Jonah, or at least the story of Jonah and the Whale, has to be one of the most widely known of all stories in scripture. I think I understand what Jonah was thinking.
He didn’t like what God asked him to do, so he went the other way thinking he could escape God’s presence. Nope. He couldn’t. He found himself in a violent storm with people who knew someone needed to repent. Jonah admitted it was him and the sailors threw him overboard. That’s a really condensed version so if you have never read it, you ought to. You can find it here: Jonah and the Whale Don’t worry! It’s a short story.
So after Jonah repents and is spewed onto the shore, he goes to Ninevah as God instructed him. He proclaims the message that the people must repent or die. Inside he hoped they wouldn’t listen. He reminds me of the child who was told by his mom to sit down so he did, but then said, “I might be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.”
The people responded by repenting, hoping that God would change his mind and not bring calamity upon them. Sure enough! God responded to their genuine repentance and relented. He changed his mind about what he said he would do. (Jonah 3:10) This is what Jonah said about it:
This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”Jonah 4:1-3
Jonah was mad because God acted according to his character. In other words, because he was unchanging. Even the fact that he relented and didn’t destroy Ninevah is in line with his character.
Do you ever wish God would act outside of his character? Does his compassion and eagerness to forgive bother you when it’s directed toward others? What does God want to say to you about this?