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These are those, I am afraid, who would rather see their neighbours suffer than their own forebodings fail. Jonah is not the only Prophet of evil whom it has displeased exceedingly, and who has been very angry, because God is a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. The beautiful apologue of the gourd is still, and, I fear ever will be applicable to many.
Julius Hare in Guesses at Truth.
Jonah's Character. At first it seems inconsistent and contradictory; but a little consideration shows that he represents a large class in every age, a class in which good and bad traits are combined.
I. Jonah's Anger. Several causes have been suggested for it, and perhaps almost all of them more or less entered into it.
1. Personal humiliation; that his prediction having failed he might be regarded as a false Prophet.
2. Zeal for God's honour among the heathen, which might be diminished by the failure of His Prophet's prediction.
3. The painful contrast between the conversion of Gentile Nineveh and the impenitence of his own people.
4. Patriotism; the danger to his own country of the threatening power of Nineveh. This was probably the principal cause; since, if Nineveh had been destroyed, Israel would have been safe.
His anger causes him such misery that he requests for himself that he may die. God gently rebukes Jonah's anger by the question, 'Doest thou well to be angry?' The best remedy for anger is quiet consideration of the matter, an appeal to our sense of justice, a seeing things as they are in God's sight and not merely in our own prejudiced and selfish vision.
II. God's Gift of the Gourd. In times of trouble God prepares consolation for the relief of His people. Such a refuge was Jonah's gourd. Jonah quickly recovers his temper. He 'rejoiced with great joy' over the gourd. This reaction is a sign of his peculiar temperament, either very optimistic or very pessimistic.
The gourd, however, did not last. God, who had prepared it, prepared the worm which was to destroy it But worse still. God prepared a vehement wind, the sirocco.
Again there is a reaction, and Jonah desires to die. God sometimes withdraws the gifts of earthly consolations that we may learn to bear our cross in reliance upon Him, and not to rest in mere amelioration of our troubles and difficulties.
III. Jonah's Character. He was a sincerely religious man and yet very human. His temperament leads him to vacillate between extremes; first open rebellion against God, then deep penitence; afterwards perfect obedience, then discontent and despair. Throughout we see a strong trait of selfishness. A very contradictory character, and yet true to life. A man of irascible temper, easily provoked, and then most unreasonable.
There are many lessons we may draw from Jonah's character. Let us dwell on one Conversion does not mean complete sanctification. The one may be the act of a moment, the result of an overwhelming sense of penitence; the other is the work of many years, often of a lifetime.
A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, p. 233.
References. IV. 1. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxii. 1902, p. 60. IV. 1, 2. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2544. IV. 3. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 210. IV. 6. Ibid. p. 216. IV. 7. D. L. Ritchie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv. 1903, p. 310. IV. 10, 11. A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. i. p. 249. IV. 11. R. Hislop, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 212. A. F. Winnington Ingram, ibid. vol. lxxiii. 1908, p. 200.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Jonah 4". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany