If Jonah chapter four wasn’t so sad, the irony in it would be funny. We have an incredible contrast between pouty Jonah and pitiful God.
Jonah is very upset (“displeased exceedingly’) because God was so nice. He wanted God to judge Nineveh, but he knew that if the wicked Ninevites repented God would forgive them. He knew that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness, and repents of evil.
And that’s exactly what God did. He forgave them. He was gracious and merciful to them. And so now Jonah wanted to die. God politely asks a rhetorical question, “Do you well to be angry?” (Jonah would have said yes, but obviously the correct answer was no.)
Then, Jonah goes out to watch to see what will become of the city (secretly hoping that it will be judged?). While he does, a lovely plant (“gourd”) grows up giving him shade. He is so thankful and so refreshed…and so angry the next day when a worm destroys the cool shade of this plant. Now, he really wants to die!
Once again, the Lord asks him if he does well to be angry. Jonah is so stubborn that he insists, I do well to be angry, even unto death! The Lord then points out that Jonah has had compassion on a soulless gourd that came up and died in one night. And yet he is upset with God for caring about 120,000 people that He created in His own image!
This is truly a case of misplaced priorities. We might judge Jonah if it weren’t so convicting. We often care more for the “gourds” of our lives, things that are really worthless and have no soul, than we do the perishing thousands and millions around the world!