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The Heart of God in the Heart of the Sea

Devotion Twenty-Two

April 30, 2024

Do You Do Well to Be Angry?

Daniel Barta

Not only was Jonah "exceedingly" displeased, but the mercy of God also shown to Nineveh stirred anger in his heart. He saw good done to those he despised, those he viewed antagonistically, and his heart repudiated their good. He wished that God would destroy Nineveh. His heart craved that they, the wicked, would come to ruin. He looked ahead to the day he would rejoice in the collapse of such an evil city and empire.

So loathsome to Jonah was their receiving mercy, Jonah found death more appealing than life.

O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live. - Jonah 4:3 (ESV)

Jonah could not bear the thought that for the rest of his life he would have to live alongside Nineveh as they experienced God's merciful forgiveness.

While Jonah sulked in his displeasure and anger, the LORD asked him a piercing question,

Do you do well to be angry? - Jonah 4:4 (ESV)

As He often does, God comes for Jonah's heart. He calls him to examine himself, "Is it right for you to be angry? Is your anger just? Have I done something worthy of your indignation? Is it a good thing for you a sinner who received mercy to find upsetting my showing mercy to other sinners?"

The question itself is sufficient to expose the heart and response of Jonah as less than "well."

God Is Not a Pragmatist

In one sense, Jonah accomplished his task. He took the message to Nineveh. God's aim for Nineveh found completion. They repented and God's mercy shone forth with great brightness. Yet, God sought more than mere obedience and success from Jonah.

God concerned Himself with Jonah's heart. He took aim at Jonah's becoming godly or like God. Though Jonah's mouth carried God's message, his heart harbored an animosity, enmity, and callousness nowhere to be found in the heart of the LORD.

God's concern with Jonah's heart in addition to Jonah's actions reflects a truth about God that appears all throughout the Scriptures. In His dealings with His people, God consistently rebukes those who perform the right action with a heart far from him. Jesus himself was concerned not only that men do not sleep with a woman but that they also not with their hearts long for such. He does not commend one for simply refraining from murdering, but He demands also that the seed of hatred which tempts one to murder be rooted up out of the heart and destroyed.

God has purposed not simply to create a people who behave according to a set of rules. He desires and works to conform His people into the image of Christ. This requires, in addition to obedience, a complete renewal of the mind and replacement of an old heart with a new,

God began a work in and on Jonah, and even after his mission to Nineveh, God continued to work towards completing what He had started.

Do Not Settle for Mere Obedience

So often the church tends to measure spiritual maturity and growth by outward obedience. Those who go to church, refrain from drunkenness, abstain from sexual immorality, and portray a commitment to sound biblical theology receive approval as solid, strong Christians. But the Bible stands up and warns us of such simplistic thinking.

We must work on our hearts. We must examine our hearts not just our hands. We must discipline ourselves in love, in mercy, in justice, and in worship. We must address our hearts like God addressed Jonah's. We must ask ourselves and each other heart level questions. We must work and strive towards Christlikeness in every way - our mind, heart, and hands, or to put it in another way - our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Do not settle for mere obedience but strive and work for a heart that reflects the heart of God.

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