“So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.’”
Jonah now began to plead for himself. This angry prayer was a complaint against God. In registering this complaint, he acknowledged five attributes of God. His view on these attributes was correct, but he lamented them.
So he prayed to the Lord,
Jonah prayed – so far, so good. When we are angry is a good time to pray (v. 1). He also prayed when he feared for his life (Jonah 2:1). This word for “prayed” conveys the idea of to intervene, interpose, intercede. Jonah did not pray for Nineveh but himself.
and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country?
Jonah said in effect, “I knew you would forgive the Ninevites. I knew something about your gracious nature. I knew you would pardon them. I knew you were softhearted. I knew you would not destroy that bunch of bloodthirsty sinners.” This was Jonah’s complaint before he tried to flee to Spain.
Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish;
Jonah’s prayer reveals why he ran from God. To his credit, Jonah honestly told God why he tried to run from the presence of God.
for I know that You are a gracious
Jonah was angry with God for being Himself. Jonah says five things about God in this verse – all of which was true; God is:
3) slow to anger,
4) abundant in lovingkindness
5) and One who relents from doing harm.
First, Jonah said that he knew that God was “gracious.” The greatest evidence of God’s grace is in His dealing with Jonah himself. He was a fickle, bigoted, selfish, temperamental servant of the Lord. We stand in awe of God’s grace toward Jonah. God sought Jonah when he fled from the Lord. He disciplined him so that He could use him. He gave Jonah a second commission. But the most astounding demonstration of God’s grace in this chapter is where we find the picture of Jonah as a disappointed, disgruntled, fault-finding child of God. He argued with and even criticized God for the way He dealt with the Ninevites.
God is a giver, even to those who are out of phase with Him.
Grace is what God does for us freely because of Christ. It is God’s attitude toward those who violate Him and, therefore, have no claim on Him. God willingly extends His benefits to sinners.
God focuses on grace. He specializes in dispensing grace.
2 Co 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
Ti 2:11, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men . . .”
Grace is one of God’s names:
1 Pe 5:10, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Our anger toward God should be directed toward ourselves. Jonah’s anger was for God being God, for God acting consistently with His attributes! Jonah should have been angry with himself.