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.
In the evangelical churches of America in the twenty-first century, there is much discussion of the need for transparency. We are completely known by God, and it is important for us as fellow believers in Jesus Christ to know and be known by each other. It is impossible to read Scripture and not realize the necessity of confessing one's sin. Even with the difficulty of doing so, it is much easier to make this confession before God than to our fellow believers. Yet, James 5:16 says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
David, a man after God's own heart, is an excellent example of such a confession. In 2 Samuel 12:13, "David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Not only did David confess his sin to Nathan, but he also wrote Psalm 51 as a public confession before God and for all of history. Thankfully, he also wrote Psalm 32 describing the blessed state of the one whose sin is confessed and therefore forgiven by God.
However, it seems to me, Jonah may be the most transparent sinner in all of Scripture. The last recorded words we have from Jonah are his response to God's repeated question "Do you do well to be angry?" (Jonah 4:4, 9) Jonah's response "Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die" seems to be a continuation of his statement in verse 3, "Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
The book of Jonah ends leaving us with as many questions as Jesus' parable of the prodigal son's older brother (Luke 15:25-32). How did each of these men respond to the rebuke of a loving father? Did they ever come to understand his love? Was either able to accept the father's offer of grace and forgiveness? Did they repent and confess their sin?
I believe we have the answer to these questions about Jonah simply because we have this book in the Bible. How else would we ever have known of these events if Jonah had not chosen to tell of his rebellion and God's deliverance and grace? The sailors on the ship would never have known how the story ended. The people of Nineveh would not know all that happened before Jonah began to proclaim the coming judgment. Jonah's confession, unlike David's, was not explicit but made evident by the detail he gives of his rebellion.
Jonah provides us with insight into his knowledge of God's forgiving nature in chapter four verse two. He did not want to proclaim God's coming judgment on Nineveh because he knew the LORD to be a "gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster." Jonah's problem was not with God's forgiving nature to Israel or himself, but He did not want God to forgive the people of Nineveh because they were Israel's arch-enemy.
The book of Jonah convicts me of both my lack of confession and desire for God to forgive those I perceive as enemies. I am slow to confess my sin, and even when I do, it does not reach the depth to which Jonah tells his story of God's grace and forgiveness. Equally, I must admit my desire for God's forgiveness for myself but not for those who would make themselves enemies of me and mine.
LORD God who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgive my iniquity and transgression. I confess my slowness and lack of desire to admit my sin before You and others. Like Jonah, I am prideful of Your blessing for myself and those I care about. Please Holy Spirit, may I become like Abram, Moses, Jesus, and Stephen, desiring Your forgiveness and blessing for those who I perceive in my sinfulness to be unworthy of such grace. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.