Jonah 4 | Deep Displeasure - Deeper Mercy
Topic: New Testament Passage: Jonah 4:1–4:11
Christopher Rich – June 11, 2017
Jonah | Deeper Mercy
Deep Displeasure – Deeper Mercy | Jonah 4
Introduction | Recap
Good Morning! Welcome to Damascus Road Church where we are Saved by Jesus Work. Changed by Jesus Grace. Living on Jesus Mission. Today we are finishing our look at God’s Deeper Mercy from the Book of Jonah. In Jonah, we see a distant foreign city of sin condemned to destruction. A well-known, but self-righteous, prosperity preacher A bold mission given and fearfully avoided. Savvy sailors and a sudden storm. The preacher swallowed and saved by a great fish sent from a greater God. Mission renewed.
The book of Jonah opens like the bible with God speaking life and purpose into man. Man rejecting God’s word and purpose actively walking away from what God has called him to do seeking to move away from the presence of the Lord. This Deep Disobedience leads to Deep Distress as God shows His mercy in not allowing Jonah to continue to flee without experiencing the simple truth that sin hurts and sin has consequences. A divinely guided storm has come to the boat Jonah is on and eventually Jonah is sacrificed by the sailors throw into the sea. Jonah, like Jesus in the tomb after His sacrifice on the cross, is buried in the belly of a fish for three days. A prayer of deep devotion (if not deep repentance) by Jonah with a great confession of God’s sovereignty over saving people and Jonah is spared from death and given new life. But this new life has a renewal of the same mission Jonah was given before he rejected God’s word.
God Relents of disaster. Our God’s desire is repentance and restoration. God sees and knows the repentance of Nineveh and stays His judgement and relents His wrath against them. They will not perish as previously believed. Jonah’s message of judgement leads to peace between God and the people Jonah was sent to. How could this be? Is God a softy? By no means. He has wrath stored up for proud, violent, wicked, evil Nineveh. But that is not what exists anymore. That Nineveh is gone. It doesn’t exist anymore. It has been transformed to a city from the least to the greatest that humble themselves before God. They have repented of their evil and violence. Jonah was saved, the city was saved this is all good news. This would be perfect time to end the book of Jonah. Repent, you’ll be saved and sent to save other with a fruitful ministry bringing God glory. In fact, Jesus even sites this city for their repentance as an example of faithful revival and response to God’s word being preached. Nearly every children’s story of Jonah ends with chapter 3, but because it’s neat, tidy and has a happy ending. It’s safe and story we can stand outside of and judge Jonah without having to wrestle as much. But God has more to teach us.
PART I | Deep Displeasure | v1-4
Jonah 4:1-4 | 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.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
A missionary is sent to preach to a pagan capitol and the whole city from the nobles to the nobodies repents and God relents of the disaster they are due. We have the greatest revival in recorded history. Jonah was at the center of it used by God. Any missionaries given the situation and results would be trilled! But not Jonah. His reaction is…. Deep Displeasure. He’s not excited, happy, or even ambivalently neutral. Jonah was exceedingly displeased! AND he was angry. He is so displeased with God relenting he sees God’s deliverance of these people as exceedingly evil. The response in His anger is to pray to God, but listen to this prayer. We learn about Jonah’s heart and practical theology by how he prays. This is a great example of why you can’t say there is no such thing as a bad prayer. Jonah has experienced God’s Deeper Mercy He has seen God answer his deep disobedience with distress leading to him expressing devotion. God if you save me, I vow to live my life for you with thanksgiving and sacrifice (Chapter 2). And yet now that God has saved him, sent him on mission again, and even used (what we can clearly see was halfhearted or at best double mined) obedience to spark a great revival there is no logical reason Jonah shouldn’t be exceedingly excited and fueled to continue to walk in obedience or even have heart level transformation that says ok if this is what God can do when I’m half-in then what if I’m all in? He knows God saves sinners. He knew he was in sin. But he was ok with God giving mercy to him, but he was not pleased when grace and mercy were extended to others. He cried out for mercy when he was in distress but when that trial is over and he has done the bare minimum of explicit obedience we see how deep Jonah’s devotion to God really was. We’re a lot like Jonah. We have been met by God in our distress “been saved” maybe took care of a 2x4 sized sin in our lives or began in obedience to God but when the trial was over or the storm subsided we were pretty content to revert back to our previously held perspectives or even regress spiritually to shift the focus back to our will and glory over God’s. In this case, for Jonah it manifests itself in some specific ways that are not uncommon for us. This might sting. We need to remember God’s word is intended to cut like a sword. It provides comfort but is not meant to leave us comfortable, where it doesn’t convict us or at least challenge us we are reading it wrong.
My Country/Over His world - Jonah loves His country. Jonah is patriotic. Jonah is a Hebrew and likes other Hebrews. Jonah likes people that are like Jonah. Jonah likes people that reflect his image. Jonah wants to experience glory by the flourishing of people who are just like him. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because He didn’t love Ninevites. Jonah had decided they were less than worthy of God’s favor and mercy. We see the heart motivation of Jonah’s disobedience was clearly racism. Jonah didn’t want to see Ninevites saved. So I’ll leave my current comfort zone and flee from where I am to a place that I chose that I think will be better for me and keep me from having to be on mission to the people and places that I don’t like. He was fleeing God’s mission not because he thought it would fail but because he knew it would succeed. In this he is exposing his racist and nationalistic motivations that drove his initial disobedience, led to his distress and ultimately caused him to have DEEP DISPLEASURE when God delivered Nineveh.
When Jonah looks at Nineveh he sees it through his own eyes and doesn’t see it through God’s eyes. I his eyes these are violent pagans worshipping false gods. They are a rising military and economic force who’s ascendency could threaten his people prosperity and security. His perspective is strictly horizontal and self-centered. How does Nineveh being saved adversely affect me and “my” people. He didn’t see Nineveh through God’s eyes. We see hints of how God sees Nineveh in 1:2 and 3:2 “That great city”. God knew His word proclaimed would be a transforming force that would make Nineveh a city worthy Him calling it “great”. He saw the great need they had for the Gospel and God is meeting that need by sending Jonah.
I have recently been convicted of sin similar to Jonah. As a pastor at look at our church and l look at our city and I’ve said “we look like our city” meaning we’re multi-generational, diverse socioeconomically, and so white, but with a few ethnic minorities. Yet, I realize I’ve failed to see our city and region through God’s eyes because we are a segregated city. Our world has drawn a line on I-5 that our God has not. When our God sees our city and our county He sees everyone one here and has called us to reach everyone. How are you like Jonah? How have you searched for churches full of people who look and act like you? WE have to believe ethnic diversity is good. We in the dominate culture need to care about the experiences of those who are not. If you don’t love other races and nations you’re going to hate heaven.
Revelation 7:9-10 | 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
You may think wrongly we’ll that’s then not now. Let me point you to any other prayer better than Jonah’s from one better than Jonah who came and taught us. Your Kingdom come, you’re will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This isn’t merely about race and nationalism. Because it’s too easy to say “hey I’m not a racist so glad I don’t have to check my heart in this.” I know personally, I can be fatigued by a media that says because I am (now middle aged) white male that I am a racist unless I support liberal political causes. Furthermore, the application is not merely “ok reach out to the tribe. Don’t be racist, though don’t be racist.” Because we look back on chapter 3 and see Jonah was obedience and still didn’t have his heart in it. He didn’t want to participate in the work God was going to do and is doing to transform a city and region. Jonah liked “his country the way it is because it was working great for him. The sin behind the sins racism or extreme nationalism is the sin of pride. We like worshiping ourselves over worshipping God.
When we have deep displeasure or disagreements with God and His will, we will turn what is true and right about God that are good and praise worthy and make them curses. God is gracious (giving good things that are not earned). God is merciful (not giving just wrath that is deserved) God is slow to anger patience for the purposes of repentance. God is abounding in steadfast love and has a heart and character to relent of disaster and produce transformation in individuals and people. And this drives Jonah to displeasure and anger. Anger specifically at God for being who God is. While he has received Deep Mercy from God he has judged the Ninevites unworthy of the same mercy. He would literally rather die than live in a world where Ninevites are objects of God’s mercy. Think about that for a moment. Jonah doesn’t want to be in a world where God is merciful to others. Oh, he wants a word of mercy for himself but a world of judgement and condemnation for everyone else. Who are your Ninevites? Who are the people you naturally don’t prioritize or even desire to see God grant His mercy too? Jonah prays and God responds. Jonah search your heart. Is the attitude of your heart actually producing joy for you? This is a call to self reflection. How is my heart aligned? Is it aligned with the goodness and character of God?
Part II |Displeasing Response | v5-6
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.
He leaves town and camps on a hill holding out hope God will change His mind and bring wrath to the city.
Jonah’s self-righteousness, self-focus, and self-pity is on full display. He actually hopes the advance of the Gospel will fail. This how distorted and destructive this is. Jonah’s disobedience almost seems demonic. He has heard, seen, experienced the call, work, and mercy of God and he is hoping that a city full of people who have been convicted of sin, repented, humbled themselves reoriented their political and social priorities around the worship of the God would suffer wrath from God. God has done an amazing miracle saving a people. Where has God been working, moving, and transforming, for His glory and rather than engage, and celebrating you have responded with deep displeasure. If you’re not happy and excited when God has moved to bring new life, renewal, repentance, restoration, and the mission advancing you have to seriously ask yourself what team you’re on. Jonah was a “Hebrew, who feared the Lord” but when God actually spoke, moved, and the result was new life his response is to pull out and check out.
Self-imposed exile. He has withdrawn from the people and place God has called him to. He makes a booth (Like the festival of Tabernacles where Israel celebrates God dwelling with them.) Here is Jonah making a dwelling away from the people God called him to. In making a booth, he is saying the presences he really wants to be in is his own. He has a church of one. He is out of the city but close enough to see and watch what happens to it. There are times that individuals and even whole churches become Jonah’s. They would rather retreat create their own little campout and hope that God would smoke everyone else rather than continue the work of spreading the Gospel or celebrate with God transforming and redeeming people who were previously under judgment but now are humbled and penitent to be under God’s mercy.
In this, Jonah is like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal younger brother takes half his father’s wealth goes and lives out the Hangover movies for as long has he has cash. Runs out finds himself in a place of total ruin, repents, runs back to his father’s house and is welcomed by the father who celebrates his return. The party is epic great food, great wine, the son who was lost is now found. The self-righteous older brother who hasn’t sinned in the same way says “no, I’m not coming into the party”. He berates his Father. He’s just as self-focused as the prodigal was when he rebelled. In a sense, he’s also like the younger brother. At first the younger brother wanted all of dad’s stuff without being in relationship with dad. He really wished Dad was dead and out of the way so he could worship himself. Likewise, Jonah enjoys the blessings of God with actually wanting God. He is more than content to experience God’s blessing while disengaging from mission. God is SO patient with Jonah. God even gives him some comfort from the sun “appointing” a plant to grow for shade. It says he is “exceedingly glad” because of a fichus. He loves this little tree. He likes God’s stuff more than he is truly devoted to God. Jonah is about Jonah.
Part III | Displeasing Lesson | v7-9
Jonah 4:7-9 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.”
Jonah is not listening to God’s word, but God is still trying to teach him. He rejoices when God graciously comforts him with a tree then falls to despair when God removes the tree. Like the storm on the sea, there is now a scorching storm of heat and wind that beats down so hard it is causing Jonah to faint. It’s is exhausting to be exposed to the harshness of the broken world. I believe at times God gives and takes away to expose the perversion of our hearts and teach us the same lesson different times in similar ways.
Majoring in the Minors See Jonah doesn’t love God he loves God’s stuff. Jonah has made things greater than people. In his sin of rebelling against God, against His will, of questioning God’s character has led to a warped perspective and has inverted the creation order. God is meant to be worshipped above all else. God has made people in His image worthy of dignity and respect. So when things are out of line with people we should have compassion and intentional engagement. But instead here in the midst of a great revival, when he could be in the city leading bible studies, enjoying a new community, participating, Jonah is only concerned with his own comfort and little campsite. He again is ready to check out. His displeasure with life is high. Again, God asks Jonah a question. Should you care so much about something so insignificant? It this worth your pain, anger, your frustration? Stop robbing your own joy or the joy of others by anxiously caring about minor things that are holding you in bondage and keeping you from freedom.
“I preach deliverance to others, I tell them there is freedom, while I hear my own chains clang.” -John Bunyan
PART III | God gets the last word and it is Deeper Mercy | v10-11
10 And the Lord said, “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. 11 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?”
God begins to set thing right. He makes it really simple and clear. God reminds Jonah, He values people more than plants. Jonah you can’t have a sense of grief for something you can claim no credit for and is so transient. God’s heart is for people who need to be saved, and He wants His people to share His heart for wayward sinners and self-righteous religious people who are both in desperate need. All Christians called to be humble ambassadors cannot share Jonah’s Deep Displeasure with the God who saves lost people by showing Deeper Mercy.
We don’t explicitly know how Jonah reacted to these words from the Lord. However, we do know this story and we know of the deep emotions and thoughts of Jonah. If he’s telling us this story it says something that God’ gets the last word. And God’s last words are of deeper mercy for His people than ignorance of God’s justice and mercy, and the sin that seeks to erode our cities, destroy His mission, or damn our souls.
There is hope for people who are displeased with God. God is good, and gracious. I believe God’s word to us through Jonah is to stop looking at and focusing inward on ourselves own comfort, our own preferences, and things that truly do not matter and calling us to look outward to a city, community, county full of people who do not know the truth, love, hope and joy of the Gospel of Jesus. God has Deeper Mercy for us than to let us stay like Jonah was. He pursues us through Jesus and makes us new to live new.
Philippians 2:4-11 | 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Who are you? Do you need to be on mission and actually walk in obedience knowing you’ve been saved for a purpose? Do you do well too…. Because Jesus has left his throne for us, you respond humbly by acknowledging your need for God’s Deeper Mercy. Because Jesus has been humbled in our place and selflessly bared the wrath we deserve we can repent of our selfishness and pride, actively humble ourselves and begin to care about the people God cares about when we Trust Jesus.