1. At Your Convenience...
I ought to admit, the first time I've ever actually read the story of Jonah in Scripture was today. The story is so popular that we've heard it, we know it, the Lord's certainly taught us through it...but have you ever read Jonah 4? It's fantastic.
Here's a link: http://biblehub.com/niv/jonah/4.htm
And a recap: Jonah was told by God to go to the evil land of Ninevah. He didn't want to, so he ran away, but God had an enormous fish swallow him whole. Jonah prayed. God had the fish vomit him onto shore...and told him again to go to Ninevah and proclaim God's message. This time, Jonah goes. He speaks up. The whole city repents and turns to God. So God has mercy.
What does Jonah do? He pouts. He goes off to sit by himself and watch with hope that the city will be destroyed. Jonah gets angry with God. Why?
Because God is merciful, compassionate, gracious, loving, and forgiving.
Says the same guy who, from the belly of a fish, prayed in gratitude to the Lord for His mercy and salvation, rejoicing that the Lord listens, loves, and lifts us from our (earned) depths of despair.
The Lord gives Jonah a little object lesson as He challenges Jonah: "is it right for you to be angry?" (4:4). God sends a plant to give Jonah shade during his pity party. Of course, Jonah is glad! Then, God causes the plant to wither. So Jonah gets mad.
God points out to Jonah how foolish his concern for the plant is, given that he isn't concerned for the thousands of people and animals that God just saved in Ninevah.
And a Point: We react to God based on what's convenient for us. We rejoice over His character when it benefits us, and lament when in His perfect character He gives others what we feel they don't deserve. We are petty and self-centered, basing our reactions on our experiences and our concerns -instead of on concern for others or on God's concerns.
Nothing has changed in that department. Aren't we the first to praise God when we get a job and the first to get angry when someone else gets a promotion we don't think they have earned?
Isn't it just like us to want to deny that God has a right to and (indeed!) does cause grief just as he causes peace and joy and all the other things we enjoy? In Isaiah 45:7, the Lord proclaims: "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things." There's no getting around it.
Nothing has changed about the Lord, either. He is to be feared, He does judge, and He is gracious, compassionate, loving, listening, merciful, forgiving, and righteous. And He is just. Lamentations 3:31-33 reminds us that: "no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone."
Our concern with what we, or she, or they deserve is foolish. Getting angry at God for being God is ridiculous. Like Jonah we too often yield our hearts to petty judgments of the Lord's work. But when it comes down to it, our Lord is indeed faithful, and perfect, and right.
And did I mention perfect?