When Jonah is mentioned, we usually think of his disobedience. In reality Jonah was a cross-cultural missionary whose ministry was incredibly successful. After some hesitation, he went into the large, important city where God had called him and preached the message God had given him. The people, including the king, responded by fasting, praying, and giving up their evil ways. However, instead of returning to his passport country with exciting reports of the salvation of 120,000 people, he sat down to pout.
Jonah’s attitudes did not match his successful ministry. He became angry, and his anger generalized to many different categories of people and things.
- He was angry with the people group to whom God had called him to minister. It was an evil city, one which a fellow prophet had pointed out was filled with liars, killers, and thieves (Nahum 3:1). Jonah’s anger had turned to hatred, and though he preached to them, he really wanted them destroyed because they had been so cruel to his people.
- He was angry with God. He said to God, “I knew it! That is why I didn’t want to come in the first place. I knew that you were a loving, compassionate God who would forgive them!” God did not destroy the people as he had hoped; Jonah asked God to take his life; and then he went outside to city and sat down to see what would happen (4:1-5).
- He was angry with the vine when it withered and no longer gave him shade (4:6-9). If living today, he would be angry with the electricity when it went off, with the computer when it crashed, and with the car when it quit.
Like many people you know, perhaps including yourself, Jonah had a problem with anger. Let us consider whether or not anger is sinful, why we get angry, what we can do with the anger, and whether or not we can change people who make us angry.