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)
Doug Stuart writes:
What God did was right. Nineveh had great intrinsic worth in spite of its many objectionable characteristics. It had worth by reason of being the important city of its day, by reason of containing a large human population, or even by reason of its many cattle. No one – certainly not Jonah who argued vehemently for the great worth of a single plant – could have the right to doubt the propriety of God’s finding worth in Nineveh. Yet Jonah hated the whole business enough to die. He had resisted God’s will in this connection once already, unto death, as it were (1:12). Stubborn and unrepentant himself to the end, he could not abide seeing God show compassion and grace to the enemies of his people, Israel. Jonah was sincere, dedicated, honest, and even courageous. He was principled, too, though his principles were badly askew. In chap. 4 the pettiness and ultimate inconsistency of his position is shown for what it is. He had accepted and even hymned God’s merciful deliverance for himself (2:3-10) and had shown that he knew what it was to feel deep concern for something that of itself may not have actually earned any such concern (4:10). But he would rather die (4:3) than see Yahweh do likewise.
The fish was a gift to Jonah. It delivered him from death. He certainly did not deserve that deliverance. The climbing gourd was also a gift to Jonah. He had done nothing to earn it (4:10). Why then cannot God, in the same sort of way, give Nineveh something it does not deserve, has not earned? What right does Jonah have to be angry? What right have we to be angry that God should bless people, groups, institutions, nations who have done nothing to deserve such blessing? Can we ever rightly resent – let alone denounce – the grace of God shown to any of the world’s nations or peoples, oppressed or oppressor, peace-loving or war making? What sense is there in the common, tacit assumption that our only nation is His only nation?
The “weightier matters” of the law include mercy. We who have had mercy shown to us must, of all people, by willing to show mercy in return. Jonah knew all along that God was gracious, compassionate, faithful, and loyal and that He decided against bring death whenever He should find cause to rent from it.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 13
Q. 13. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.