Sunday, 19 March 2000 00:00

Angry at the Grace of God

Jonah 4:1-4 (KJV)

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. Then said the LORD, Does thou well to be angry?

We begin our study of the last chapter of Jonah reminding ourselves that the wicked Ninevites have now repented and are recipients of the grace of God. Revival has swept over the Ninevites. However something is wrong. We have seen Jonah broken and humbled, but now he is different.

  1. It's possible to be angry at the grace of God... "and he (Jonah) was very angry" (v.1).
    What has caused Jonah to become so angry? Nothing but God's grace, mercy and love. How is it that we could ever become angry at the grace of God in the lives of others?
    1. When we battle self-righteousness...
      1. These people don't deserve your grace.
      2. These people should suffer like I have.
      3. These people are different than us! I can't accept them unless they become like me!
    2. When we know grace but don't live it...
      "I knew that thou are a gracious God" (v.2), but "it is better for me to die than live" (v.3). There is nothing worse than a person who says he knows the grace of God, but lives his life in judgment of other people. Rather than allowing God to perform the work in the people of Nineveh, to trust Him to do the work well, Jonah wishes to check out of life.
  2. But God is always gracious toward His children... "Doest thou well to be angry?" (v.4).
    First, God was gracious toward His wayward child Jonah, by responding with patience (v.4). In addition, God displayed His graciousness toward the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh.
    1. God is gracious... this word is used 13 times in the Old Testament and in each case is used as a characteristic of God. It means "to show favor to the undeserving" and it is the exact word used by God Himself in Exodus 34:6 to describe Himself to Moses.
    2. God is merciful... this word is a compound word in the Hebrew which means "to have compassion in the womb." Literally, the tender mercy of God is rooted in His free love and grace which flows from within Himself and is not drawn out by our loveliness.
    3. God is slow to anger... anger ('ap in Hebrew) is the word for nostril or face. When someone becomes angry their nostrils flare and their countenance clouds. The meaning of this, from a human perspective, is that God takes a deep breath before He disciplines. The anger of God is always legitimate, but man's anger is often ridiculous (Proverbs 27:4).
    4. God is of great kindness... is also translated "steadfast love" (RSV), "loyalty" (NAS), and "unfailing love" (NIV). This phrase "great kindness" distinguishes the kindness of God from the kindness of man. God's kindness never fails His children. It is infinite.

    What God is saying to Jonah is clear: "What will your anger accomplish? I AM who I AM."

  3. Because life revolves around God's plans, not ours... "It is better to die than live" (v.3).
    We would do well to remember that God has a plan and a people. History is His Story. He who mapped the world is He who runs the world. Until you come to grips with the truth that God has called you to live a gracious life (not a self-righteous holy life) you will always be looking for greener pastures and better people and be depressed when things aren't the way you feel they should be. Let's not be a modern day Jonah. Let's not be angry with His grace.
    Speak the Truth—Depend on God—Accept His grace—Rest upon Providence.

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