In the blockbuster film, The Dark Knight, Gotham City’s District Attorney Harvey Dent famously says, "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
Contrary to the way the story is told in most children’s Bibles, the book of Jonah doesn’t allow Jonah to die a hero. It lasts long enough for him to become an even darker villain. The story doesn’t end with a repentant Nineveh and a happy prophet. It ends with an angry, uncaring prophet who is upset that a city filled with his enemies received mercy.
Jonah 3:10-4:3—When God saw what [the Ninevites] did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. 4:1 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.”
Jonah wanted mercy for him, but not mercy for them. He’d rather die than live in a world where Nineveh lives. Do you ever feel like that, Christian? Do you ever want people to suffer because they’ve hurt you?
In His mercy, God refuses to let Jonah (or us) remain in our miserable, uncaring state. In His mercy He confronts Jonah for His sin.
Jonah 4:4-10—And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” 5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 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.”
Recently the Lord was merciful enough to confront me in a similar fashion. My lovely wife Holly had just finished preparing a delicious dinner of meatball subs. She likes to eat outside this time of year, so I loaded everything onto a big wooden tray to take outside. A pot filled with meatballs in marinara sauce. A plate filled with sliced cheese. Sub rolls. Napkins, plates, etc. When the tray was loaded up, I grabbed it by the handles to take it outside. Turns out the handles was all I was holding onto, because the bottom literally fell out of the tray and everything smashed onto the floor.
My daughter Zoe must’ve seen the anger on my face because her first words were “it’s okay Daddy! It’s okay.” I dropped the handles on the floor and surveyed the meatball carnage while Zoe continued, “God must be teaching you a lesson.” My first thought was “well that’s very nice of him, isn’t it?” As I began to clean up the mess all over the floor, the book of Jonah was echoing in my ears. “Do you do well to be angry about the meatballs, Hopson?” And to be honest, the initial response in my mind was, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”
God is so kind to me and to all His people. He will not leave us alone in their sin. He will chase them down with waves, whales, wind, worms, and even spilled meatballs. Because He’ll stop at nothing until we are fully confirmed into the image of Christ.