But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” – Jonah 4:1-11 (ESV)
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 8
Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.