Jonah: Idols and Compassion

Collin Selman
4 min readDec 16, 2022

Jonah 4:5–11


Last post we focused on Jonah’s anger and briefly turned to God’s tenderness. When we left Jonah, he had traveled just outside the city and set up camp to watch Nineveh.


What things do we depend on daily, even unconsciously? And when these things are taken away, how do we react? Breathing taken by a sinus infection; heat taken by lack of gas; respect denied by children. Are we thankful for our “daily bread?”

Think about the political landscape or even the world at large, what aspects make you angry? What are your expectations of others that when they don’t meet them your anger is stirred? Shared definition of terms and at least giving some respect to other vantage points, freedom of differing ideas.

The answers to these questions start to give us a peek into Jonah’s frame of mind

God’s Lesson (vs.5–11)

Jonah retires outside the city, where he was separated from the people who he had had a hand in saving. Why did he wait? To see what would happen, to see God’s judgment, maybe hoping Nineveh had a false repentance.

God sees this man waiting for His judgment and in his discomfort, provides a relief.

What else did God provide in chapter 1? Proverbs 25:21–22

In what things do we find our comfort in? How do we react when these things are taken away? (Food, AC/heat, quiet; not well and often in anger or irritation). See Job 1:21.

Why was God seemingly toying with Jonah in this way? I believe it’s because God knew that Jonah did not have a head problem. He was not trying to teach him about some aspect of his character, Jonah “knew” who God was (4:2). God knew Jonah did not have a head problem but a heart problem. He was trying to reveal to Jonah His own heart.

We see here a man with malformed affections, misplaced priorities, and mismanaged emotions. And so we can see in Jonah a picture of ourselves.

“Inordinate affection lays a foundation for inordinate affliction” — MH

We know that Jonah is angry. And we know the spark of that anger. But why is the kindling there? Jonah 2:8

“Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” — John Calvin

What idols do you think Jonah had erected in his life? Comfort, ego, Job 5:2

What things do we cling to that may be an idol? How can we test our hearts in this?

“We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one.” — Timothy Keller

(As time allows, read over the TGC questions linked below.)

Anger/Idols often makes us blind to all else except that for which is right in front of us.

In God’s answer to Jonah, God shows him that he had compassion on a single plant but God was implementing compassion on hundreds of thousands of people who bore his own image (even when they lacked a basic understanding of reality/truth (i.e. right/left distinction)).

Jonah approves of his own anger and appeals to God’s character. God approves of his own mercy and appeals to his own character and the worth of the object of his mercy.

“Man’s badness and God’s goodness serve here for a foil to each other, that the former may appear the more exceedingly sinful and the latter the more exceedingly gracious.” — Matthew Henry

God’s compassion revealed Jonah’s idol.

How does God’s compassion reveal idol’s in our own lives?

What idols do you have in your life that need to be exposed to God’s compassion and repented of?


  • What about this book stood out to you the most?
  • What is the major thing that we learn about God in Jonah?
  • How can we see the Gospel more clearly from this book?




Collin Selman

A Christian, a husband, a father, a blue-collar intellectual, an engineer, a carpenter, a gardener, and who knows what else in the future.