Scripture Reading: Jonah 4:1-4
“Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3)
As we have seen Jonah had two problems — a theological problem and a heart problem. I think his heart problem was much worse than his theological problem was. Read Jonah’s words again — “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Where did these words come from? Out of Jonah’s heart — “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:18). Jonah’s heart was full or anger and bitterness. He was so angry that he told God that he wanted to die!
We must acknowledge that the Assyrians were the greatest threat to Israel at that time. There is no question that Jonah loved his country. He was a patriot and nationalist for sure. He was afraid that the Assyrians would attack his country and his people.
Jonah was bitter toward the people of Assyria. They were a cruel and violent people. Jonah carried deep resentment in his heart toward them. While these things are true, I think Jonah’s real heart problem was that he was angry at God. He was bitter at God for asking him to go to Nineveh in the first place. This is why he attempted to flee from the presence of God. But the crowning blow came when God granted mercy to the people of Nineveh. The bitterness, wrath and anger in Jonah’s heart were so great that he wanted to die.
Anger and bitterness can destroy a person. We are not to harbor bitterness and anger in our hearts — “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31,32). Christ alone can give us the ability to be gracious, loving and forgiving toward people whom we dislike.
Lord God, forgive me when I harbor anger and bitterness in my heart. I acknowledge that at times I do so toward certain people. Give me the ability to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving. Cleanse my heart of sin and enable it to be filled with the grace and love of Christ.
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