Jonah and Lessons in Anger
The book of Jonah is a dramatic short story that captures the way in which God’s ways can come into conflict with our ways. God seems to have a habit of running the universe without consulting us, and the story of Jonah captures the tension between what Jonah, and by extension the people of Israel, wanted God to do and what God was actually doing.
In this way Jonah represents the entire nation of Israel and the point of the story is to illustrate that the people of God are called, not for themselves, but to a greater purpose that includes all the nations. However, Jonah was not in any mood to provide aid to the enemies of Israel by speaking the word of God to them. Jonah instead decided to escape his commission and set out for in the opposite direction. But resisting God is generally not a great idea; as Jonah was soon to discover. The creation and his journeymen all conspired against him to press him into serving of God’s will.
Eventually Jonah came to his senses in the belly of the fish and gave way to the purposes of God. Nevertheless, Jonah remained ill at ease with helping his enemy, and although he fulfilled his commission, he remained angry with God.
God however was not finished with Jonah and taught another important lesson. Mercy is more important than sacrifice. It is one thing to do the will of God, but quite another to accept it. We are not here for ourselves and the blessings of salvation are not merely for our own indulgence. God actually loves the whole creation and most especially the human race – even those openly opposed to him.
Jonah had to learn to see things from the point of view of God—not just his own, or that of his clan and nation. There are no favourites with God. His love is constant and unbiased. If we are recipients of his grace, then it is not ours to horde, but to freely pass on. Just as Jesus said to his disciples “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt 10: 8).