Fifteenth Sunday of Pentecost

Jonah Is Angry at God

Jonah 3: 10 - 4:11

Exodus 34: 6

There are three great lessons in the story of Jonah.

In the first chapter of the book, Jonah responds to God's call by traveling in a completely different direction from where God told him to go. (If Jonah had lived in Los Angeles, it would have been as if God had told him to take a bus to Chicago, but Jonah got on a boat headed for Hawaii instead.) Jonah tried to hide from God's call, but God followed him.

Jonah does hear God's call, goes to Ninevah, and preaches to the people there. The people of Ninevah (who are not descended from Abraham) listen to Jonah and change their ways. They even ask their animals to suffer to prove to God that the whole society is serious about changing.

But even though Jonah ends up exactly where God wanted him to go - Ninevah - and does exactly what God asked him to do - preaching to and saving an alien people - Jonah is still angry at God. Just because he is doing God's will doesn't mean that he is happy about it.

Out of his anger comes the beautiful hymn of praise in verse 2: I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (Some of us still sing this praise as a part of our Sunday morning liturgy.) Jonah may be quoting God's own words back to him from Exodus 34:6, where God tells Moses who he is.

The very most important of these lessons is that God can transform even our anger into praise for him.

1. What did Jonah do when he became angry at God?

[Jonah prayed to God and told God exactly how he felt.]

2. Even while Jonah was angry, what did God do for him?

[God made a vine to grow up over Jonah's head to shelter him from the sun.]

3. Who did God care about?

[God cared about Jonah and about the whole city of Ninevah, even the cattle.]


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