Jonah’s Temper Tantrum

What’s your most embarrassing moment? If you’re like me, you’re not about to share it on this blog! Poor Jonah, though, doesn’t have a choice. While the whole running away from God ordeal was pretty embarrassing, I’ve think his temper tantrum with God in chapter four tops even that. Much to his chagrin and our entertainment, we get to observe the whole thing! It’s almost humorous, until we realize we’re not really all that different . . .  

“When God saw what they [the people of Nineveh] 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. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry” (Jonah 3:10-4:1, emphasis added).

In his anger, Jonah starts venting to God about what a softy He is, “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Because of this, Jonah whines, “please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Then he makes a dramatic exit and plops down outside the city.

Soon after, God causes a plant to grow up over Jonah to give him shade, and Jonah is “exceedingly glad”! The very next day, though, Jonah again wants to die after God sends a scorching wind and a worm to destroy his shade plant.

Poor Jonah may have technically carried out God’s assignment for him, but it certainly wasn’t done with a heart of compassion! Jonah seems to have been all about his own comfort. His own agenda. His own dreams. His own desires. His own expectations. And I’m not much different from this rotten, miserable, self-centered truth-teller. How about you? Can you relate to Jonah’s frustrated expectations and childish petulance?

The story closes with God saying to Jonah,

“You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10, emphasis added).

The prophet Jonah reminds me of another prophet whose name also starts with “J,” and who was also sent by God, though the similarities don’t go too much further than that. Jonah and Jesus really couldn’t have been more different.

Every day, you and I also have opportunities to be Truth tellers in our spheres of influence. The question is, are we doing it with pouty, self-absorbed hearts like Jonah; or with genuinely others-oriented, compassionate hearts like Jesus?

We want to be Your mouthpieces, God. And yet, we want so much more than that. We want Your compassionate heart for the lost and the confused! We submit our dreams, expectations, and desires to You once again this day. Pour Your compassion and love into our selfish hearts. We want to follow You, King Jesus, rather than our brother Jonah’s example.

Did you discover God’s Truth today?

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About the Author

Paula Marsteller

Paula Marsteller

Paula has served with Revive Our Hearts for thirteen years. She is the author of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom. There's nothing she loves to share more than the gospel-centered truths that have so transformed her own life: what it means on a daily basis to be "dead to sin, alive to God, and in Christ Jesus." Paula, Trevor, and their son, Iren, make their home in New York.