Before we jump in to Jonah 4, lets talk about context for those who aren’t familiar with (or are rusty on) the story of Jonah. Jonah was a prophet of God who was given a message of repentance to deliver to the people of Nineveh. Instead of going to Nineveh as requested, however, Jonah “runs away.” While attempting to go to a city other than the one he has been instructed to visit, Jonah is caught in a tempest created by God. It is during this storm that he is thrown overboard where he is swallowed by a sea creature. After 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of this creature, God grants him mercy and the creature vomits him ashore. It is after this ordeal that he finally goes to Nineveh to preach the message God has given him. Upon calling the people of Nineveh to repentance, they actually heed his warning and God grants them mercy as well, deciding not to destroy their city.
Jonah is Suicidal?
So now, Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life. 📚Jonah 4:3 NASB
Jonah is so upset that God has granted mercy on Nineveh that he doesn’t want to live. He tells us that the reason he didn’t go straight to Nineveh is because he knew God would forgive the people of Nineveh and he didn’t want him to. Jonah’s anger at the people of Nineveh getting a second chance is not only hypocritical (after all he got a second chance after disobeying God), it’s telling of his mentality. Jonah thought he was more deserving of his second chance; he looked down on the people of Nineveh.
Applications to the New Testament
Jonah’s reaction reminds me of a parable in the New Testament. In Matthew 20:1-16, Messiah tells a parable about a man hiring people for the day. He hires people at different intervals of the day (morning, noon, evening), but he offers the same pay. At the end of the day, the men hired from the beginning are upset that those who were hired last received the same pay. The man who hired them then reminds them that it is what they agreed upon and they were fine with it when they agreed. The point of the parable is that some people come to the Most High early in life and spend their whole life living for Him, while others will come to Him on their death bed (e.g., the Thief on the Cross)—we will all receive the same gift of eternal life.
Applications to Our Life Today
I understand both Jonah and the men in the parable. It’s hard to think of your enemy as human. The plot of so many teen movies features a “queen bee” as the antagonist, who turns out to have a host of problems. Despite appearing to have it all together, they have problems. You know the saying “hurt people, hurt people.” Many times our enemies are struggling with personal problems that God knows about. It can be hard for us to care about their problems though, we mostly live in the world of “that doesn’t give them the right to take it out on me”—which is also true. However, in that mind state, we forget that they deserve mercy too. We get caught up in thinking of ourselves as the hero and never notice that sometimes we’re accomplices, bystanders, and even villains.
I watched a YouTube documentary on Gaëtan Dugas, a man who was accused of being “ground zero” or “patient zero” in the AIDS pandemic. Mr. Dugas was a gay flight attendant known to be a bit promiscuous. In the early days, people blamed him for the spread of HIV and AIDS. The documentary was an attempt to clear his name. The comment section was absolutely awful. The number of “Christians” who had zero sympathy for the people who contracted the disease—many of whom died—was outrageous. People were saying they got what they deserved.
During the pandemic I had a friend tell me she had no sympathy for people suffering the consequences of their sin. I found the statement to be cold and counter to the message presented by Messiah. Yes, i agree that there is a price for sin and we must lie in the bed we make, but that doesn’t mean I wish harm upon people or don’t feel bad when I see people suffer. One of the major problems with the mentality expressed by my friend and the comment section of that YouTube video is that it’s devoid of self reflection.
When I was in college I took a shot of straight Everclear because we were out of Vodka and I didn’t like Tequila. I weighed all of 103lbs. I could have died. I could have gotten alcohol poison—Everclear is like 99% alcohol. My liver could have collapsed. But YHWH covered me. This is just one example of where my own stupidity could have gotten me in trouble but the Most High kept me from suffering irreversible damage. Who am I then, to say that someone deserves to die or have cirrhosis of the liver because they drank too much? If God saved me, why shouldn’t He save you?
This holier than thou mentality is what drives people away from the Church.
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye!
📚 Matthew 7:5 NASB
References and Footnotes
- Most people focus on this part of the story. Part of the reason may be because in Matthew 12:39-41 our Messiah quotes it as a sign of His own position.
- Michaeleen Doucleff. “Researchers Clear 'Patient Zero' From AIDS Origin Story”. NPR. October 26, 2016
- I wish I could find the video to share some of the comments but don’t remember which documentary I watched and noticed some have comments turned off (possibly the one I watched went and turned the comments off due to this behavior).
- Jonah 4: Selfish Righteousness
Other Episodes This Season