When I complain bitterly, God reaches out
We have already come to the end of our brief but impactful journey into Jonah’s life and ministry. This little narrative has impressed us with the piety of the sailors in chapter 1 and the wholesale repentance of the Ninevites in chapter 3. It has also repeatedly shown us a God who pours out his relentless mercy on undeserving sinners. For his part, Jonah is unimpressive. The narrative is satire, and Jonah is the anti-hero. In reading the account, we’re being encouraged to not be like Jonah. Don’t challenge his will. Don’t cry crocodile tears. Don’t comply half-heartedly. And, what we’ll see in chapter 4, don’t complain bitterly about what God might choose to do. The story ends strangely with God posing a question to Jonah, but with no reply from the prophet. The author intends for us to pick up the question and to consider whether we’re like Jonah in any way. The question, like all other aspects of the narrative, show us the true hero of this book, God, and his relentless mercy toward us.
The God of Second Chances (Jonah)When I complain bitterly, God reaches outTodd Dugard // Jonah 4When God does not do things the way I think he should, I must ask myself…—1. Why am I so upset with what he’s doing? (4:1-2a)John 10:16—2. What qualities of God do I need to remind myself of? (4:2b)—3. Am I descending into a dark place? (4:3, 5, 8, 9)You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you’re having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it’s just complaining.Joni Mitchell—4. Do I think I deserve the good things that I receive from God? (4:6-7)GRACE is getting what you do not deserve, MERCY is not getting what you do deserve.—5. Do I realize that God is reaching out to me in his mercy? (4:4, 10-11)Fallen, anxious sinners are limitless in their capacity to perceive reasons for Jesus to cast them out. We are factories of fresh resistances to Christ’s love...[but] with Christ, our sins and weaknesses are the very résumé items that qualify us to approach him.Dave Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly