We've followed Jonah for a few weeks on his journey and hopefully found ourselves along the way. At the end of Jonah, we finally get the answers to the obvious questions at the beginning of Jonah - why is he running away and why is he so angry?
At first, Jonah's reason for running seems pretty petty. He didn't want to go to Nineveh because he was sure that God would forgive them. Even more, Jonah's prophecy against Nineveh was pretty weak, but it was the most effective sermon ever. The king even had the animals fast and repent. That's pretty impressive for an 8 word sermon repeated over and over. Rather than be amazed and what God can do, Jonah is furious. He even tells God that he is angry enough to die.
Even in the middle of Jonah's tantrum, God hasn't abandoned him. God sends a vine to give him shade and for the first time in the entire story, Jonah is happy.
Just so we're clear...God forgives him? Unhappy. God rescues him? Unhappy. God gives him a second chance? Unhappy. God makes him the most successful evangelist ever with minimal effort? Unhappy. Thousand of people will find their way to heaven? Unhappy. A plant randomly grows out of the ground? Happy!! This next part seems almost spiteful. God sends a worm to destroy the vine overnight and then makes it really hot. Jonah, as is his style, wishes for death again. God is using even that to show Jonah where he has gone astray.
I imagine a conversation something like this taking place (see if any of this sounds familiar to you):
Jonah: How can you just let them off the hook? They say "I'm sorry" and that's just the end of it? How will they ever learn their lesson? You need to punish them some.
God: Why can't I forgive them?
Jonah: Really? I need to explain this? It's because they are terrible!!
God: What have they done that is so terrible that I shouldn't forgive?
Jonah: With every breath and every heartbeat they have disobeyed you. They don't deserve it.
God: Is that different from your disobedience and the forgiveness I gave you?
God: Seriously, is there a difference?
Jonah: Yes, because I made a mistake. They are actually bad. If you're keeping score..
God: I'm not. You're looking at this all wrong.
Jonah: No I'm not. They deserve to be punished and you're not doing it.
God: You deserve to be punished and I didn't do it.
Jonah: Yes you did. You killed my plant and made it ridiculously hot. Boy did I learn my lesson.
God: No you didn't. You're still upset about a plant. It's also worth noting that it isn't your plant. It's mine. Meanwhile, there is a gigantic city of people that are in need of my mercy and you want me to withhold it. Why is that?
Jonah: You're my God and it's your job to fight for me. They are the enemy.
God: You're half right. I'm your God, but it's your job to follow me, not my job to follow you. I created them just like I created you. You may not want to see it, but they are my children too. I'm asking you to act on my behalf and be the one to show them that I love them.
Jonah: But I hate them...
God: But I don't
We're left at that part of the story. No happy ending, no Jonah learns a lesson. Just the lingering question - Can you serve a God who won't love and hate what you love and hate? More importantly, can you serve a God who asks you instead to love who He loves and hate what he hates? Jonah doesn't have a tidy ending because only you have the answer.