Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” (Jonah 4:3)
Jonah is another significant biblical character whose emotional state pushes him toward the desire of death. The Book of Jonah is very short; it can be read in minutes. However, the very short story says a lot about human nature and also about God’s generous character. The first chapter describe Jonah’s runaway in the apposite direction pointed by God because he wanted to avoid proclaiming the destruction of Nineveh. The second one contains Jonah’s prayer, uttered from the belly of the great fish. In the third one, Jonah obeysand announces the destruction, to which the people of Nineveh responds with repentance. And the fourth and final chapter describes Jonah’s reaction to the mercy that God shows for the enemy people.
Today’s verse belongs to this last chapter; a text that reveals an upset and angry Jonah, resisting to acknowledge that the Assyrian enemies had repented and accepted God’s invitation. The consequence is a very sad mood: he openly urges God to take his life (v. 3), he declares that it is better to die than to live (v. 8) and says he is angry until death (v. 9). Then, he seeks for a shade outside the metropolis to observe what happens to the city. God provided him a pumpkin plant to be his shade from the sun, but he gets angry again when the plant dies.
In the face of such complaint, the Lord responds with love and patience. He communicated with the rebellious Jonah by saying, «Is it right for you to get so angry?» And He invites Jonah to change his attitude with a strong argument. He says, You had pity on a pumpkin plant and why should I not have pity on more than 120,000 people?»
Another possible obstacle for Jonah to accept God’s will might have been that his prophetic word was called into question. Jonah was a reputable prophet. At least on one occasion he had accurately predicted the restoration of the limits of Israel in the times of Jeroboam (2 Kings 14:25). One of the obstacles of the human being is the «what will they say!» attitude. The American journalist Ann Landers gave no credence to such belief: «At age twenty, we worry about what others think of us. At age forty, we don’t care what they think of us. At age sixty, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.»
We should never base our behavior on what others think especially when it comes to not doing what God asked us to do.