Sunday, September 3, 2017

Jonah Does the Unexcused (Part 2)

Sermon:               GM17-158

Series:                  Jonah: A Gospel of Grace

Subtitle:               Jonah Does the Unexcused (Part 2)

Scripture:            Jonah 4:5-11

Subject:               Jonah gets mad at God

Statement:           Jonah reacts to God’s grace in unexcused 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 2)


Jonah 4:5-11 (Repeat)


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

Remember, we divided Jonah into four (4) sections; Chapter one (1) dealt with Jonah: The Prodigal Prophet; chapter two (2) dealt with Jonah: The Praising Prophet; chapter three (3) was called Jonah: The Preaching Prophet; and now we are 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.

Last week we quoted Ben Franklin as being credited with saying, “Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.” Jonah thought he had good reason to be angry. We know this is not true and by the end of this session we should know at least three things;

·        Jonah did not have a good reason, or for that matter even a bad reason, he had no reason at all to be mad at God

·        Jonah unfortunately was not on the same page as God

·        There is no reason in existence to ever be angry at God

Hopefully, this passage and Jonah’s anger has raised some interesting and thought provoking questions for each of you.
Raise a Need

Every human being will face at one time or another disappointments, devastation, or distressing circumstances. Last week we mentioned just a few of the events or circumstances that may already have or will overtake you during your lifetime:

·        Disease such as cancer, leukemia, or congenital heart failure
·        Death may take away someone whom you love with all your heart
·        Divorce or desertion of a spouse
·        Dismissal from your job with the loss of your livelihood

These things are painful and are a heavy, heavy load to bear. As you struggle under one or more of things terrible things, the temptation will almost always rear its ugly head to become angry at God. Maybe even the desire to blame God.

Orient the Text

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

Remember, 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.

Jonah is angry. Our text shows us that Jonah is angry at God for two (2) reasons.
But God is gracious. In this chapter we see the outrageous grace of God in spite of Jonah’s intense anger.

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 gets mad at God! 


Last week we asked the question, why is Jonah so angry at God?

To answer this question and to see why Jonah is so angry we have to go back once more an look at verse ten (10) of chapter three (3) – “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”

So Jonah reacts to God’s outrageous grace. God did not destroy the city which was 
wanted Jonah wanted and expected. So his reaction was inexcusable anger.

Chapter four (4) and verse one (1) says, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.” 

Why is Jonah so angry at God? We took note that this passage supplies us with two (2) reasons why Jonah is so inexcusably angry with God.

First of all - Jonah is angry at the gracious decision of God.

We saw that last week in (Vss. 1-4). And we were able to clearly see Jonah’s anger at God’s decision was displayed in two ways.

·        First, we saw Jonah’s anger displayed in the Depth of His Feelings (Vss. 1-2).

o   We saw that Jonah was deeply displeased

Jonah is exceedingly, deeply displeased (1)But it displeased Jonah exceedingly…”

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

Next, we saw the depth of Jonah’s feelings when…

o   we saw that Jonah was deeply distressed (1)

“…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.

[So, we see Jonah’s anger in the depth of his feelings, but we see a…]

·        Second way that we saw Jonah’s anger was in the Depth of His Foolishness (Vss. 3-4)

How deep was Jonah’s foolishness? He was so foolish that Jonah desired to die (3) “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

Not only did Jonah want to die, but his foolishness was also seen in Jonah’s distortion of death (4) He justified his anger and refuted God’s decision by thinking death was more desirable than living. He thought death was better than God extending His grace towards the Ninevites

Well, there you have it, Jonah is angry with God! Jonah is angry with the decision of God.

Now let’s move on to the second reason supplied by our passage that tells us why Jonah is so inexcusably angry with God, let’s look at our…


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

          Why is Jonah so angry at the destruction of the gourd by God? Well, first…

          1B     The Gourd served as inspiration

As we began to unpack this last paragraph, I want us to take a brief look at a few preliminary thoughts I had about Jonah’s attitude and actions.
Verse five (5) begins with this…

“So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city.”

[Let’s stop here and think about this for a minute.]

First of all, our passage is silent about the time span when Jonah left the city limits. Some think that Jonah left Nineveh as soon as he finished preaching his dooms day message of judgment. Others think that he may have waited until the forty (40) days were about up before he left. We don’t know, we aren’t told, so we shouldn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. All we know is at some point Jonah left town, but he hung around.

Second, he did not go out the way he came in. He went out the east side of Nineveh. There’s probably a good tactical reason why he did this.

It seems that there were hills or plateaus that were higher in elevation on the eastside and he could look down on the city and see what happened to it. If God did destroy it then he could observe the destruction from a safe place.

Third, it becomes very evident that though this position might be tactical it was very miserable. The desert was east of the city. The wind was powerful and blew dust and hot air. The wind was actually called sirocco. It was a scorching, burning, dry, and miserable wind.

Fourth, note that there was no answer to God’s question. God had asked Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?” But there is not a peep out of Jonah at this point.

Fifth, we have to ask ourselves why did Jonah station himself out side of the city? There are several speculations that might help us understand a little bit:

§  Did Jonah see the actions of the Ninevites? Did he see their repentance? He probably did. It made him wonder if God would be outrageously gracious since the Ninevites repented.

§  Did Jonah think that maybe the Ninevites would go back to their normal behavior and in some way forfeit God’s grace and then God would destroy them? Was he hoping that there would still be reason for their destruction?

§  Did he wait the forty (40) day period out to see if he was right in his assessment of God and His gracious nature? Was we waiting for confirmation that God would extend grace to Israel’s enemies?

I want you to think on those things. They are interesting and thought provoking to me. But, let’s move on and unpack this idea that Jonah is angry at the gourd’s destruction b God.

[First, of all note that…]

1C     Jonah constructs a guard (Vs.5b)

“There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.”

The word “shelter” is the Hebrew word sukkah. It is a noun that refers to a thicket, a temporary shelter made from brush, scrubs, or even branches. It was mainly used as the description of shelter made or intended for animals.

But it is also the word used for the booths or shelters that the Israelites were to construct annually for the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths which remembered the temporary shelter of the Israelites while they were in the wilderness or the desert.

Jonah would have been fairly adept at making this booth or shelter since he had to make one every year and sleep a week in it during the feast or festival.

Jonah made a crude temporary shelter hoping to deflect the hot sun and burning wind that came off the desert. But his main purpose was to wait and see what God would to the city of Nineveh.

So, Jonah took some leafy type branches or desert shrubs and interlaced them in order sit in some shade in order to wait.

What went through his mind? First, I am sure he thought about how hot and miserable he was.

But did he think that he had really convinced God that the right thing to do was to destroy Nineveh? Did he convince himself that the answer to God’s question in verse four (4), “Is it right for you to be angry?” was yes?

I think Jonah missed God’s purpose and a great opportunity. I think God wanted Jonah to examine his heart for his sin. But instead it seems that Jonah was “examining” the people and hoping that they would sin and then be destroyed.

It seems that Jonah was saying, “Let’s see if my anger is justifiable 
or not.”

What is wrong with Jonah? Let me suggest three (3) possible answers for you to chew on. Use these three (3) guesses to take inventory of your heart.

·        Jonah is not reconciled to the will of God. He has opposed God from the beginning of this narrative. Jonah is not on God’s page.

·        Jonah seemingly has forgotten God’s great mercy to him. Man’s memory is so short

·        Jonah did not know God as well as he thought he did. He didn’t want God to extend mercy & grace to Gentile sinners & Israel’s enemies

[So, Jonah constructs a guard, or shelter for guarding him or protecting him. Next, we see that…]

                    2C     Jonah celebrated the gourd (Vs. 6)

“And the LORD God prepared a plant, the KJV says a “gourd”, and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant, [the gourd].”

First of all, it seems that this temporary shelter, this guard, this booth did not provide full protection from the sun. Otherwise God would not have needed to create a plant to provide shade. So it seems that Jonah need something more to completely keep the burning hot sun off of his head.

Second, we should ask ourselves what kind of plant was this?

It seems there has been a great deal of discussion and debate about 
this plant.

Jewish tradition identifies it as the castor oil plant.

The LXX and the Syriac translate the Hebrew word qiyqayown (kee-kaw-yone’) as gourd. And so the KJV, NEB, and RV translate it as gourd.

The RSV translates it as plant

Third of all, it seems that whatever the plant was, God miraculously caused this plant to grow and to grow overnight to a height that would be high enough to cover the hut that Jonah had built.

The desert had a plant that would grow very rapidly. It had very broad leaves that would provide a covering. It grew in sandy soil like the desert.
But it seems that even this plant would not grow high enough and broad enough to cover the Jonah’s shelter overnight. So this was directly from God

Fourth, we see that Jonah was very happy or pleased about this plant. He was thankful or grateful. I gave this heading the term celebration because the text doesn’t just mean that Jonah was happy, the text implies that Jonah was deliriously happy. Jonah experienced and emotion that he has not experienced anywhere in this narrative.

For the first time Jonah is truly happy. This feeling, this celebratory emotion was not recorded when he was delivered from drowning. This celebratory emotion was not mentioned when the city was spared from destruction.

His total happiness came from the growth of a plant because it provided more shade and relief than his hut did.

There is possibly another reason for his celebratory mood. Page and Smith in their commentary offer a suggestion that Jonah might have thought that the miraculous provision of the gourd or plant was some kind of evidence of God’s favor on Jonah. Could Jonah have thought that his feelings of anger and disappointment were justified or vindicated? We certainly don’t know and text doesn’t say, but Page and Smith might not be too far off the mark in simply suggesting the idea.

[But, I think there is a…]

Fifth idea to consider. The growth and mention of this plant is not superfluous. God had a reason. He was going to use this plant, not just for some temporary comfort for Jonah, but as an object lesson to teach Jonah an important lesson. I am getting ahead of myself. We will get to that in a moment.

[Not only did Jonah celebrate the gourd, but…]

3C     Jonah craved the gourd (Vss. 7-8)

“But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind, and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint, and said, ‘It is better for me to die that to live.”

God had miraculously created and grew a gourd or plant that grew large enough overnight to cover Jonah’s shelter and give him shade from the hot sun. The temperature from the Arabian Desert with the wind was around 110 degrees.

But, as morning came, God prepared a worm to eat the roots of the gourd, or plant. It did eat them so thoroughly that it caused the plant to wither and die.

Many people read that God prepared a worm and read right along. Sometimes it pays to stop and look closely at the worm.

·        This may have been what was called the scarlet worm

·        It was called the scarlet worm because when it was squeezed it oozed a reddish or scarlet fluid.

·        This reddish or scarlet fluid was used to dye cloth or clothing red

·        This word for worm is used in Isaiah 1:18 where it speaks of “sin, red like crimson.

·        This word is used for Christ in Psalm 22

·        Listen to this – this should make your goose pimples show up

o   When the female scarlet worm gives birth to a baby worm, she oozes out a red fluid and she dies giving birth

o   This is a picture of the red fluid, the blood of Christ that oozed from His body as he died to give us birth

That wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t enough that the wind from the Arabian Desert was burning hot already, God created an even greater and hotter wind to blow through Jonah’s shelter and made the sun shine down on Jonah even more hotter. The wind was so hot and the son was so hot that Jonah had heatstroke and was close to fainting or passing out.

Again, Jonah is so miserable that he decides it is better for him to die. Can you believe that? He could have said, OK Lord, you aren’t going to destroy them so I will just go home. He still would rather die than see God extend outrageous grace to the Gentile Ninevites.

[So, the gourd, or the plant was very special to Jonah. It gave him inspiration or comfort. But God also intended in his plan for…]

          2B     The gourd served as instruction (Vss. 9-11)

God moved very quickly to bring an end to Jonah’s celebratory happiness. I think we can say God also was making sure Jonah didn’t have any ideas that the gourd was a reward for Jonah’s attitude or actions.

[Let’s take a look at how this gourd served as instruction to Jonah. First of all…]

                   1C     Jehovah examines Jonah (Vss. 9)

1D     The Request

“Then the LORD said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the gourd?

Why does God ask questions?

There are some bible scholars who believe and teach that God doesn’t know everything. They call their system “Open Theism.”

Open theism,” also known as “openness theology,” the “openness of God,” and “free will theism,” is an attempt to explain the foreknowledge of God in relationship to the free will of man. The argument of open theism is essentially this: human beings are truly free; if God absolutely knew the future, human beings could not truly be free.

Therefore, God does not know absolutely everything about the future. Open theism holds that the future is not knowable. Therefore, God knows everything that can be known, but He does not know the future. 

We know that there is no deficiency in God’s knowledge. He is absolutely omniscient. God knows everything at the same time, from all of time, and He never has to learn anything because He has always known everything.

But God likes to ask questions:

o   He asked Adam, “Where are you Adam?”

o   Adam, did you eat of the tree that you were prohibited?

o   Cain, where is your brother?

We could go on and on, but the reason that God asks question, is not because He doesn’t know the answer, but to demand an admission or owning up of one’s sin or disobedience. God asks questions to drive home sin and the enormity of sin.

[Look carefully at…]

                             2D     The Response

‘And he said, ‘It is right for me to be angry even to death.’”

Jonah didn’t admit he was wrong or sinful. He didn’t see God’s point. He simply said yes, it is right for me to be angry, so angry I should die.

So, we see a quick and easy examination by God of Jonah. Now, we see…

                   2C     Jehovah enlightens Jonah (Vss. 10-11)

                             1D     …about the value of a plant

“But the LORD said, you have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a night.”

First of all – the grammar of verses ten (10) and eleven (11) contains an element of force, or directness, even intensity on Gods’ part. He is not messing around, He wants Jonah to sit up and be schooled like a man. God is demanding Jonah pay attention to what He is going to teach him.

Second, the grammar also gives the idea that the “you” in verse ten (10) is to be contrasted with the “I” in verse eleven (11). You, Jonah have been concerned about a plant, I have been concerned about people.

Third, the word pity in both verses contains the idea of compassion. So, God is saying you have had warm, compassionate, kind, merciful, tender and loving feelings toward a plant that you have had nothing to do with, and have not demonstrated any warm, compassionate, kind, merciful, tender and loving feelings toward fellow human beings.

What was God schooling Jonah about? God was driving home the point that Jonah’s anger was terribly misappropriate. Jonah your anger about the death of the plant was inappropriate.

Jonah you think to die is the right or appropriate response for a plant that lived less than twelve hours? God is basically enlightening Jonah to the fact that God doesn’t think Jonah had any right to express an opinion or feelings about the plant. Why? Here is God’s point – the plant was a work of grace. It was a gift of grace from God to Jonah!

God is also driving home another point – Jonah, who are you to question me?

[So, God enlightens or schools Jonah on the value of a plant. God also enlightens or schools Jonah…]

                             2D     …on the value of people (Vs. 11)

“And should I not pity Nineveh that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand (120,000) persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left – and much life stock.”

God begins with the number 120,000. Don’t forget, in time past God was willing to spare Sodom & Gomorrah if just ten (10) repentant or righteous people could be found. 120,000 is 12 x’s more than 10.

Wow! Jonah you had compassion on a relatively insignificant part of my creation. I had compassion on the highest part of my creature, people. Jonah you were totally indifferent to people whom I have created. Jonah, twice now you have given the wrong answer.

Here is the main issue of this historical narrative. The main issue isn’t Jonah running from God, or Jonah gets thrown overboard, or Jonah is swallowed up and survives a huge fish. It even isn’t the unprecedented repentance of the Ninevites.

The main point or main issue of Jonah is the outrageous grace of God. This narrative deals with God’s mercy and His grace. This is why I entitled this study, Jonah: A Gospel of Grace. This is the good news of the grace of God.

Jonah did not deserve the plant or the gourd that provided the shade for his well-being.

The Ninevites didn’t deserve God relenting from His intention of destruction. They were extended grace based upon their genuine repentance. God had mercy on people who did not deserve it.

o   120,000

Let’s talk about the 120,000 for a minute. This also has been a huge bone of contention for a good many people.

The phrase “cannot tell their right hand from their left” is usually used in reference to children, to non-adult status. So, many people believe that God is saying there are 120,000 children who are young enough that they don’t know right from wrong yet. It usually is limited to the ages of 3 to 7 or so.

If this is the case then you have to account for parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, so many people give an estimate of Nineveh’s population to be around 600,000.

There are others who say that the 120,000 does not refer to children, but it includes the entire population because Jonah uses the word “adam” which means people or persons, or even human being.

o   Cannot discern between their right hand and their left

A few scholars think that this might refer to their inability to distinguish between various religions or means of worship

A few scholars think it might refer to the pitifulness of the Ninevites as a cruel, barbaric, and simple minded people

A few scholars think it might refer to people who were morally and ethnically inept or na├»ve. This doesn’t mean that they were morally innocent or sinless.

A few scholars think that it might refer to the fact that they are unable to determine that God is the true God and He alone should be worshipped and in the manner in which He has prescribed.

I think it based on the use of the term “adam” that it may take in the whole population of children and adults who are spiritually deficient.

o   And much livestock

This kind of seems like it is “thrown in at the last minute.” But the point is cattle or oxen, or livestock of any kind are greater than plants. They have a higher value than a plant.

So, Jonah, you are kind of a rotten guy to have pity or compassion for a plant and not for people or animals. 

o   Abrupt ending

The narrative seems to end very abruptly. This is why some scholars think that this “narrative” might have been “ripped” out of or taken from a much larger and complete writing.

There is absolutely no evidence of this being the case. God just chose to end it here. God ends this narrative with a question. It is a question that we all have to answer at some point or time.

What could Jonah say? He can’t say no, or he would be a monster who valued plants over people and animals.

He can’t say yes, or he would be admitting he was wrong and God was right.

He was completely shut down by his own lack of emotion for the people of Nineveh and for the animals. Jonah had no answer and made no answer.

God made His point. God demonstrated His true character and nature – He is gracious, not only gracious, but from our vantage point, He is outrageously gracious. God is compassionate.

God is as compassionate about Gentiles and He is Jews. Of course this has been His plan and position since creation. Abram was to be a blessing to all the races and peoples, Jews and Gentiles alike.

And so, Jonah was angry at the gourd’s destruction by God. The gourd served as an inspiration to Jonah for comfort and delight, but the gourd also served as an instruction of God’s nature and character, of his compassion for people and even animals. The gourd was a lesson that Jonah sinned in valuing a plant higher than he valued people. Jonah is a picture of the human heart. We all have the tendency to be prejudice and desire the destruction of various or certain people. Remember, Jonah was schooled by God! It is only by His grace that we squelch those impulses.

[What do you say we wrap this up?]


Let me conclude this paragraph and this study of Jonah: A Gospel of Grace with this undeniable truth. We must value people, all people, higher than we value any inanimate item or object, such as a plant. God is a merciful God, because as the hymn states:

There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty. 

There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.


What does God want you to believe?

·        God’s world is so much bigger than ours. Jonah’s world was Israel, God’s world included Nineveh of Assyria. Believe that God has more people than our immediate circles

·        God’s love is as great as His wrath. God will have compassion on repentant people

·        God’s wants to cure and cut out our prejudices against other people

·        God uses you to take His message of love and forgiveness to all types or kinds of people

·        God accepts repentance from even the very worst of sinners

Why do you need to believe this?

It is so easy to become jaded with people. Our natural prejudices against other people can surface so easily and powerfully in us to the point where we are unwilling to share the gospel with them. It is easy to lose God’s love for other people and to become consumed by our own personal agendas and prejudices. It is too easy to become and remain self-centered, rather than God centered.

What do you need to do?

·        Check your hate list. How many people are you indifferent to or value less than material things? Are we like Jonah, would we prefer that SF, LA, NYC & other wicked cities be destroyed for their gross sins. Or do we desire to seem them come to Christ?

o   Jonah was angry at God and attempted to justify himself
o   Jonah even attempted to hang his sin on God
o   Jonah’s anger was irrational with no foundation or basis

·        Check your love list. Who do you need to add whom you know needs Christ?

o   Jonah needed to learn compassion and develop love

o   Exodus 34:7 says, “And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin…”

·        Check your sin list. Confess any and all sin that God brings to your mind about his love and compassion for people

·        Check your courting list. Seek and ask God to replace any anger or frustration with people with His love for them
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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