Jonah didn't get it when God changed his mind. Maybe he liked preaching the message of destruction? Maybe he wanted Nineveh to be destroyed. And he was furious when the Nineties repented and God decided to not destroy them.
Have you ever watched something and assumed an outcome, based on your own calculations? We might believe that someone or something is beyond remedy, beyond hope. We might believe someone or something or some situation is too far gone.
God does not think the way we do. Someone may speak for God, but not know God. Someone might know God's acts, but not know God's ways. While God is the judge and judges purely and is completely wise, God also abounds in mercy and has the ability to extend forgiveness beyond beyond the abilities of the human heart.
We are taught simple forgiveness by God as a way of life, but we also have to practice hard forgiveness; forgiving inconceivably: forgiving the unforgivable. The only way to forgive the unforgivable is do it through God.
"But Jonah...", and, "But Steve..."; are footnotes. "But God", is the main course. But God, in the fullness of time sent his Son, his only Son; to die on the cross for all of humanity's sins. That is the "but" that really matters. We made a mess from day one and in Jesus, God came to clean it all up. God paid the debt of all sin at the cross. The only way that we can forgive the unforgivable is to connect with the cross, with the person who died on that cross, who paid for what is humanly unforgivable to be forgiven. Like Jonah, we are not God and can not conceive of God's mercy, but just agree with it when God extends it and we have to work out when that is.
What about when we're angry at God? Can God handle it? Yes, but how we handle it is what we have to watch out for. Pastor James says, "an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness"(James 1:20). Apostle Paul says, "be angry without sinning" (Ephesians 4:26). The first story with anger in it in the Bible, and it was anger that got out of control and caused destruction, is in Genesis, chapter 4:
The LORD was pleased with Abel and his offering, but not with Cain and his offering. This made Cain so angry that he could not hide his feelings.
The LORD said to Cain:
What's wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don't let it! Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go for a walk." And when they were out in a field, Cain killed him.
The Lord warned Cain that his anger could turn to sin and it did. It didn't have to and neither did Jonah's. It seems that the antidote to anger's destruction for the believer is to lean into and onto God. What if you've got your anger in one hand. Take the other hand and reach out to God, like a lightning rod. Anger is a given in a fallen world. We feel wronged and our anger flashes. Do we lash out and run towards violent pay-back, verbally, physically, or in our thoughts; or do we cool off by reaching out to God?
Can we extend or give forgiveness to those who have triggered anger in us? Can we forgive God if he throws us a curve ball, doing something that we did not expect, perhaps something good for someone we still think of as bad? If we're Christians, are we taking up our crosses (instruments of death) and following the One who died and rose from the dead; or have we got it wrong and think we are God as we vent and judge and preside over the ungodly?
Jonah was a capitol P Prophet. He was the real deal, yet we keep seeing a flawed man who has issues. He is not Jesus and and he is far from perfect. Yet, God chose him and God would not let him retire early. God has a plan and a message he wants to do and to give through Jonah. Along the way, Jonah gets to learn more about God and his mercy.
Messengers need the message too. Preachers, teachers, and prophets need to be learners and people being transformed in the same way as the people they preach, teach, and prophesy to. I might give you something from God that I've gotten. I might also give you something from God that I am getting, but haven't got yet. I also might give you something from God that I'm not getting and have not got.
Jonah said one thing and it was the thing God told him to say and it was true. He thought he got the fact that it was over for the Ninevites and he gave them that message. It was true, but there was more. There was the back story part that God is merciful. He knew that, but didn't like it as far as the Ninevites were concerned. That's where the anger comes in and Jonah reaching back to God is his only hope. The Ninevites have come home to God and have a whole new life in God that they are passing through the doorway of. In stark contrast, Jonah is in a vexed and perplexed, angry place that he needs help to get out of. If that is ever you or me, we have hope from God.