But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” – Jonah 4:1-3
R. Reed Lessing writes:
Here in 4:1 Jonah places Yahweh’s change of verdict from judgment to salvation under his own human judgment! Yahweh saving Gentiles [at least these particular Gentiles] is, according Jonah, the great evil! Indeed, the final use of “evil” in the book depicts Yahweh trying “to save” Jonah “from his evil” (4:6) just as He had already saved the formerly unbelieving Ninevites from their “evil.” Jonah is where Nineveh was: in need of deliverance from his all-consuming evil! This is ironic satire at its best.
The greatest evil in the book is … Jonah! As Luther writes about Jonah, “he, a servant of the true God and a member of the holiest land and nation, should turn out to be the worst and most grievous sinner, worse than the idolatrous heather.” The shocking irony is that Jonah himself is alive only because of this very same grace on his behalf. In chapter 2 he himself had just been graciously delivered from the depths of the sea, from Sheol itself, and quite undeservedly at that! Now he wants to place a limitation on who should receive that very same grace. In his psalm, Jonah praises God for being gracious to him, but to extend the same benefits to the evil Ninevites elicits the prophet’s ire. Jonah is angry because he cannot control the spread of the Gospel. But as he readily admitted after personally benefitting from it, the Gospel does not belong to him. “Salvation belongs to the Yahweh,” and Yahweh alone decides who shall receive it.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 76
Q. 76. Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.