Transforming Ordinary People into Extraordinary Followers of Christ

Jonah: Perplexing Prophet – Pouting


Dig deeper into the message during the sermon, in your personal Bible study, or with your family or Community Group in application-driven discussion.



Jonah 4

In Jonah chapter 3 we see the prophet ministering the message which God commanded and the people of  Nineveh repenting and responding in faith. If the book would have concluded there, it would have been a happy  ending. But the climax of the story comes in chapter four—for the Lord is not through teaching his prophet or  us. In chapter three, God ministers through Jonah; in chapter four, he ministers to Jonah. In this chapter, God  teaches three courses designed to meet specific needs in the lives of his servants. 

[1] A course in attitude (v. 1-4). Jonah was very displeased and became angry. What displeased Jonah?  Jonah was displeased that the Ninevites repented; he was angry at God for not destroying the city (3:10). Have  you ever been ticked off at God? Jonah thought that the Jews ought to have a monopoly on the grace of God,  but even when he was “back in his own country” he knew that God wanted to forgive the Ninevites. Jonah knew  five things: God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abundant in loving-kindness, and that he relents  concerning calamity (v. 2). Jonah had correct theology —it was the practice of his faith that wasn’t right. Jonah  did the right thing, but with the wrong attitude. We can have the same problem: we can attend church services  every week, be in a community group, and serve in a ministry. It is possible to be doing all the right things,  without your heart really being into it. That was Jonah’s problem—is it yours too? Jonah was so angry with  God that he asked God to take his life (v. 3). So God asked a penetrating question: “Do you have good reason  to be angry?” (v. 4). Any resentful, bitter people here today? Anyone ticked off at God because he took from  you something that you love? The church contains many bitter, hostile, resentful people. The biblical solution is  found in Ephesians 4:31-32. We often blame God for the choices others have made or for the consequences  that come from our own choices. God did not make anyone act as he did—he allows us to express what is in  our hearts. Our attitude should be the same as Jesus’ attitude towards us: forgiveness. 

[2] A course in consistency (v. 5-8). In v. 4, God asked Jonah a question: “Do you have good reason to  be angry?” In v. 5, Jonah answered it non-verbally: he went outside the city, hoping to see God zap it! Nothing  happened to Nineveh; instead, God went to work on the prophet! To do this, God appointed three things as  teaching tools to get Jonah’s attention: a plant (v. 6), a worm (v. 7), and a wind (v. 8). Jonah was extremely happy  about the plant. It shaded him from the hot sun. Notice the contrast between v. 1 and v. 6. Jonah was greatly  displeased (at God’s mercy to the Ninevites) but extremely pleased about his own comfort! Question: What  makes you angry? What makes you happy? These two questions show what sort of a person you are. Are you  turned on by things, but turned off by lost people? That was Jonah’s problem. Is it yours? Next, God decides to  bug Jonah—withering the plant (v. 7) and sending a scorching wind (v. 8)! These are all teaching tools; God is  saying to Jonah: “You are feeling physically what you ought to be feeling spiritually.” Jonah should have prayed  to be forgiven, but instead he foolishly prays to die. (By the way, this is the only unanswered prayer in the book.  Do you ever thank God for unanswered prayer? It’s a good thing you or I aren’t in charge of the universe—  I think we would have answered Jonah’s prayer! “Jonah—your wish is my command! Zap!”) God wanted both Nineveh and Jonah to repent, but Jonah didn’t…yet. What is the point of this passage? God is gracious, and  Jonah should be too. And God wants us to love others in the way that he loves us. He wants us to want to treat  others in the way that we want God to treat us. Do you put others on a performance basis? If God treated us  this way, we’d be hopelessly lost—if not already in hell! Instead, God says to us: “You have more to learn, dear  son. I’m not finished with you yet; I want you to learn to love others the way I love you.” 

[3] A course in perspective (v. 9-11). Jonah remained angry, so God asked him the same question (v. 9,  cf. v. 4). But now Jonah’s even angrier, and he answers God: “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.”  (Amazing what a little conviction can do!) God said: “You had compassion on a plant—should I not have  compassion on a city with more than 120,000 children?!” (v. 11) Plants perish; people are permanent. Can you distinguish between the perishable and the permanent? Where are you putting your time, your energy, your  bucks? When we develop an eternal perspective, we come to realize that many of the things we obsess over  are perishing. Building into peoples’ lives spiritually is permanent. Jonah ran from God. Are you? 


  • How’s your attitude? Bitter? Angry? Resentful?  I have wonderful news for you—you can dump it today with absolutely no loss.  
  • Are you consistent? Do you put people on a performance basis?  Would you want God to treat you the way that you treat others?  
  • How’s your perspective? Are you working on things that are permanent or perishing? 


Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)

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