Jonah 4:4 ESV “And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
I was reading Jonah in one setting, which isn’t hard to do since the book is only four chapters long. But do not let the size fool you. There are incredible life lessons contained in this book in the Bible known for a big fish. In this small Old Testament gem is the message of salvation, obedience, forgiveness, grace and anger. Anger? That didn’t roll off the fingertips from my computer like the other four.
I discovered a nugget of inspiration and instruction in the fourth chapter that I believe is very handy in today’s culture. Jonah has finally obeyed God. He preaches the message to repent to a people he is not fond of. God’s grace is poured out on Nineveh because the people respond favorably to the mail Jonah delivered. The results are what any evangelist or preacher would want on a given Sunday. But instead of rejoicing at people responding to the Lord, Jonah gets angry.
The question God asks Jonah is just like what a parent would ask who is talking to their teenager or two-year-old throwing a fit. “Do you do well to be angry?” In other words, how is this working out for you? Now God unlike some parents doesn’t give into the tantrum. He does not tell Jonah to use his words or bribe him with 30 minutes on the video screen. The question is meant to check Jonah’s attitude and allow him to respond to the truth God just pointed out. Is this really helping you?
Anger is an normal emotion for humans. It is not a sin to be angry. Paul in Ephesians teaches us to be angry about things that should cause righteous anger. There are things that should cause you to experience anger like abortion, sex trafficking, the attack on the family, racism and anything else that is stealing, killing and destroying people. Anger is normal when you get frustrated with people. Watch CNN, MSNBC, FOX or read the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, trust me, you will get angry.
Ask Moses about anger. He was leading a large group of complainers. People can cause us to get angry when they act like... well, people. Look at the story in Numbers.
Numbers 20: 9-11 “And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him. 10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.
You can see it coming when he started his speech with, “Hear now, you rebels:...” Oh how we can relate to this. We have all been hurt, mistreated, talked about, lied about enough times to get angry. We have experienced things in our lives that have not been fair. Look at the things we are dealing with today in our nation that bring division. Partisan politics, racism, rioting, murder and gang violence. These are things fueled by anger being mismanaged and therefore resulting in sin that hurts both the sinner and the one sinned against. I can hear God speaking to us as a nation... “Do you do well to be angry?”
The problem is not anger, but what we as people, who are flawed and need help, allow anger to do to and through us. Moses allowed anger to cause him to miss an important instruction from God. He struck the rock instead of speaking to it. After all he had done to deliver God’s people out of Egypt and into God’s promise, anger leading to sin caused Moses to miss the Promise Land.
Paul in Ephesians 4:26-27 gives us the blueprint for when we get angry. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.” Back to Jonah, do not allow your pride, your bias, your failure to love others as yourself to cause you to be stupid. Do not give an opportunity to the devil! We do not know how Jonah ended his tenure here on earth, but we do know at the end of this story God is not pleased. He asks Jonah, if his comfort is more important that 120,000 people who need to hear God’s heart for them? Ouch! Jonah allowed anger to lead him to pride that caused him to miss the purpose of his mission – God’s love for people.
Guard you heart when you get angry. Do not let the stress and the emotional hurricanes we are experiencing in our world today cause you to do something you will regret later. Before you get on social media to rant about how you were treated, ask yourself, is this about me? Is this going to help anyone? Will this cause my heart to be better or bitter? Before reacting, respond by hearing God’s great question... “Do you do well to be angry?”