Jonah wanted to play God;
he wanted to be the one to judge wicked Nineveh. Poor Jonah wrestled with burning anger.
- God commanded a man.
God asked Jonah to tell the people of Nineveh that unless they repented, He would destroy them. Instead of obeying God, Jonah took a ship in the opposite direction. Apparently, he had a bone to pick with the Ninevites!
- God commanded a wind.
Jonah begrudged God’s probable mercy on Nineveh, so God sent a great storm, and the ship began to founder. In terror, the sailors threw the cargo overboard. However, Jonah hid and fell into a deep sleep. The sailors screamed for mercy to ineffectual gods. Jonah, the only sailor who knew a merciful God, slept soundly in a thrashing sea. The sailors shook Jonah awake. “Why aren’t you praying to your God?” they asked. He feared to ask God, whom he had defied, for mercy! At Jonah’s request, the sailors threw him overboard. He no longer slept; he sank in the surf.
- God commanded a fish.
A fish large enough to swallow a man? The God who created the world could create whatever He needed to discipline a city or a rebellious prophet. The fish swallowed Jonah. Swirling and sloshing among the seaweed inside the fish, Jonah repented and cried out to God for mercy. God commanded the fish to regurgitate Jonah on the beach.
Later, still grumbling, Jonah started out toward Nineveh to finally obey God. “They are going to repent, and You, O God of mercy, are going to forgive them. I just know it!” Jonah muttered. In Nineveh, he prophesied doom for three days.
Apparently, Jonah knew his God, a God of mercy and love. The Ninevites did repent, and God was merciful to them. Jonah’s anger effervesced again. “See, God!” he shouted. “It’s just like I said it would be! But they really deserve to die!” He went to the outskirts of the city and built himself a stick shelter in which to sit and pout.
- God commanded a seed.
By God’s command, a vine sprang up. Growing rapidly, it wound its way up the stick shelter, covering it and providing lovely shade for God’s angry, disobedient prophet. It gave him a cool spot in which to sit, vent his anger, and mutter to himself about God’s unfairness.
- God commanded a worm and a wind.
A worm ate through the vine stem at ground level. A dry, hot wind withered the vine and blew away the leaves. Jonah lost his shade; he hadn’t learned to be thankful for God’s mercy on the wicked Ninevites, so God withdrew His mercy from Jonah.
- God rebuked Jonah.
Angry at God for His mercy to the wicked, Jonah chafed in his own desert discomfort. Sadly, he did not feel angry about Satan’s control over 120,000 people in the city of Nineveh! He was as angry, grudging, and surly at the end of the story as at the beginning.
What about me?
Am I thankful for God’s mercy on a wicked world, or am I calling down judgment on enemies I shouldn’t have in the first place? Am I thankful for God’s blessings in my life, or do I rail against God about my puny problems? Do I gleefully shout out doom, or do I compassionately share God’s mercy with a wicked world?
Jonah’s jury consisted of a wind, a fish, a seed, and a worm. God, spare me from Jonah’s jury!