Then God asked Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“Yes, it’s right!” he replied. “I’m angry enough to die!”
And the LORD said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow.”
— Jonah 4:9-10
Jonah didn’t do anything to get that plant; it was freely given to him. And he was acting like he deserved it, like he earned it somehow. Jonah is acting very self-righteously. He’s more concerned about his own comfort, which he thinks he himself deserves, than he is the idea of lost people going to hell, which he thinks he himself doesn’t.
Imagine for a moment if God treated us the way we often wish he’d treat others. Imagine if God treated us the way we treat others. We’d be in real trouble, wouldn’t we?
Jonah has a strong sense of justice, but it is distorted. Is it unjust for God to love the undeserving? The answer is no, first because God cannot be unjust. Everything he does is just, because he is a just God. And God is essentially holy but he is also in and of himself love. 1 John 4:8 tells us that.
But it’s also not unjust for God to forgive sinners because God has a plan for the punishment of their sin. Jonah becomes himself a living picture of this by spending those three days in that fish. Jesus says in Matthew 12:40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.
And Jesus becomes the one who leaps into the stormy sea of condemnation to calm God’s wrath against us. And instead of running away from God’s plan for the forgiveness of those who don’t deserve it, Jesus, the only sinless man to ever live, runs towards those of us who need that forgiveness, ready to love, ready to die, ready to save.
It is not unjust for God to forgive sinners because he is punishing their sin – only by putting it on his only son Jesus.
These are our only two options, because God is just – either you take the punishment for your sin, which is everlasting torment in the place called hell, or Christ takes it for you at the cross.
Christians choose the cross. The place where mercy and justice intersect. The cross – the ultimate proof that God truly, deeply, greatly loves sinners like you and me.
If only Jonah could grasp these depths of God’s love! Nevertheless, he finds that it is grasping him, even if he’s kicking and screaming.
He’s discovering that God’s love is un-outrunnable. He can’t outsin it. If he wants you, he will have you. He is God. And his lovingkindness, the Bible says, endures forever.
Charles Spurgeon said, “After ten thousand sins he loves you as infinitely as ever.”
He really is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster (Jonah 4:2).
So to run away from him is in fact to run into the disaster. If you keep ignoring him, going your own way, you are only headed to your own destruction.
Instead, run to him. Run to him. Right now. If you do, you will find not a wrathful, angry, condemning God but a loving, merciful, smiling Father. His love might be coming for you right this very second. Don’t run away. You can’t anyway. Just surrender.
Repent of your sin. Look to Jesus who died on the cross and rose from the dead and get under the shade of his love, which no worm or grave could ever destroy. He will cover you with his love forever.
The story of Jonah is in fact more proof that, believe it or not, God loves sinners.