Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
What was it that displeased Jonah? The fact that God was gracious, merciful, slow to anger and kind towards the repentant Ninevites. Jonah had expected the Ninevites to reject God’s message and suffer the consequences. If anybody has a right to be angry with the Ninevites, it is God, Who hates sin, destructive evil, and violence. And yet it is God Who chose to offer and then grant them forgiveness.
It is never a good thing to be displeased with the will of God. Jonah finds it difficult to separate his patriotic and misguided theology from his knowledge of the character of God. Anger against God is essentially complaining against some aspect of God’s character.
Jonah’s attitude is like that of The Pharisees in Luke 15: Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
I do not think that I am stretching things here to say that Jonah is not being motivated by the love of Christ at all. His obedience to The Lord is with a “spiritual seat belt” on. This attitude of Jonah shows us that God’s Spirit works, in some cases at least, in spite of the motive of the instrument that delivers it.
Some might ask the question, why would God even use a person like Jonah? The greater question is why would God use any of us? When a person truly repents with a broken and contrite attitude like the Ninevites did, their fellow man may not always be able to handle the vastness of the grace and forgiveness of God. Those who benefit from God’s compassion have no right to complain against the sovereign extension of mercy to others, no matter how undeserving. It is indeed the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.