Today’s Old Testament reading is from Jonah 4. This is a continuation of the previous two days, which were from Jonah 1 and 3, respectively. And, throughout the book Jonah is depicted very negatively. But, today I thought I would try to say something positive about him. At least Jonah is honest and open. Notice a little of the dialogue from chapter 4:
He prayed, “I beseech you, LORD, is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? This is why I fled at first to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish. And now, LORD, please take my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Have you reason to be angry over the plant?”
“I have reason to be angry,” Jonah answered, “angry enough to die.” (NAB)
Two things that you kind of get accustomed to as a human being are people (including myself) lying about their reasons for avoiding something and people hiding their emotions. These are two things that Jonah doesn’t do here. Basically, he says “God, I didn’t originally go to Nineveh because I knew what you were going to do and I didn’t like it.” We’d prefer to make up an excuse. “God, I haven’t _____ (fill in the blank – fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, sheltered the homeless) because I’ve been too busy.” Well, maybe. But, more likely it is because it is just not a priority for us. If it was, we would make time. Why not just be honest and say “God, I haven’t _____ (fill in the blank – fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, sheltered the homeless) because there are other ways that I prefer to use my time and money.” Doesn’t make us sound like very good people, but at least it’s honest. And, I don’t think it is until we make an honest appraisal that we can actually make a change in our behavior.
In addition, Jonah at least doesn’t hide his emotions. When God asks if he has reason to be angry at least he admits that he is angry and that he believes he has good enough reason to be angry to prefer death to life. This is I suppose better than those of us who would prefer to hide our anger and pretend like everything is okay. In this way we are at least only angry, otherwise we are both angry and lying.