Jonah 4:1
It takes a good deal to make a man of God perfect. After a whole life's discipline the old man of sin will sometimes show his baleful features at the window of the soul. Jonah has just been figuring to our mind as a changed character, returned to his allegiance, going God's errand promptly, and doing his work with faithful zeal. But here he forfeits our good opinion, almost before it has had time to form. The patient's cure has been only seeming, or else he has suffered a bad relapse. At any rate, the narrative leaves him on a spiritual level as low or lower than it found him. He began by quarrelling with a particular command of God, and he ends by quarrelling with his moral government as a whole. If there be a point of religious progress scored at all in connection with the matter, it is the exceedingly minute one that at first he tried to defeat the Divine purpose, and at last, and with an ill grace, he submits to its execution as inevitable. And it may be noted, as a qualifying consideration, that sanctification is the work of a lifetime; and therefore we can look for no very material change in the few days which the narrative of the book covers.

I. A MAN WHO HAS FOUND MERCY HIMSELF MAY YET PRACTICALLY GRUDGE IT TO OTHERS. Misanthropy is Satanic. The devil hates men utterly and intensely. And the man, if there be such, who hates men instinctively, and would destroy them unprovoked, is less human than diabolical Jonah was not such a man. There were considerations, and paltry ones, for which he would have sacrificed all the souls in Nineveh, but, apart from these, he wished them no ill.

1. One of these considerations was supplied by egoism. As the prophet and mouthpiece of God, he had predicted the destruction of the city, even to the naming of the day, and his credit required that the event should now occur. If it did not, his prophecy failed, and his reputation as a prophet suffered, both with the Ninevites and with his own people. The prospect of this he could not stand. In his miserable and guilty self-seeking he preferred the destruction, soul and body, of a million people, to the possible discrediting of his prophetic claims. Such heartlessness in a believing man seems well nigh incredible. But it is far from unparalleled. Every Christian worker approaches it who works for his own credit or advantage, and not for the salvation of men. He may not be conscious of the fact, or he may fail to realize the significance of it, but he virtually and practically prefers that men should perish rather than that he should be deemed a failure. His reputation as a Christian worker, and his success in that character, is more to him than the salvation from sin of all to whom his words may come.

2. Another consideration sectarianism provides. To Israel in its wickedness a whole line of prophets had preached, with no result whatever, save their own extermination (Acts 7:52), and the announcement of inevitable doom on the obdurate race (Amos 5:27; Amos 7:17). The Ninevites' deliverance, establishing as it would the genuineness of their turning from sin, would bring into unfavourable contrast the obstinate impenitence of Israel, would emphasize the needs be of her approaching ruin, and would amount to the preservation and encouragement of the very heathen power by which she was to fall. Then the overthrow of Nineveh by an angry God would have been a terrible example to quote to Israel, and a rod to conjure with when calling on them to fly the wrath of God; whilst its escape the prophet's careless countrymen might wrest to their own destruction, and from it argue that the vengeance denounced would likely never fail. There is an attitude of indifference toward the perishing, into which an analogous spirit of sectarianism sometimes causes believers to fall The question of their salvation gets mixed up with some question of denominational loss or discredit. We desire their conversion, and desire to be the means of it. But we don't desire it supremely or disinterestedly. We don't desire it apart from all denominational considerations. The idea of their remaining a while longer in sin would be almost as tolerable to us as that some rival sect should win their gratitude and adherence by helping them into the kingdom. This is, at bottom, the spirit of Jonah exactly. It is putting an earthly and narrow interest. before the eternal life of souls. It is a spirit unworthy the Christian character, and a shameful stigma on the Christian name.

3. A further consideration may be found in the surviving misanthropy of a half-sanctified nature. God desires infinitely the highest well being of men (Ezekiel 33:11). And men, in proportion as they are God-like, desire it too (Romans 9:1-4). The sinful nature, which is largely selfish, is being taken away, and the gracious character, which is essentially benevolent, is being inwrought. But neither process is complete on earth, and the missionary spirit, which is their joint issue, is proportionally weak. It was so with Jonah. He shows the old nature strong still in pride and petulance and ingratitude, and why not in lovelessness, its characteristic vice? Such a man is incapable of understanding the tender and gracious heart of God, which loves men absolutely and infinitely, and acts in every respect in character. He is incapable of desiring supremely the highest good of men, for he has never climbed to the high spiritual level in which to apprehend his own. A half-sanctified man is considerably more than half-selfish, and a good deal less than half benevolent. If we would know what it is to travail for men's salvation, we must rise to a love of God baptized into the likeness of the Divine love out of which it springs.

II. GOD'S CHARACTER IS CONSTANT, WHATEVER ELSE MAY CHANGE. (Ver. 20 Jonah changed, and the Ninevites changed, and God's treatment was changed accordingly; but the Divine character and rule of action remained the same throughout.

1. He acted strictly in character in this case. Jonah's language seems to imply a charge of weakness against the Divine dealing with Nineveh. On no other assumption can we understand his quoting in such a connection, and with disapproval, God's own revelation of the character in which he desired to be known (Ezekiel 34:6). And the supposition is strengthened by the fact that, whilst he gives literally the clauses that speak of God's mercy, he leaves out the clause that speaks of his justice (Exodus 34:7), and substitutes for it a sentiment of his own. But justice and mercy met in the whole transaction. The Ninevites were mercifully spared, yet not unjustly. They might in justice have been destroyed, but not in mercy (Isaiah 55:7; Jeremiah 31:20). Therefore Jonah absurdly makes it a charge against God that he is what he had always gloried in declaring himself to be. So blind and stupid can a sulky servant be. God need not overact his merciful character in order to offend such people; it is his mercy itself with which they have a quarrel.

2. The prophet himself affirms the Divine consistency. "God," we are told, "repented of the evil," etc.; and Jonah says, "I knew that thou art a gracious God... and repentest thee of the evil." The thing that Jonah knew he would do he did. His action was normal and entirely consistent - such action as he has always taken, and will take, in a like case. He repented, in fact, yet did not change. He did what it would be a change to cease from doing in the circumstances. He threatened Nineveh sinning, as he threatens all, and then he spared it turning, as he spares men in every age. His repentance, so called, is his method coordinating itself with the changing conditions of life, and is simply an aspect of his immutability.

III. THE PRAYER OF THE SELF-SEEKER IS OF NECESSITY ILL-ADVISED. (Ver. 3.) Jonah's prayer was bona fides. It is as a believer he prays. His spiritual instinct brings him in his unhappiness to a throne of grace. "He does not seek a refuge from God. He makes God his Refuge" (Martin). He shows a surly sincerity in unreservedly stating what is working in his mind; and "so long as all can yet be declared unto the Lord, even though it be your infirmity, there integrity still reigns" (Martin). Yet, barring the quality of sincerity, this prayer lacks almost every other element of acceptable worship.

1. It is inappropriate in its matter. (Ver. 3.) It is not absolutely and necessarily wrong to pray for death. Paul, persecuted and afflicted, had "a desire to depart and be with Christ." It is easily conceivable that a believer, broken down and prostrated with incurable disease, should pray for death as the sole available release. It would be nothing unbecoming if a ripe saint, whose life work is done, and who longs for rest, should make its early coming a matter of prayer. But Jonah was neither past living usefully nor, in his present temper, ready to die. His death, if allowed, would have advanced no interest either of his own or of others. His work was, humanly speaking, far from being done, and his life, if he put a noble interpretation on it, might be of great importance in the world. He was stupidly wanting to fling away from him, instead of prizing and using it, one of God's most precious gifts, and his own most sacred trust. The desire to die, which some consider the cream of all piety, is as often mistaken as appropriate, and far less often a duty than a sin. In such cases men "ask and receive not, because they ask amiss."

2. It is improper in spirit. One can easily see that Jonah was in no praying mood. He was angry and insolent. His prayer was really a contentious manifesto - the joint issue of arrogance and discontent. As such it was utterly offensive to God, and itself a new sin in his sight. The spirit of it, however, made it harmless, as it secured the refusal of its mischievous request. Our union with Christ is a condition of successful prayer (John 15:7). The guarantee of its acceptability is our dwelling in Christ: the cause of its fitness is his Word dwelling in us. The Spirit helps the believer's infirmities, and in these qualities we have the outcome of his work (Romans 8:26). The very gist of prayer is a leaving of ourselves in the hands of God. Its inquiry is, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" and its request is, "Lord, here am I; send me." Such a request is offered in terms of our Father's will, and, being offered in Christ, is ideal prayer to God. But the prayer of wilfulness, of fretfulness, of carnal suggestion in any shape, is lacking in every element that God regards or can accept. "For let not such a one think that he shall receive anything of the Lord."

IV. GOD ANSWERS A FAULT-FINDING PRAYER BY REBUKING THE SPIRIT OF IT. The rule is that believing prayer is answered (Matthew 21:22; Mark 2:24). It is a special qualification of the rule that the answer comes in the form of things agreeable to God's will. Jonah's prayer had enough of faith in it to secure an answer, and yet enough of folly to necessitate an answer very different from the one desired (ver. 4). There was wonderful condescension here. Jonah makes an insane request, and it is mercifully ignored. He makes it in a sinful way, and gets the thing he was most in need of - an admonition. The words imply:

1. Are you angry on sufficient grounds? An enumeration of the antecedents of his anger would have covered Jonah with confusion. His contemptibly egotistic refusal to prophesy, as it was his business to do, had not so much been punished, as forcibly overcome, and then forgiven. His life, jeopardized, in the natural course of events, by his own infatuate conduct, had, by a miracle of mercy, been given back to him from the grave's mouth. His recent ministry so tardily exercised had been blessed beyond a parallel, to the saving of a mighty city and the glorious illustration of the mercy and grace of God. These grounds of feeling are the only grounds which, as a servant of God, he could consistently regard. The others, which bore on possible results to his own official prestige, and Israel's moral attitude and fate, were purely speculative, might prove unfounded altogether, and whether or not should have no place in a spiritual mind. A true prophet is a man who speaks for God unquestioningly, who acts for God undauntedly, who is in fullest sympathy with his gracious purposes, and who knows no personal considerations in his work. Well might God ask, "Art thou wiser than I?" "Is thine eye evil because I am good?" If a servant may have an interest antagonistic to his masters; if a man "may make his own narrow capacity the measure by which to judge of the Divine wilt and the Divine procedure" (Martin); if the salvation of a million strangers is nothing in the balance against a possible hurt to a few of our own friends; - then Jonah was fitly angry, and we, in a like case, may fitly be angry also. The words also imply:

2. Is your anger itself a right thing? The will of God is the ultimate reason of things. The way of God is uuchallengeably right. The office of censor over him does not exist, There is no provision in his scheme of government for our being angry, and no place in the chain of cause and effect at which it could come in. We do it solely on our own responsibility, in violation of the Divine harmonies, and at our own risk and loss. It settles nothing outside ourselves, influences nothing, and has no right of way across the field of providence. God is supreme, and men are in his hands, and all duty in relation to his government is, "Thy will be done." The question of men's salvation is God's question in the last appeal. He sits at the helm. He settles who shall be saved, and whether any shall be saved (Romans 9:11, 16, 22, 23). The conversion of sinners is but the evolution of his purpose; the glorification of saints the realization of his plan. Is not this good tidings for the lust? Seeking God as he thinks with all his heart, the anxious sinner fancies sometimes that the is willing and God is not, and that the question to be solved is the question of overcoming a certain Divine inertia, and getting God's consent to his entrance into life. The idea is a delusion of Satan, and has ruined more lives than could be told. "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." That is Christ's way of it. "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." That is God's gospel, the glorious and precious truth. God's willingness to save is infinite. He waits to be gracious. It is you that are not willing. You think you are, and you may be in some respects. But you are not willing perfectly and all round. There is a secret reservation lurking somewhere. Search well and see. If you had ever been wholly willing for a single instant, you would that instant have been across the threshold and in the kingdom. If you are wholly willing now, it is the golden hour of your life, for it is the beginning of the new life in Christ. - J.E.H.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
Why is Jonah so much offended and so very angry? Surely there is here some great dishonour to God; or some great enormity or departure from the immutable and unchanging law of everlasting righteousness, goodness, and truth. If neither of these two, at least there is some dreadful denunciation of judgment, or some terrible threatening, at which the very nature of man doth tremble. But here is the wonder, there is nothing that is any just cause; no cause at all of any true offence, or real provocation. It is a shame to say what is the cause. This good man is displeased with God Himself, and he is offended at the Divine goodness and compassion, and that God hath respect to the repentance of sinners. It is strange that he should be angry at this, because it is a thing contrary to the sense of the lower and of the upper world. We have found the man of whom it is spoken in the Gospel, that "his eye was evil because God's was good" (Matthew 20:15). He prefers his own conceited credit and esteem before the lives and beings of six score thousand persons. All God's denunciations against sinners are to be understood with a clause of reservation. He always excepts this ease — if the sinner repent. If he forsake his iniquity he shall surely live. That which makes the wonder the greater is that Jonah, whom we find in this distemper, is of all the prophets the type of Christ. In his temper and disposition he is no type of Christ. That temper admits of no apology.

1. Nothing is more unreasonable in itself.

2. Nothing is worse for Jonah himself, and the whole world besides him. For what would become of us all if there were no place for repentance? And how should Jonah himself be pardonable for his present distemper if God should not allow place for repentance?

3. Nothing is more unnatural in respect of his office as a prophet. Was it not his very work to promote repentance and reformation among sinners?

4. Nothing worse can be put upon God than to be represented as implacable and irreconcilable.

5. And this would render men hopeless and desperate in the world. This is not the first distemper that we find Jonah in. At first we find him in great refractoriness and disobedience. Then we find him stupid and senseless, and more blockish than the idolatrous mariners. Then we find him in a case of desperate insolency. For we have no reason to think his wish to be cast into the sea came from the greatness of his faith. Then we find him in a state that is unnatural, barbarous, and inhumane; for he desired the destruction of others just to save his own reputation. All these distempers are aggravated by his late deliverance in the belly of the whale. Moreover, he is not overcome by the declaration of the reason of things, when it comes out of the mouth of God Himself. The story leaves Jonah without any account of his returning to himself, and to a due temper.

1. Learn to consider in how sad and forlorn a condition we are, if God be not for us and with us.

2. How sin multiplies and grows upon us if once we fall into a distemper.

3. Notice the great danger of selfishness.

4. Let this be for caution and admonition. Persons acquainted with religion, if once out of the way of reason and conscience, prove more exorbitant than others. What great care a man should take to preserve his innocence and integrity! For our better security let us consider —

(1)That it is much easier to prevent than to restrain sin.

(2)Let us be very wary and cautious of approaching evil.Avoid self-confidence, and ever keep this confidence — our sufficiency is of God. It seems that Jonah did know before hand that, if Nineveh did repent, God was so gracious and merciful that He would revoke the sentence. Observe, then, how passion transforms a man. How selfishness narrows and contracts a man's spirit. Sin is the cause of judgment. There is not stay at all in the way of sin. But repentance alters the case. Notice how God deals with man to bring him to a right mind when He finds him in his distemper. God deals with Jonah by reason and argument. What a strange kind of prayer Jonah's was! Indeed, he rather quarrels with God than prays to Him. In prayer let us take care of two things.

1. That our mind be in a praying temper.

2. That we offer to God in sacrifice prayer-matter.Consider the person with whom Jonah is displeased. None other than God Himself. Consider the cause of his offence. He is offended with God's goodness, and with sinners' repentance. He is offended that repentance takes effect. See, then, that you keep out of passion, if you would not shamefully miscarry. Remember your own weakness and infirmity, and be modest and humble. Let us preserve our innocence, and beware of running into such heat of temper and mind. Take care of selfishness and narrowness of spirit.

(B. Whichcote.)

1. Beware of a spirit of selfishness.

2. Beware of the peril of approaching your Creator in a peevish and discontented mood.

3. Rejoice that under the Gospel the true efficacy of repentance has been explained to you. You know how and why it can be effective.

(W. H. Marriott.)

There is one thing most wonderful, and that is, that God should be so good as He is.

I. JONAH'S SELFISHNESS. Selfishness is one of the last evils that is rooted out of the nature of man, and it is hardly possible to limit the extent of the evil that selfishness works in us; it is the great hinderer of good. Selfishness is at the root of that exceeding anxiety lest our fellow-men should undervalue us. The great fear on the part of Jonah was lest his dignity should suffer by the repentance of the Ninevites, and lest, therefore, he should lose his character as prophet, and should be spoken of as an utterer of falsehoods. We see connected with it a slight estimation of the life and comfort of others. Thus the selfish man is continually violating the spirit of the second table of the law. We find selfishness existing in a very prominent way whenever men are found to be murmuring at God's will, if that will is opposed to their own.

II. THE LORD'S LESSON TO HIM. Now Jonah was disposed to show the same rebellious spirit as before, in objecting to the manner in which God was dealing with Nineveh. In dealing with him, God gave him comfort to prevent his suffering, and then removed the comfort. God thus deals with us constantly. We all need to be taught that creature comforts are but vanities, and that our only real comfort and consolation is in the Lord Himself.

III. GOD'S UNCHANGEABLE LOVE. We might have expected that such a man as Jonah God would have chastised and banished from His presence. What condescension we can see in His dealings with him! What a contrast between Jonah's selfishness and God's love.

(Montagu Villiers, M. A.)

Anger is not necessarily a proof of corruption of the heart, but is often an inseparable part of life. The Divine Creator has planted in our beings this self-defensive attribute for noble and serviceable purposes. See the two sides of this passion, as exemplified in the difference between the anger of Jonah and that of Jesus. One only shows the spirit of selfishness, which is fretful and unruly, while the other shows the grandeur of a self-sacrificing spirit united with piety and love.


1. Its selfish nature. It was his own honour he feared for, not the glory of God.

2. Its unjust character. He would have had God repudiate His justice and mercy and love to gratify a sinful prophet.

3. Its uncharitable folly. It was vindictive. It was not against the evil, but the good.

II. THE ANGER OF CHRIST AS A TYPE OF RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION. "He looked round about on them in anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." Contrasting it with Jonah's, observe the following points.

1. It was sinless.

2. It was just.

3. It was merciful.Severity is no token of hatred. Kingsley says: "The highest reason should tell us that there must be indignation in God so long as there is evil in the universe." Hazlett says: "Good-natured people there are amongst the worst people in the world. They leave others to bear the burden of indignation and correction."

(Alfred Buckley.)

Servant of God as he was, Jonah here displayed the infirmity of many a good man in his irritability and ill-disposition. While, on the other hand, a bad temper has been described as the "vice of the virtuous," a good one has been characterised as nine-tenths of Christianity. Professor Drummond has forcibly pointed out, "that for embittering life, for breaking up communities, for taking the bloom off childhood, in short, for sheer gratuitous misery-producing power, this influence of an ill-temper stands alone." It was this irritable, testy, uncontrollable disposition which cast such a reflection upon the prophet Jonah as he ran down to the port at Tarshish, and fled from the Lord, a disposition which appears to have cooled off after having passed through a period of trial and become repentant, but which, when God acted contrary to his expectations, flamed out again, as if he were composed of combustible material.

I. JONAH'S BAD TEMPER WAS SHOWN BY THE WAY IN WHICH HE DISPUTED WITH GOD. Jonah was neither willing to leave to God the results of his mission to Nineveh, nor ready even to go to that city. When God asks for that implicit obedience to which He has a right, He does not make an unreasonable demand. Some seem to think they display a human and rightful prerogative when they question God's ways and authority, forgetting that by a thousand ties we are bound to accede to the Divine wishes, and that our wills are never in a more normal condition than when they are subjected to the One who never errs. "Our wills are ours to make them Thine," said Tennyson, and when they will not be subservient to God a curse is pronounced upon them such as that uttered by Isaiah when he exclaimed, "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker" — the woe of a conscience ill at ease, of a soul insensitive to the Divine love, and a heart shut out from that blessed communion which is accorded to those in harmony with God. And this penalty fell upon Jonah when he argued and disputed with God, who had an absolute claim to an unquestioned obedience.

II. THIS BAD TEMPER NARROWED JONAH'S VISION AND OUTLOOK, Intensely national, patriotic, and partisan, he could not see why Jehovah should display His saving mercy to another nation, and that so wicked as Nineveh, when He had made Israel His chosen, and the sole depositary of His will. Why take the children's bread and give it to dogs? Was not salvation of the Jews? He was against a missionary Gospel, just as the Pharisees objected to the Gospel being proclaimed to the publicans and sinners; and as Peter was opposed to opening the door to the Gentiles, but about which his eyes were opened when he saw the sheet let down from heaven, and was sent to the house of the devout Cornelius. Believing that God is a gracious God, slow to anger, and repents of the evil when He sees a heart contrite and penitent, Jonah, like the elder son of the parable, was angry when he saw there was a possibility of the Ninevites being saved from destruction. Oh, how passion will narrow one's vision! Scarcely anything will as surely exclude a wide, impartial, and generous view of things. Just as it is said that a frightened horse can see little and becomes almost blind, so an irritable temper will narrow the creed and sour the life. Just notice the way which God took to enlarge Jonah's vision and soften and mollify his disposition. Sorry for the gourd? Yes, though it was but a plant, but not sorry for the souls against whom he had cried, that they should be overthrown and destroyed, nor was he glad when they repented. What a lesson! Men grieve over the loss of property, but not over the loss of souls. They repent over the loss of a cargo, the burning of a house, or destruction of a church, but, how pitiable! there is so little anxiety for the eternal loss of that which is beyond the price of rubies, so that to-day many a man can say truly, "No man careth for my soul."

III. MOREOVER, JONAH'S ILL-TEMPER DIMINISHED HIS AFFECTION AND LOVE FOR HIS FELLOW-MEN. We draw artificial distinctions of soul values, by esteeming the soul of an educated, wealthy, and refined person of more value than that of the downtrodden and humanly forsaken one. But to such a man as Jonah, the prophet of God, or to any Christian worker, no such distinction should be made. And no such discrimination will be made if the right temper possesses the Christian. We must learn to love men, love them broadly, largely, comprehensively. But you say there is nothing lovable in the vast majority of men. Even so; yet, Christian workers, you must love men, for there is no other force that will carry you through, and inspire you to the accomplishment of your mission.

IV. THROUGH THIS ILL-TEMPER JONAH FAILED TO KEEP DUE AND NECESSARY CONTROL OF HIMSELF. "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city." Our trouble is not in having strong, impetuous, fiery, passionate natures, Who can measure the fire and passion in such natures as Luther, Whitefield, Spurgeon, or Moody? They were volcanoes, Niagaras of passion, but made serviceable to God and humanity. "What a waste of power," said Edison, as he looked at the most magnificent falls in the world; and when I see deep, strong, fiery natures spending their vitality in petulant anger as did Jonah, I feel like saying, "What a waste of power." Bring the stream and electricity of your nature, and harness it in the service of God. It is little that the manufacturer cares for a small trickling stream running through the meadows, but he does value a torrent that leaps from rock to rock, and crag to crag, and rushes with furious energy through the valley. Smother your passion, crush your anger, quell your wrath? No; pour them out upon sin. Let them come down upon evil in high and low places, and switch them on to the waggons on the King's highway. "He was very angry." Is it unusual for the soul to be angry with God? Here is a man to whom God gave a child which was deformed in body, defective in mind, and an object of care day and night, which was freely given by a loving mother. Some years, after another child was given, handsome, plump, and the pink of perfection; but, strange to say, in a short time it was taken, and folded in the bosom of a safe keeping God. Far from saying "Thy will be done," a spirit of petulance arose in the father's bosom, in which he denied the existence of God, and turned his back upon love and hope, running a swift course to business ruin and moral failure. "He was very angry." Shame! Pity! Keep the fiery steed in hand; or, better still, give God the reins.

V. THIS BAD TEMPER UNFITTED HIM TO PASS INTO THE PRESENCE OF HIS MAKER. Jonah was not backward in talking about dying. "O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live," and when the sun's rays beat upon his head he wished in himself to die, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live." Angry people are apt to wish they were dead, for when the fog of passion and disappointment weighs upon the spirit the ill-tempered man speaks unadvisedly with his lips. Is a man fit to die in such a temper as this?

(T. M. Fothergill.)

I. THE NATURE OF JONAH'S DISPLEASURE MAY EASILY BE MISUNDERSTOOD. There are two kinds of displeasure. One is wrath, the other is grief. The word used of Jonah may mean either angry or distressed. Perhaps grieved is the proper idea here. Notice the impotence of mere external experience in relation to a person's inward disposition. Jonah had passed through trying experiences, yet he was the same man.

II. THE INTENSITY OF JONAH'S DISPLEASURE. "Exceedingly, and he was very grieved." It was deep distress in the prospect of calamity to his own country. Sparing Nineveh involved the future destruction of Israel. The prophet may have foreseen this. No doubt the destruction of an impenitent heathen community would not have appeared to Jonah so terrible as such a thing must appear to ourselves. And if Jonah was grieved at the escape of the Ninevites from death, he was himself anxious to die. He did not desire a worse fate for them than for himself. Of some men it is said, "their bark is worse than their bite," and Jonah might have been one of these men.


1. The prayer contains a reference to a former saying of the prophet himself.

2. The prayer contains an account of his flight.

3. It contains an account of Jonah's conviction concerning the Divine character. He knew that the Lord is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness.

4. It contains a petition on the prophet's part for death. An unbecoming, as well as unusual, prayer; but the petition of a noble-minded man. He knew the sanctity of his own life too well to commit suicide. The prayer was caused by his despondency in relation to the cause of God.

(Samuel Clift Burn.)

Jonah's spirit at this time was not worthy of the character in which he came to Nineveh. Courage, indeed, he had shown, in raising his single voice in the name of the Lord in the midst of an idolatrous and wicked people. But he had not yet learned compassion for perishing sinners; or, if he had any such feeling, it was quite overborne, for the present, by a selfish regard to his own reputation; he was chagrined at the discredit brought upon his own predictions by the forbearance of God exercised towards the Ninevites. Foolish man! He had put himself in the place of God. He had forgotten, it should seem, that he was sent to preach the preaching that God should bid him, and had imagined that he was denouncing Jonah's threatenings, and not those of the Most High, when he said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed." Having put himself in the place of God, he vainly concluded that his own credit was concerned in the execution of the threatened judgment. But whosoever exalteth himself, though it be in the exercise of even a Divine commission, shall be humbled; — and the sooner he is effectually humbled, the better for himself. With respect to the Divine veracity, the vindication of that may safely be left in His hands whose "word is truth." As for the credit of His ministers, it is, indeed, a very light matter; but that, too, may be committed to Him who has the hearts of all men in His hands, and who has said, "Them that honour Me, I will honour."

(Matthew M. Preston, M. A.)

We turn again to the dark side of Jonah's character; and very dark it is. Poor man! Whom is he angry with, and what is the ground of his displeasure? Some of the most prominent evil tempers that break out in the prophet on the occasion are the following —

1. Extreme selfishness. There is no principle in fallen man that does so much mischief in the world as that of selfishness; none dishonours God more; none produces so much injury to mankind; it prevents more good, and produces more evil, than any other temper of mind. Indeed, every sin and every suffering seem to have their origin in selfishness, and to proceed from it in one way or another. Selfishness is sin essentially. Self is the fountain of evil, and all sorts of sins are but as so many streams that issue from it. What is self-will? It is a contest between man and his God who is to have his way. What is the real cause of so much discontent and restlessness in the minds of men? It is striving with God whose will is to be done.

2. Jonah was a very peevish, quarrelsome, and fretful man. He retains his unhappy temper of mind wherever he goes, and however he is treated. Whether you strike or stroke him, he snarls. Guard against this miserable temper of mind which must be painful to one's self, disagreeable to others, and offensive to God. Learn that this peevish, fretful, and discontented temper is a stubborn sin, difficult to subdue, and a disease which is seldom cured.

3. Jonah betrays the greatest ingratitude to his kind, indulgent God. Not one expression of thankfulness do we hear from him. He is sullen and silent, full of anger and displeasure. The ungrateful man has a bad soul, unhappy in himself, and disagreeable to others; he enjoys nothing of what he possesses, let him possess ever so much. Possession and enjoyment are distinct things. True and lively gratitude is one of the most amiable and pleasing of all dispositions. May our wills be swallowed up in the will of God; may our spirits be satisfied with all that God does; and may our hearts be thankful for all His gifts, which are numerous, free, precious, constant, and eternal!

(Thomas Jones.)

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