Jonah 4:1-4. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
What makes you angry? Can you recall the last time you felt anger about something? Did you do well to be angry (i.e., were you right)?
Jonah isn’t just a story about a big fish, it’s a story about anger. God sends Jonah to preach repentance to his enemy, Nineveh. And it actually works. The whole city turns from evil, and is spared God’s wrath. And this make Jonah very angry. Angry at God.
Usually we get angry at God when we think that he is being too harsh or cruel, but Jonah is angry at God for being gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. In fact, Jonah is so angry at God’s love that he asks to die.
And then, like a patient dad, God asks Jonah a probing question – Do you do well to be angry? Or, does your anger do any good?
St. Augustine insightfully said that our anger flows from our disordered loves. To understand why we get angry, and why our anger is so often wrong, we must see through the anger and ask ourselves, “what do I love?”
So what did Jonah love? What could make him so angry at God’s forgiveness and compassion? Did he simply love Israel more than his enemy Nineveh? Did he love God’s judgment more than God’s mercy? Did he love himself more than God?
Why do we get so angry? Do we fail to love the ideas of compassion and grace, wanting rather for people to get what they deserve? Do we stay angry for so long because we fail to love how God administers justice? Do we simply fail to love the cross?
God doesn’t just ask Jonah the question, he sends Jonah a living parable. As Jonah bakes in the hot sun, wanting to die, God causes a plant to grow up to shade Jonah. But then, just as quickly as it came, it died. Jonah is angry again, declaring that he too just wants to die.
And then God asks Jonah another wise and fatherly question:
Jonah 4:9. But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”
Should Jonah be angry about the dead plant? Jonah’s answer is an angry YES! And that’s the correct answer. YES! You should be angry about a dead plant. YES, you should be angry whenever any living thing dies. Now you’re starting to feel what God feels. Just as the dead plant makes Jonah angry, God is angry over the dead souls in Nineveh.
Jonah 4:10-11. And the Lord said…should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons?”
What makes you angry? Christian, can you see that the anger you feel is exactly how God feels about sin and death? God wants us to feel angry because he wants us to feel what he feels toward the evil that would destroy us, his beloved. And he wants our anger to reveal to us our loves so that they can be transformed by the angry love of Christ.
Hundreds of years after Jonah, God asked Jesus, the better Jonah, this question: “Do you do well to be angry for (fill in your name here)?”
And Jesus replied, Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.
It was the anger of Christ flowing from the love of Christ that took him to the cross. His undying love for you fueling his anger at your sin, your destruction, your death. He was angry enough to die for you.
“To live is Christ” means that now Christ’s loving anger is fueling our love for others. Even our Ninevehs.
What makes you angry? Is your anger doing any good?
You in Christ
In Christ, God’s anger toward you always becomes compassion toward you. Do you believe this?
Christ in you
How can you redirect your anger into Christ’s sacrificial love today?
Playlist: God’s Mercy.
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