Opening Prayer

Thank you, Father, for those people who are channels of your love in my life. I look to you to bless them today.

Read JONAH 4

Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion

4 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”


  1. Jonah 4:6 The precise identification of this plant is uncertain; also in verses 7, 9 and 10.

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’1

Think Further

In Jewish tradition, Jonah is read on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)—a celebration of the matchless mercy of God, a God who Jonah knows is ‘sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!’ (v. 2, The Message). Despite knowing God’s character and having been a grateful beneficiary of God’s gracious salvation,2 Jonah reacts with angry arrogance (vv. 1, 3, 4, 9) when this same undeserved grace is extended to his enemies. Jonah is impatient with God’s patience. Still wrestling with faulty notions about who God should love, Jonah resents the fact that God ‘relents’ (v. 2).

The God who is ‘slow to anger’ (v. 2) confronts Jonah’s anger: ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ (vv. 4, 9). While God’s anger rises up in right judgment against evil, his justice is always tempered by compassion and a loving concern for all his creatures (vv. 2, 11).3 ‘The language of God’s judgment must be heard through the agony of God’s heart.’4 Jonah’s anger, however, is sparked by self- centeredness and narrow nationalistic concerns.

Jonah’s prediction came true. God turned his plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness because the Ninevites, despite rebelling against God’s laws, had repented of their evil ways.5 But Jonah has also rebelled—against God’s love. Will he repent and come around to God’s way of loving? Like Jesus’ parable of the lost son,6 Jonah’s story ends on an inconclusive note: ‘should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh …?’ (v. 11). The reader is not told how Jonah responded, perhaps because God’s searching question addresses not just Jonah, not just Israel, but every believer in every generation. How will you reply?


The Lord searches and knows our hearts. May we seek to know God’s heart, so that our living and loving are in step with his heartbeat.

Closing prayer

Lord, forgive me when I am absorbed in my own concerns and fail to see the needs around me. Give me your heart of compassion and a will to obey you.

Last Updated on March 5, 2024 by kingstar

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