Wrestling With The Gracious & Merciful Character of God

Jonah 4:1-2, "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.  (2)  And he prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster."

In the book of Jonah we read in chapter 4 that Jonah is upset with God's gracious character.  What is so amazing about this text is that Jonah is finding fault with God for who He actually is, not as Jonah imagined Him to be.

This is the reason why there are so many heresies and misrepresentations of God in the church today.  So called, "God fearing people" many times can't process nor handle the character of God as He really is, therefore, they have to conjure up and hold to doctrines about God that stand in plain contradiction to the revealed nature of God.  In holding to a false doctrine about God, which is essentially idolatry, we can make God into our own image and have a false theological peace.  

While we can pick on Jonah and his legalistic character in the fourth chapter of the Book of Jonah, we do need to commend the fact that He was angry with God for who God actually is, not how Jonah imagined Him to be.

In response at Jonah, God’s says, “Are you right to be angry?”  This is not a rebuke towards Jonah, nor is it a challenge toward Jonah asking him what right he had to criticize God.  Rather God was suggesting to Jonah that he might not be correct in his understanding of everything.  Jonah is typical of many of the prophets of God.  It seems to us as complete blasphemy and borderline apostasy that Jonah challenged the character of God, but this is his agony speaking.  Jeremiah expresses the same thing.

Even though Jonah’s agony is rooted in evil, we need to be careful not to despise and reject Jonah as apostate.  Jonah is still a child of God.  Despite his agony towards God, he is still in conversation with God isn't he?  We must agree that Jonah’s actions and attitude are wrong and God disciplines him, yet he is still God’s dear child.  Jonah chats with God freely as though he were not afraid with God.  He confides with him as in a father!

When is all comes down to it we get the picture here that God not only had pity on the people of Nineveh, but also pity on Jonah.  We get the picture that God has compassion, care and forgiveness both for the people of Nineveh, Jonah, as well as us.

Sources: The Lutheran Study Bible & Expositor's Bible Commentary