I find the story of Jonah (a sulking prophet) to be an interesting one.
We pick up the story after Jonah has been ‘returned’ to the land by the big fish.
Chapter 3. Jonah (NIV): ” Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah (this time) obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. …
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
Chapter 4. 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.” But the LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. [He still wanted to see the destruction of the city – there had been a long history of hostility between the Ninevites and Israelites.]
Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left – and also many animals?”
It’s an important story in that reinforces the important point that it’s God’s right to show mercy and compassion to anyone He so chooses. The Jews believed that they had a special relationship with God (and they do) – to the extent that He would bless them and, at the same time, punish their enemies. The more evil their enemies were – the more deserving of their punishment. However – this type of judgment is not one, for us to make. In summary, we have no right to get angry over God exercising His divine right, to demonstrate mercy and compassion to ‘our’ enemies. In any case, only God can see into the heart of a person and know their true intentions.
As Selwyn writes in today’s study: “Jonah finds it hard to come to terms with God’s amazing mercy and grace. … Our natural minds find it difficult to handle what has been described as ‘the injustice of grace’.”
God has created all life and the things we see around us – we did not play any role in His creation; consequently, we have no right to make judgements about the way God interacts with His creation. We cannot be like God, and understand all His ways – we are left with only one legitimate response – to trust in His goodness and to give Him praise (through our love) for what He has done – for all of His creation.
Do you agree?