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The Angry Prophet

We all know Jonah as "the reluctant prophet." Instead of doing as God told him to do, he literally ran in the opposite direction. Clearly Jonah didn't want to be a prophet to Nineveh, and it took a storm, a whale, and liberal amounts of ambergris to get him to change his mind.

While Jonah may have begun as the reluctant prophet, he ends as the angry prophet. After he finally preaches God's message to the Ninevites, they repent -- everyone from the king on down. For whatever reason, Jonah is upset at having an effective ministry and grows angry God didn't smite them -- even though he knows God is a forgiving God: "But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, 'Isn't this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity'" (4:1-2). God takes the opportunity to provide an object lesson, raising a plant to shade Jonah from the blistering heat and then destroying it. If Jonah could care about the plant, He said, shouldn't He care for the more than 120,000 souls of Nineveh? Yet the last words we hear from Jonah are, "And I'm so angry I wish I were dead" (4:9).

We all have Jonah moments, I think. We share the gospel, preach love, and then get angry (or at least suspicious) when certain people repent. "Yes," we say, "I'm quite glad they found Jesus, but they're an addict/criminal/homosexual/jerk/sinner. How long will this last? And why would God forgive them but not do something I prayed for? Aren't I a much better person?" That's our inner Jonah coming out.

Let's rejoice with people. Let's be thrilled God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love. For if He weren't, He would never have saved a wretch like me -- and you.

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