Read Jonah 4 .
What important lessons did Jonah need to learn? How is his own hypocrisy revealed here?
Jonah 4 reveals some startling things about the prophet. He seems to prefer to die rather than to witness about God’s grace and forgiveness. Whereas before Jonah had rejoiced in his deliverance from death (Jon. 2:7-9), now that Nineveh lives he prefers to die (Jon. 4:2-3).
In contrast to Jonah, God is pictured in the Bible as someone who takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 33:11, NKJV). Jonah and many of his compatriots rejoiced in God’s special mercies to Israel but wished only His wrath on their enemies. Such hardness of heart is rebuked sternly by the book’s message.
What are some of the lessons we can learn from Jonah’s mistakes? How does prejudice compromise our Christian testimony?
It rightly has been observed that Jonah’s book is a handbook on how not to be a prophet. Jonah was a prophet of rebellious spirit and mistaken priorities. He could not control his desire for vengeance. He was small-minded and ill-tempered. Instead of rejoicing in the grace that God also showed to the Ninevites, Jonah allowed his selfish and sinful pride to make him resentful.
Jonah’s last word is a wish for death (Jon. 4:8-9), while God’s last word is an affirmation of His immeasurable grace, an affirmation for life.
Jonah’s book is left open-ended. Its closing verses confront the readers with one important question that remains not answered by the author: Did the miraculous change of hearts in Nineveh eventually result in a radical change of Jonah’s heart?
There is a lot in the story of Jonah that is hard to understand, particularly about Jonah himself. Perhaps, though, the clearest lesson is that God’s grace and forgiveness extend way beyond ours. How can we learn to be more graceful and forgiving to those who do not deserve it, as we see God doing here with Jonah and with the Ninevites?