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February 28, 2018, 9:17 AM

Is It Right For You To Be Angry?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry? (Jonah 4:4)

When 17th-century British leader Oliver Cromwell sat for his official portrait, the one that would display his likeness for all future generations, he instructed the artist to pain him just as he saw him, “warts and all.” Since that day, the expression “warts and all” has been used to refer to a true representation of a person, to reveal the weaknesses as well as the good points. Jonah, the runaway prophet, concluded his small book in the Bible by doing this very thing in chpt. 4. Most of us, had we been writing this book about ourselves, would probably have closed with chpt. 3’s account of the mighty outpouring of revival upon the city of Nineveh. But Jonah didn’t. He added another chapter and included God’s rebuke: “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah’s wart was his spirit of resentment: he could not tolerate the fact that the Ninevites had received God’s blessings. So Jonah went outside the city and fumed with resentment. He lost all sense of perspective and wallowed in his own anger. Such anger and resentment can have devastating and destructive effects on us.

First, resentment destroys our peace. One would think that after all Jonah had been through, he would praise God for sending revival to the people of Nineveh. Instead, we read that God’s mercy “displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” (4:1). The word angry here means “to burn.” Jonah was fuming: smoke was pouring out his ears. Harboring resentment and anger takes away our own peace of heart.

Second, resentment diverts us from our purpose. Jonah’s pride was hurt because he felt God had discredited him. He became so self-centered that twice in chpt. 4 he said, “It is better for me to die than to live” (vv. 3, 8). His anger caused him to make decisions on a what’s-best-for-me basis. No longer was he concerned about God’s purposes in his life or in the lives of the Ninevites.

Third, resentment diminishes our productivity. Twice we read that Jonah sat down (4:5). Before, we found him taking God’s message to the streets, obeying God’s commands, and powerfully preaching His message. Yet in the aftermath we find him just sitting on a hill outside the city, half hoping it will fall. Resentment has its way of robbing us of our productivity and sense of purpose. We lose our sense of mission.

Fourth, resentment distorts our perspective. Because of his anger and resentment, Jonah lost his perspective on the goodness of the Nineveh revival. Jonah became obsessed with complaints about a small plant that gave him shade and then withered (4:6-8). It seemed that Jonah could not have cared less about the thousands of people in Nineveh who had just repented of their sin. For Jonah to sulk about a vine at a time such as this was sheer folly, but this is what resentment will do. It shifts our values and make us focus on ourselves.

Thus, God went to Jonah and asked, “Is it right for you to be angry? …Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than 120,000 persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?” (4:11). Jonah’s story ends there. Without ever knowing how he responded to God’s inquiry. Did Jonah carry his anger and resentment to the grave? More importantly, what will we do with any such feelings that sneak in on us?

Let us join in prayer: Father, thank you for your mercy and grace. Help me extend it to others. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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