The Pouting Prophet
Jonah 3 :10-4:11
Fallen Condition Focus: We are excited about the mercy of God and what He has done for us personally. However, we often fall short of truly wanting the grace of God to be shed abroad and for people to experience conversion. Furthermore, we say that we want to be used by God to reach the lost… as long as we can do it on our terms.
Story: I refused to preach until God confronted me at the Palacio Del Rio. “Who are you to ask for another representation of Me?”
- The Result of Jonah’s Preaching: Repentance (Jonah 3:10) The prophet’s ministry is measurably profitable. Jonah’s preaching, by the grace of God, was so effective that everybody was repenting. The common man was repenting and turning away from evil. (Jonah 3:5) The crown of that community humbled himself, following the example of the people beneath him, took personal responsibility for the actions of the people under his leadership; he repented of the evil and his part therein. (Jonah 3:6-9) That is not all. Oh no, that is not all. It just keeps on keeping on:
and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. Jonah 3:10 KJV
We need to get used to the fact that English is unusual in having two terms, “evil” and “bad,” where most languages, including Hebrew, get by with one. Hence whenever we hear in translation of some “evil” we must ask whether this means moral evil or simply some kind of badness, something gone wrong, some disaster or destruction, perhaps even bad things that are morally good because they are a form of justice – the bad things that people deserve to have happen to them because they are justly punished. … For the LORD to “repent of the evil” is therefore to have mercy where he has threatened to execute justice.
Cary Philip, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, p. 122
- The Revelation of Jonah’s Problem: Resentment and Rebellion (Jonah 4:1-3) Jonah has been played by God. He realizes now that God planned to save this people all along. Even the message of doom that he preached was really part of God’s greater plan to deliver the people from destruction. Look at the evidence:
(1) The Mission: When Jonah rebelled against God there was a fish ready to swallow him. Why? Because God had prepared the fish! (Jonah 1:17) He sent that word to Jonah knowing that he would rebel against that word and that he would run and that he would eventually be cast into the sea. God planned for him to go to Nineveh covered with fish vomit in order to bring about great salvation.
(2) The Message: Jonah’s only comfort may have come in preaching a message of doom and gloom. (Jonah 3:4) But he now realizes that is not what was really happening. God’s message was a pun. It was a play on words that predicted not the cremation of Nineveh but the conversion of Nineveh. The prophet exclaims… “You cheated!” That word overthrown has two meanings: (a) overthrow (of Sodom and Gomorrah Genesis 19:21,25,29; of Babylon Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 50:40) and (b) conversion (of Israel’s cursing into blessing Deuteronomy 23:5; Nehemiah 13:2; of Saul into another man 1 Samuel 10:6 with another heart 1 Samuel 10:9)
“I knew this would happen!” In his prayer for death he becomes the anti-Prophet.
- anti-Abraham (Genesis 18:16-33) Abraham leverages the righteous character of God to intercede for the lost. Would you still destroy the city if there were 50 righteous people in it? 45? 40? 30? Can I get 20? How about 10?
- anti-Job (Job 3) Job says that if his living is rejected by God what is purpose in living. Cursed is the day I was born. Jonah has proof positive that his living is a blessing to others and he is mad about it.
- anti-Elijah (1 Kings 19:2-4) Elijah throws himself a pity party and is feeling sorry for himself: my ministry is meaningless – FAILURE. Let me die, Lord! Jonah is mad because he is successful.
- anti-Moses (Numbers 14:17-19) Where Moses uses the name to campaign for mercy Jonah uses the name to complain about God’s mercy.
When I complain about the calling to present the gospel to others I become anti-Christ. It is not a refusing to acknowledge His presence, or his power, but it is a refusal to be involved in His program. Instead of “Thy will be done on earth” we say “My will be done on earth”. God moves from the issue of Jonah’s actions to the more central issue of Jonah’s attitude.
The contemporary counterpart to the rebellion of Jonah is not nearly as crass. It is more complex and sophisticated in its presentation. The modern Jonah says, “Let them come to Christ!”
- but stay in their country
- but stay in their community
- but stay in their churchless existence
“And, Lord, do not even think about asking me to help you reach the lost.” The heart of the problem is a heart that is prone to become resentful or recalcitrant when asked to serve the master in reaching the lost… reaching those we feel are undeserving. It encroaches on my time to receive Jesus leadership in evangelism. It is better that I be religious while reaching the people I love than to be righteous and reaching those I loathe.
III. The Relentless Passion: Relentless Reaching (Jonah 4:4-11) God calls out to his dove. His prophet. His son. “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4) The prophet is so blinded by his hate for these people that God is seen asking silly questions in hopes of waking him up.