“But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” (Jonah 4:1-3)
Jonah was not the first servant of God to say “Kill me now!” Samson said it at one point (Judges 16:30); so did Elijah (1 Kings 19:4). Since then, tens of thousands of pastors have probably had similar moments on Mondays!
Jonah hits a low point, and will hit it again (Jonah 4:8) before the story ends. And the reason? God was simply too gracious and too compassionate.
Jonah wanted to watch fire and brimstone rain down from heaven and annihilate the Ninevites. Instead, God turned their hearts toward Himself, and spared them. Jonah cannot bear it. His personal sense of justice felt violated. And so he points his finger at God and says, “I told you so. I told you that if I came and preached that they would turn to You, and You would spare them. That’s why I headed for Tarshish. I’m so angry with You that I’d rather die than live to watch this!” (Jonah 4:2)
Revival breaks out, and Jonah cannot rejoice.
I remember a conversation in a church one time when we discussed how we would “manage” any outbreak of the Spirit during or after a service. “All things should be done with decency and in order.” We weren’t angry, but people felt fearful.
Another time, someone off the streets wandered into a service and said yes to Jesus when an invitation was given, and people felt awkward and uncomfortable and quietly hoped it wouldn’t happen too often.
Historically, revival has always been messy. People’s lives get turned upside down. Strange phenomena take place. Charlatans and spiritual salesmen show up. The real and the fake get mixed up.
Nineveh turned to God, and Jonah turned away from God. After a short stint of running with God, Jonah now ran ahead of God. He wanted to tell God how it should be and exactly what should be done. He had the plan, he knew what should happen, and he wouldn’t be happy unless God followed the script precisely.
This last chapter in the short story of Jonah gets me every time. This is the chapter I have seen replayed too many times. Running ahead of God.
How different it is when we walk in step with the Spirit rather than run ahead of Him. Are we able to embrace the chaos of revival and the plans of God, even when we want otherwise? Are we truly as gracious and compassionate as Christ?