Sunday, August 27, 2017

Jonah Does the Unexcused (Part 1)

Sermon:               GM17-157

Series:                  Jonah: A Gospel of Grace

Subtitle:               Jonah Does the Unexcused (Part 1)
Scripture:            Jonah 4:1-4

Subject:               Jonah is angry with God

Statement:           Jonah reacts to God’s grace in inexcusable anger

Scrutiny:              Why is Jonah so inexcusably angry at God?

Solution:              This passage supplies two reasons why Jonah is so inexcusably angry with God.

Sketch:                 1A     Jonah is angry at the gracious decision of God (Vss. 1-4)

The Ninevites, from the King to the peasant repented. In response to their repentance, God decided to relent from the destruction that He had warned them through Jonah would fall upon them. This decision angered Jonah.

                             2A     Jonah is angry at the gourd’s destruction by God (Vss. 5-           11)

God has questioned Jonah over his gracious decision to spare the Ninevites. God now prepares a plant to give some shade to Jonah. However, God intends to question Jonah about Jonah’s justice of being angry when God destroys the plant that has provided relief to Jonah.

Scheme:                         To provide proof that it is never right to be angry with God for          it is sin


Jonah Does the Unexcused (Part 1)


Jonah 4:1-4 (Repeat)


Good morning, please take your bibles and turn to Jonah chapter four (4). We will begin our fourth (4) and final division of Jonah today. I have called this final division, Jonah: The Pouting Prophet.

I have divided Jonah in to four (4) sections; Chapter one (1) dealt with Jonah: The Prodigal Prophet; chapter two (2) dealt with Jonah: The Praising Prophet; chapter three (3) (which should be fresh in your mind) was called Jonah: The Preaching Prophet; and now we have Jonah: The Pouting Prophet.

The main theme of chapter four (4) deals with the fact that Jonah is angry at God. Jonah’s anger stems from two sources, two events or instances. The first source was dealt with in chapter three (3) and the second source is found here in our final chapter.

Ben Franklin is credit with saying, “Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.” Jonah thought he had good reason to be angry. Of course we will see why this was not true.

However, our passage does raise a very interesting and thought provoking question – is it ever right to be angry at God? There are a number of people, pastors and theologians included who would say that it is OK to be angry at God. 

Raise a Need

During your life time there are many circumstances, situations, disappointments, and even devastating events that affect your life. For example; at some point and time disease may threaten to undo all of your dreams. Death might claim a precious child or a loved one from your family. It may be that unexpected desertion or divorce may shake the foundation of your world. It is at these times people can become very angry, even at God.

At some point in your life, and particularly your Christian life you will face the temptation of becoming angry at God.

Orient the Text

This morning, I want to continue to speak to you about God’s outrageous grace. I want you to see that even when God seems to working in opposition to your plans and dreams or circumstances affect you very severely, it is never right to be angry at God.

Jonah thought he had good reason to be angry at God. Jonah was even so angry at God that he asked God to kill him because he thought he would be better off dead.

God responded to Jonah, to Jonah’s foolish request, and to Jonah’s anger. His response might surprise you. God did not get angry at Jonah, God did not retaliate against Jonah, and God did not abandon Jonah. God continued to demonstrate outrageous grace towards Jonah.

But Jonah is mad, he is what we use to call, ‘spittin’ mad.” My family use to say, “He is so mad he could spit nickels.” When my folks got angry I carefully watched and waited for them to spit nickels, but you know they never did.

Jonah is angry. As a matter of fact we will see that Jonah is angry for two (2) reasons.
But God is gracious. In this chapter we see the outrageous grace of God. As a matter of fact, Jonah uses four illustrations of God’s grace to motivate his readers to repent of their sin.

State the Purpose

My purpose this morning is to provide you with proof that it is never right to be angry with God. Our theme is Jonah is angry with God!

[So, let’s now look at our…]


Jonah reacts to God’s outrageous grace in unexcused anger
Why is Jonah so angry at God?

[This passage supplies us with two (2) reasons why Jonah is so inexcusably angry with God. The first reason supplied tell us that…]
1A     Jonah is angry at the gracious decision of God (Vss. 1-4)

[We can clearly see Jonah’s anger fully displayed in two ways. First, we see Jonah’s anger in…]

          1B     The Depth of His Feelings (Vss. 1-2)

                   1C     Jonah is deeply displeased (1)

                             “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly…”

First of all, let me remind you of what Jonah is so displeased about. Look at verse ten (10) of chapter two (2), “…and God relented from the disaster that He said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”

God’s relenting from destroying Nineveh deeply displeased Jonah. We would say, that Jonah was not a happy camper.

Second, in Hebrew, when a writer wanted to give severe strength to the force of a verb, he would use an object of the verb as a noun. So this verse literally read, “It was evil to Jonah, a great evil, and it burned to him.” 

Displeased. This is a verb. It means to tremble or to quiver. An example of how this word was understood can be seen in Isaiah 15:4

“Hesbon and Elealeh cry out; their voice is heard as far as Jaha; therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud; his soul trembles.”

Assyrian was about to attack and devastate the cities of Hesbon and Jaha, in Moab. Isaiah is deeply grieved over the impending cruelty and destruction on these cities who were actually enemies of Israel.

He was so grieved and frightened that he trembled deep in his soul. We have an expression for this, have your ever heard “liver-shiver?” This is like that chill that runs down your spine, but deep within you.

I want you to see the depth of this displeasure. It clearly suggests that the Ninevites repentance from evil caused God not to do evil to the Ninevites was “evil” to Jonah. Jonah believed God did wrong.

This displeasure was so great that it shook him, it caused Jonah to tremble and to quiver or shake. But it didn’t stop there. This deep, soul shaking displeasure led to an intense anger to well up in Jonah.

[And so we see that…]

                   2C     Jonah is deeply distressed

                             “…and he became angry.”

This is another Hebrew verb. It means “to burn, to be kindled, to glow, or to grow warm or hot.” It is used many times to describe intense anger, or to become vexed. Vexed means to become extremely irritated or annoyed.

Jonah was hot. He was hot or extremely angry at God.

When Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of attempting to rape her in his own house, Potiphar “anger” was kindled at Joseph, he was extremely angry.

 He was hot, shaking and red-faced angry at Joseph. So angry he would not listen to reason or explanation but through Joseph into prison.

We see this is also the case with Jonah. Jonah loses all sense of right thinking, especially about God.

          [Second, we see Jonah’s anger in…]

          2B     The Depth of His Foolishness (Vss. 3-4)

At this point Jonah becomes not only very angry but he becomes very foolish. And we see just how foolish Jonah becomes as we look at…”

                   1C     His desire to die (3)

Why in the world did Jonah want to die? Why would he ask God to take his life? We see his desire to die is based upon his knowledge of God and God’s character. Which makes this even more foolish than it could possibly be.

“So he prayed to the LORD, and said, ‘Ah, LORD was not this what I said when I was still in my country?

Apparently Jonah had a conversation with God just prior to him taking off for Tarshish. God has told him to go to Nineveh and proclaim my words to them. Jonah must have said something like, “God I know you and I know what will happen.” So no! I won’t go!

Jonah’s desire to die is built upon his knowing and understanding God’s character. Jonah was not ignorant of the character of God.

“Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, one who relents from doing harm”

Jonah did not run away from his commission because he was afraid of the Ninevites. He ran away because he did not want them to be saved. He did not want them to experience the grace of God.

[So, Jonah says in verse three (3)

“Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

What? Jonah wanted to die. Why? Because God was a gracious and merciful God who was full of lovingkindness, and did not want to destroy the Ninevites?

God is gracious. IOW, God extended to the Ninevites what they did not nor could ever deserve.

God is merciful. IOW, God did not do or give to the Ninevites in full of what they truly deserved. They did not deserve the love that God had poured out on them as undeserving sinners who had repented of their sin.

God had retained the right to do as He pleased to those who mourned over their sin, and turned from their sin.


Let me insert a footnote at this point. My mind is still unmade up of whether the repentance of the Ninevites was a repentance unto salvation. I don’t think it was.

Last week I had mentioned some reasons why there are some theologians who think this was not a repentance unto salvation. The main reason they think this is it was so short lived. In about 100 years God will fulfill His word of destruction and Nineveh will be obliterated from the earth.

They also say that there is no mention that they lost, or gave up, or was in some form removed from their repentance.

Here is my reason – I don’t think it was a repentance unto salvation because of what is missing in the text. What does the text say?

“Then God saw their works that they turned from their evil way…”

What does the text not say?

Listen to 1 Thessalonians 1:10

“And you became followers of us and the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, [here it comes] turned to God from idols to serve the living and trued God…”

The text does not say the Ninevites turned from their evil ways and turned to the living God.

But, regardless of whether it was a repentance or turning from sin to God and they received salvation or not, they experienced God’s unmerited favor and was extended a postponement of destruction which they did not deserve.

Just as Jonah received and experienced.

Jonah had received a pardon. Jonah should have drowned Jonah had experienced God’s grace, not be rescued by a great fish, preserved, and eventually spit on the shore.

 But Jonah did not want the Ninevites to receive a similar pardon or to experience the grace and mercy of God. Jonah was angry and wanted to die.

It is so interesting and thought provoking to me that many times God’s people, particularly His prophets or spokesmen, want to die rather than to trust God:

·        Job wanted to die rather than to continue to suffer (Job 6:6-9)

·        Moses wanted to die because he did not want to bear the burden of the starving Israelites when they were complaining of having no food. (Numbers 11:10-15

·        Elijah wanted to die when he heard that Jezebel was gunning for him. (1 Kings 19:4

So many times people, including believing children of God think it is better to die than to live. Here in Jonah’s case we have another example, Jonah thought it was better to die than to live because of who God was.

Jonah had traveled to Nineveh after God gave him a second change and a second charge. He obeyed.

He even preached God’s word. Remember God had said, “Arise and go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you. So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.”

But what was missing? Do you see it? Jonah’s heart was not changed. He did not love these people. He hated them. He longed for their destruction not their salvation. And so he wanted to die and he asked God to take his life.

He wanted to die because God was kind to a city of Gentiles. Hesed. God extended an expression of lovingkindness towards Nineveh. He was willing to postpone judgment, which was rightfully deserved.

Jonah did not have the heart that God had. He was so displeased that he shook or quivered from the inside out. He was so angry that he wished for death and asked God to take his life from him because he thought it was better to die than to live.

[But it clear to see that Jonah was really misled by…]
                   2C     His distortion of death (4)

Jonah was so full of hatred, distaste for the Gentiles in Nineveh that he would rather God had destroyed them. But since God did not he wanted to die. But, I think, Jonah had a distorted view of death.

            [Listen to it]

                             “Then the LORD said, ‘It is right for you to be angry?”

          [Notice two things:]

·        Jehovah’s Question

God is calling Jonah’s attitude into question by this question. Having seen God’s grace and mercy shown to undeserving people, how could Jonah be so unlike God?

But God is also asking Jonah is your anger just? Is it justified? Do you have a right to be angry at Me?

What is the basis for Jonah’s anger? Jonah is angry at and has justified his anger at what he thinks is “the unreasonableness of God’s outrageous grace.”

o   Jonah is angry at God’s mercy for sinners. Jonah, God asks, is this right. Do you have a right to be angry at my mercy for sinners? Did Jonah forget he too was a sinner who experienced grace?

o   Jonah is angry at God’s postponement of judgment. Jonah, God asks, is this right. Do you have the right to angry because I postponed the promised judgment of these sinners?

o   Jonah is angry because he did not trust in God’s sovereign will. Jonah, God asks, can’t I do what I want to do?

With this question God challenged Jonah, is it right or just or proper for you to be so angry at what I chose to do, or actually not do?

Jonah had actually been unable or unwilling to see a purpose in God’s relenting from destroying the Ninevites.

Really, God is asking Jonah, “Jonah do you know better than me?

One commentator I read, Bryan Estelle surmised that with this question God wanted Jonah to look inward. God wants Jonah to examine his heart – God wants Jonah to see his sin, the root of his sin.

[Let me if you will bring this home to our house…]

First we have to ask ourselves is there ever any injustice with what God does or does not do? Another way of asking this question sounds like this, “Is God ever unfair?”

When God does not seem to do what we want, or to answer our selfish and self-centered prayers, or blesses someone else and not us, we have the tendency to think that it is unfair. We may not want to say God is not fair, but we more often than not think our circumstance is unfair.

Second we have to ask ourselves is God’s wisdom imperfect? Does God make mistakes? Does God overlook things? Does God forget, forget us?

No, more often than not we are just like Jonah. We have a tendency to be narrow-minded, self-absorbed, and sin-laden and view things from our own perspective.

Did you notice that God did not even answer Jonah’s request to take his life? God did not grant Jonah his prayer. Instead he asked him a biting, penetrating question. 

·        Jonah’s Quietness

Jonah is silent. He is quiet. He does answer. He doesn’t say a word. Really, there is nothing he can say, other than to agree with God that there is no justification for His anger.

Even though the language suggests God intended Jonah to look into his own heart like he would look in a mirror in order to see what was in his heart, there is no evidence that Jonah did.

He seems from verse five (5), which we will look at next week, Lord willing, that Jonah just packed up shop and left town. But as you will see, he did not go far.

Our theme has been, Jonah is angry with God

As a matter of fact we have seen that Jonah reacted to God’s grace with inexcusable anger.

 I hope that we have begun to give a good answer to the question of, why is Jonah so inexcusably angry at God?

Our passage supplies two reasons why Jonah is so inexcusably angry with God. And we looked at the first reason today and we saw that Jonah is angry at the gracious decision of God (Vss. 1-4).

[What do you say we wrap this up?]


Was Jonah justified in his anger at God? Are we ever justified when we are angry with God?

Inappropriate anger is sin (Galatians 5:20Ephesians 4:26-2731Colossians 3:8). Ungodly anger is self-defeating, gives the devil a foothold in our lives, and can destroy our joy and peace if we hang on to it. Holding on to our anger will allow bitterness and resentment to spring up in our hearts. We must confess it to the Lord, and then in His forgiveness, we can release those feelings to Him. We must go before the Lord in prayer often in our grief, anger, and pain. 

The bottom line is can we trust God with everything, our very lives and the lives of our loved ones? Of course we can! Our God is compassionate, full of grace and love, and as Disciples of Christ we can trust Him with all things. When tragedies happen to us, we know God can use them to bring us closer to Him and to strengthen our faith, bringing us to maturity and completeness (Psalm 34:18; James 1:2-4).

Then, we can be a comforting testimony to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). That is easier said than done, however. It requires a daily surrendering of our own will to His, a faithful study of His attributes as seen in God’s Word, much prayer, and then applying what we learn to our own situation. By doing so, our faith will progressively grow and mature, making it easier to trust Him to get us through the next tragedy that most certainly will take place.

So, to answer the question directly, yes, it is wrong to be angry at God. Anger at God is a result of an inability or unwillingness to trust God even when we do not understand what He is doing. Anger at God is essentially telling God that He has done something wrong, which He never does.

Jonah was not just or justified in his anger!


What does God want you to believe?

God wants you to believe that He is absolutely perfect, wise, and just in everything that He does, especially when He does it in our lives.

Why do you need to believe this?

If you doubt or dislike or distrust God you dishonor God and open the door for Satan to tempt you into believing that God does not love you, does not have your best interest at heart, and to tempt you to take your own life into your hands which may be at best detrimental for you or at worst destructive for you.

So many people struggle with doubts of whether God really has their best interest in his heart and if the things he directs or permits in their lives is fair. Don’t be one of those people!

What do you need to do?

Seek to know both intellectually and experientially the grace of God extended to you in his eternal purpose for your life each and every day.

Trust God to be wise, loving, and gracious as he sovereignly governs your life.

Delight in His grace that is extended in every circumstance that affects your life.

 Pray that God would make you more sensitive to his graciousness towards you, his eternal purpose for you, and His wise care and maintenance of you.


For those of you who are here who have never been brought fact to face with your sin and the fact that you right now are alienated from God and are under the condemnation of God, let me say, that the Bible says to you:

You are lost and that you are blind to spiritual things. Unless you are born again of God you cannot and will not see nor enter the kingdom of heaven
But, it gets worse! The Bible says that you are dead in your trespasses and sins and your only hope of forgiveness and salvation is in Christ Jesus alone. Only God through His Holy Spirit can open your blinded eyes and reveal to your soul that God alone has the power to give you eternal life through Jesus Christ. There is a God in heaven who can make spiritually dead sinners alive!

When God, through His Holy Spirit has revealed this to you, your natural response will be to cry out, “O God, what must I do to be saved?” The answer is to, “Call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Cast yourself on His mercy, plead with Him as the Publican once did in the Temple, and say, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.” Or like the thief who had been crucified next to Jesus who said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

So don’t delay, “do not despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

Where ever you are today, in this pew, on your way home, at home; do not delay, be saved today, while there is still time.

 Let’s pray! J

Father, we would ask you to grant to us the wisdom to trust you implicitly in all that you do. Father help us not to be blinded to our own sin as we condemn the sin in others. Enable us, as your children to always be willing to obey you and to honor your wisdom far above ours.

Father, grant us the wisdom and the ability to trust you even when you seem to be working against our own desires and aspirations. May we never be vexed or frustrated when our circumstances seem to work against us.

Father, we are ever so thankful for the grace and mercy that you have extended to us. May we always be willing to extend the same grace and mercy to those who cross our path who may not deserve your grace even as we did not?

Father, please, help us today to realize just how gracious you really are. Help us to know that you not only desire to be gracious to your children, but you delight in being gracious. Help all of us to remember that you are patient, kind, merciful, and gracious even when we fail you and sin against you.

Thank you for being so loving and so gracious to us! Thank you for Jonah’s great sin written for our example and for your unmerited favor extended both to the Ninevites and to us. (Amen!)

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