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Jonah 4 Part 2 - God Asks a Question
Jonah 4:4 - Anger is almost always unreasonable and we are angriest when we are WRONG!
“The Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?””
Jonah 4:4 NASB1995
After Jonah’s little tirade, directing his anger towards God for the repentance and revival that took place in Nineveh, God asks him a question: Do you have good reason to be angry? (NASB1995 version). Other Bible translations have this simple question phrased in different ways from Blue Letter Bible:
KJV (King James Version): Then said the Lord, “Doest thou well to be angry?”
NKJV (New King James Version): Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
NIV (New International Version): Then the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
ESV (English Standard Version): And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
NET (New English Translation): And the Lord said, “Are you really so very angry?”
CSB (Christian Standard Bible): The Lord asked, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
NASB2020 (New American Standard Bible, 2020 edition): But the Lord said, “Do you have a good reason to be angry?”
The Message Bible: God said, “What do you have to be angry about?”
The different translations have such different phrasings, which can be confusing to many who are learning. I have grown accustomed to the NASB1995 version, considering it to be a pretty effective and formal plain English translation and it is used at our church. There are those in Protestant Christendom who consider use of anything but the KJV to be heretical. On the other hand, the Message Bible (created by a single person and not a group of Biblical experts) has its charms, but is considered by most serious scholars to be lacking in the true context of Scripture from its Hebrew and Greek origins. The NIV is also a popular and serious translation and our previous church (ELCA) used the ESV version.
So looking at the translation I used and comparing it to a few others, the biggest difference that I can see is the phrase “is it right for you to be angry” versus the phrase “Is there reason (or a reason) for you to be angry”. Was Jonah’s anger righteous? Righteous anger occurs when we are angry about the same things that anger God: sin, injustice, racism, etc. But our anger should not be unreasonable and also cause us to sin. I found a link on Precept Austin to great sermon notes by a Baptist minister named Lowell Johnson. In the notes below, Pastor Johnson talks about Jonah’s anger and anger in general:
Notice: He [Jonah] was Angry! The word "angry" here means "to burn." Jonah was burning mad at God on the inside. He had reached the boiling point.
• Some get angry at the Lord because of the loss of health or the loss of a loved one but Jonah was angry at God because God was too good and kind and merciful.
• Jonah wanted judgment to fall; not mercy!
• God didn't live up to Jonah's expectations and he was mad!
• Man is always the angriest when he is wrong!
I wrote down some things about anger that I want to share:
An angry man is seldom reasonable and a reasonable man is seldom angry.
A man is about as big as the things that make him angry.
Every moment you are angry, you lose a minute of happiness.
The more you grow up, the less you blow up.
Anger manages everything badly.
Swallowing angry words is always easier than eating them.
Anger is a feeling that makes your mouth work faster than your mind.
When you're right, you can afford to keep your temper. When you're wrong, you can't afford to lose it.
Pastor Johnson also share this anonymous poem about anger that is worth learning:
When I have lost my temper,
I have lost my reason, too.
I'm never proud of anything That angrily I do.
When I have talked in anger,
And my cheeks were flaming red,
I have always spoken something
That I wish I had not said.
In anger I have never done
A kindly deed or wise,
But many things for which I felt
I should apologize.
In looking back across my life
And all I've lost or made,
I can't recall a single time
When fury ever paid.
Anger is everywhere these days - people are furious on every subject from politics to religion to restaurant reviews and types of pets and the fact that someone else has a different opinion. People flare up on the road and in long lines and on airplanes or because a meal was served too slowly. People are enraged at their families and friends and co-workers and at strangers for actually disagreeing with them or correcting them. And to a point from the excerpt above, people seem to be the angriest when they are wrong. Guilty as charged! Unreasonable anger has been a problem for me my entire life. I used to blame my family dynamic growing up, as my late Mom and I probably set world records for hanging up on each other on the phone, bless her heart. But I think the Holy Spirit has helped me temper it to a great extent (still a major work in progress).
So God asks questions to reveal what we humans have done or to make us think about the answer. Enduring Word has examples of some of those questions in the commentary for this verse (links go to the Blue Letter Bible):
God likes to ask us questions because they reveal our hearts. It also puts us on proper ground before God, because He has every right to question us and we owe Him answers.
Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? What is this you have done? (Genesis 3:9-13)
Where is Abel your brother? What have you done? (Genesis 4)
What have you done? (1 Samuel 13:11)
Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? (2 Samuel 12:9)
Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us? (Isaiah 6:8)
Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15)
What do you want Me to do for you? (Matthew 20:32)
Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48)
Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (Acts 9:4)
Is it right for you to be angry? This is the question we should and even must ask ourselves if we find ourselves angry with God. The answer must always be “No, LORD. All Your ways are right even if I don’t understand them.”
Yes, Jonah was angry towards God, and yes, it was all right for Jonah to state his anger towards God; but he must also repent of his anger towards God.
So what happens now with our reluctant prophet? God prepares an object lesson for Jonah in the form of a sheltering plant, as he continues to sulk and hang around outside Nineveh hoping for a blaze of destruction, as I will discuss in my next devotional (Jonah 4:5-8).
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please continue to guide me to patience and love, instead of anger and hatred. I may not understand your ways, but they are always right. There are a few good reasons for righteous anger and that emotional response can be channeled into action to help others. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.