[4:1] But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.  And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”  And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
(Jonah 4:1-4 ESV)
Jonah had made it to Nineveh. He certainly went through some lengths to avoid it, but he eventually learned that you cannot avoid God’s plans. So, he went through the city preaching God’s judgment on them, and lo and behold, the Ninevites, including the king, repented. Here’s where we are in 4:1. Jonah’s response is exceeding displeasure and anger. He reveals why he didn’t want to come in the first place. “For I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (v2). He is so angry that he wants to die. How very dramatic.
Some scholars have noted that Jonah’s anger probably stems from Assyrian (the country of which Nineveh was a city) cruelty to Israelites during war.
We look at this account of Jonah and we might think, silly Jonah. But I wonder if our own hearts have ever felt similarly. If you’re a Christian and you died and went to heaven and saw Osama Bin Laden there because the Lord saved him moments before death, would you be angry? What about Jeffrey Dahmer? He killed seventeen men and boys, raping some of them, eating some of them. He claims to have been born again in prison. Does that grind against your soul?
When we see heinous sins committed, the temptation for us is to say things like, “I hope he rots in hell!” This is a wrong attitude. Just as the Lord does not take any pleasure in the death of the wicked and would rather they turn away from their ways and live (Ezekiel 18:23), we too should desire grace to fall upon even the worst of sinners. We ourselves may not have committed necrophilia like Dahmer, but before Christ, we were just as much headed for hell. The Lord saved us when we were undeserving. Who are we then to determine who is deserving of His mercy? The fact is that no one is deserving. Praise God for His grace! We were all sinners, completely unworthy of His favor. Yet He sent His own Son to die in the place of wretches like you and me. Do we do well to be angry?
1 Kings 10