerbically and disrespectfully answers, “Absolutely!”

Then in the last two verses, God reveals what seems to be the lesson of the book: God loves His creation and He’s on a mission to restore a relationship with it.

Key Questions to Consider:

  • What is Jonah’s problem? Why is he so angry?
  • Do you think Jonah actually wants to die or is he just being dramatic?
  • Is Jonah being inconsistent by demanding Nineveh’s end while defending his own wayward acts?
  • Does Jonah’s experience provide any suggestions on how to handle those that might be considered “less than desirable” compared to those that normally sit in church pews?
  • Is God indicating that sin has no consequence? Is He suggesting that sin is permissible as long as we love Him?
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