Saturday

15 September 2018

Jonah 4:1-11

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 138 

Background

Jonah is most unhappy at the success of his own mission. Not only has he been forced to preach to people who are ancient enemies of his own race, even worse he proclaimed destruction and then, when they repented, God forgave them. Once again, we are not told exactly what Jonah’s motive was; he complains that he always knew that God would relent but it is not clear whether he did not want the Ninevites to be forgiven or he did not want to play the fool who proclaimed that one thing would happen and actually the opposite came about. Jonah is shown in the unique position of complaining that God is merciful and abounding in love.

There is something very human about the way that throughout this book Jonah never responds as we might logically expect. When called to preach, he runs away. In the belly of the fish, he responds with praise. When his mission is successful, and an entire city responds to his preaching, he sulks and asks to die. Given an opportunity to lead a people in prayer and repentance, he takes himself off and makes himself an observer.  

It is easy to see the grace of God towards the Ninevites in this story – but sometimes we miss God’s grace to Jonah; he responded very poorly throughout most of the book, but the story ends not with a condemnation of Jonah but rather with an appeal to identify with God’s mercy. The story ends us abruptly, leaving us to wonder what happened next.

 

To Ponder

  • If you were Jonah, would you have seen the Ninevites’ repentance as a response to your preaching or as undermining you?
  • How do you think Jonah responded to God? You may wish to write the next verse of the conversation.

 


Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.