Jonah 1:1-3a, 3:10-4:11 (NRSV)
Chapter 1Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, Verse 2"Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me." Verse 3But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. Verse 10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
Chapter 4But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. Verse 2He prayed to the Lord and said, "O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. Verse 3And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live." Verse 4And the Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?"
Verse 5Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. Verse 6The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. Verse 7But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. Verse 8When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, "It is better for me to die than to live." Verse 9But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die." Verse 10Then the Lord said, "You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. Verse 11And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"
Most of God’s prophets said “Yes!” when God called them—except for Jonah. When God called Jonah to go to the “great city of Nineveh” and tell the people their wickedness was going to bring down God’s wrath, Jonah spoke a resounding “No!”—and then tried to run away and hide from God.
Eventually, after a series of life-threatening events, Jonah agreed to go. He walked halfway into Nineveh, announced God’s anger over their wickedness and their impending judgment, and then left the city pleased that the people would soon get their just desserts. But when the people surprisingly repented and God blessed them, Jonah got mad.
With Jonah, we learn that God does not give up on people. “Should I not be concerned about Nineveh?” God asked Jonah. Yes, indeed! God is concerned about all and everyone because God created them—and us! When God calls us to love and serve all others, I trust that we, in many ways, will say “Yes!”
Guiding, strengthening God, when we hear your call to tell the story of Jesus and proclaim your gospel of grace, move and encourage us to go where and to whom you send us, that we will be disciples of your kingdom love. Amen.