Jump Start # 2127
Jonah 4:4 “The Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”
We continue looking at lessons from the book of Jonah. In the final chapter, there are two expressions that are repeated. God says two of them and Jonah says two of them. Twice Jonah says, “death is better to me than life.”
Those are not the words of a suicidal person. Jonah never tries to kill himself. He is angry, upset and disappointed with the way things have turned out. He doesn’t want to see anymore. God caused a plant to grow to shade Jonah and he became extremely happy. Then God caused the plant to whither and die the next day. The hot, scorching sun beat down on Jonah. He became faint. This is when he begs God to take his life.
The other repeated expression is from God. Twice God asks Jonah, as our verse states, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” God was trying to get Jonah to learn a lesson. Jonah cared more for that plant, which he did nothing for except enjoy it, than the citizens of Nineveh. God had compassion for Nineveh, souls that were created in His image, by Him, and who turned their hearts to Him because of His message that was delivered by His prophet. God’s fingerprints were all over the Nineveh story. In comparison, Jonah didn’t do a thing for that plant. God had a right to care for Nineveh.
Do you have a right to be angry? That’s a good question for our times. Anger seems to abound. The music these days is dark and angry. The climate in politics today is angry. It seems that so many are just on the edge. If you drive too slow, in the wrong lane, or too close to another, you’ll probably set someone off and you’ll get an earful of car horns.
Anger can be like a volcano. A person might explode at anytime. Shouting in the homes. Slamming doors. Hurt feelings. Anger on the highway. Anger at work. “Going Postal” is an expression that came from an angry employee years ago at a post office. He came with a gun and shot people. That scenario has sadly been repeated with school shootings, mall shootings and movie theatre shootings. These are not happy people who do this. They are angry, upset and mentally unbalanced. They become unglued and anything happens.
Paul addressed anger in the Ephesian letter. There he ties anger in with sin and giving the devil an open door to our hearts. When angry, a person runs on passion and not thoughts. He says things that he later regrets. He often does things that later he realizes were over the top and out of place. A person can apologize and they should, but people will remember. Kids will remember. And, people tend to take a step back because they don’t want to witness another explosion again.
To answer the Lord’s repeated question, “Do you have a reason to be angry?” We think we do. Something happened that was unfair, not right, and messed with our lives. We get angry watching a ballgame when our team makes a simple mistake. I’m always amazed that professional football teams get a penalty for having too many players on the field. That’s a high school mistake.
Like Jonah, we get angry when there is discomfort in our lives. For Jonah, a shade tree died. Now he had to sit in the hot sun. I never have understood why he was just sitting there watching. His job was done. Go home. Now, take that boat ride to Tarshish. But he sat there in the hot sun watching. The more the temperature rose, the hotter Jonah’s attitude became. Just let me die, was all that was going through his head. “Woe is me,” can be the song that plays in the background of the angry prophet.
Some anger is justified. You become a victim of crime. A loved one is hurt intentionally by another person. Your child is bullied to tears. You are mocked and made fun of. The Lord’s word is abused and misused. The Lord was angry with the unfair profit that was taking place in the Temple. He turned their tables over and drove them out. Anger, when directed in the right way can lead to positive changes. Part of the movement that led to the forming of this independent country was anger over being taxed without having a voice. Taxation without representation, led some to toss boxes of tea into the Boston harbor.
But for Jonah, he had no real reason to be angry. A pouting prophet, a preacher with an attitude, not only makes a pitiful example, but it shows that his heart had no room for forgiving people who were different than he was. This wasn’t about plants, it was really about Nineveh. He never wanted to go there. He never wanted to preach to them. And, he certainly never wanted them to be forgiven by God. The Lord saw this. Misdirected anger. Over-reacting. Going past Jerusalem. Those were the steps of Jonah. And, it can be ours as well.
Someone decides to be baptized on a Sunday morning. It take time to baptize a person. This means that we are not getting out at our regular time. Rather than rejoicing, some are mad. Mad because they have to wait. Mad because they may now have to stand in line and wait for a table at the restaurant. Mad because of their discomfort. Sounds a bit like Jonah.
A song leader decides to sing a few extra songs one Sunday. It’s more than what is normally sung. That means we get out a bit later than normal. Someone gets mad. Sounds a bit like Jonah.
The preacher has a longer lesson than normal. People look at their watches. They sigh. They are finished before the preacher is. Some get mad. Sounds a bit like Jonah.
And, I’ve noticed, when folks leave mad, they shoot tiny darts in the form of comments that are just loud enough to be heard and just pointed enough to hurt. Spending more time worshipping God than we normally do is seen as violation of some commandment. We can’t worship God that long, is what their anger is saying. My time is more important than what we are doing in here. I want to go home and watch TV is higher on my list of priorities than praising God. And in the background, I wonder if the Lord is saying, “Do you have a reason to be angry?”
The problem of Jonah was Jonah. The problem we face is ourselves. Maybe God has caused a plant in your life to die. Maybe there has been some inconvenience, discomfort and unpleasant things in your life to get you to see what really matters. I wonder if poor Jonah ever learned the lesson God was trying to teach him.
I wonder if you and I will ever get the same lesson?