Jonah responded in anger when God relented and did not destroy Nineveh. But God is not like Jonah. God is holy and just, but he is also gracious and patient. This is the conclusion to a series on the book of Jonah.
Sermon Overview: Anger and Grace
Whenever we are angry we make a moral judgement. We are saying that whatever we are angry about is unjust. Our judgement may be accurate or it may be inaccurate. When we are wrong in our judgement, we are in sin. But even when we are correct in our judgement, we may still be sinful. It depends on the motive and expression of our anger. Righteous anger is possible, but whenever we are angry, there is a danger of usurping God’s authority.
Jonah was angry that God had spared Nineveh. He wanted to see Nineveh punished. He judged that God was wrong, that it was unjust for him to relent, and he told God so.
Although Jonah was angry, he was still right about God’s character. “You are a gracious God,” he says, “and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” God had much more reason to be angry with Nineveh than Jonah did. But God is merciful. His character is very unlike Jonah’s.
God deals tenderly with Jonah, too. He is gracious with Jonah just as he is with the Ninevites. But he does not relax his standards. Even as he speaks gently to Jonah, God calls him to repentance.
Then God patiently uses the worm and the vine as an object lesson to teach Jonah. Where we might become exasperated with the fickle prophet, God is patient.
When we are inclined to anger, we should slow down and recognize how God responds. God is gracious. God remains steadfastly committed to holiness. And God is patient. That is how we should respond to situations that might otherwise make us angry.