Words of Hope

Good News. No Boundaries

Angry with God

by: Rev. David Bast

Jonah has just proclaimed the word of God to a mighty city and the entire population has repented and turned to the Lord. No other preacher in history ever experienced success as dramatic and complete as this.

So what is Jonah’s reaction: Awe at the power of God’s word? Gratitude and praise for this demonstration of the Lord’s wonderful mercy? Hardly. Jonah is angry with God for sparing the penitent Ninevites.

Jonah gives vent to his anger in what is perhaps the most embarrassing prayer in the Bible. In it he rehearses Israel’s great confession of faith: the Lord is “gracious . . . and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” But instead of confessing these wonderful truths to God’s praise, Jonah recites them as a complaint. Now he reveals his real reason for fleeing to Tarshish. It wasn’t because he was afraid of failing in his mission but because he was afraid of succeeding! He rails at God: “It’s just as I thought. You are such a pushover, such a knee-jerk forgiver! These evil people show a little bit of sorrow and you let them off. I can’t stand it!”

Maybe Jonah is mad because now Israel’s enemy won’t be destroyed. Maybe he’s one of those people who doesn’t like to share with others the good things he himself has been given.

Or maybe his anger is just ridiculous, and we’re meant to see it that way.