How’d You Do That?!?
Chapter 3, verses 4 & 5 say a couple of interesting things that could be easily overlooked if we aren’t careful. “Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.” (NAS)
The first thing to notice is how quickly the people of Nineveh began to repent. Verse 3 tells us that it takes three days to walk across the city, yet Jonah was only into his first day’s walk when they were already repenting!
The second thing is that Jonah is no great preacher! He only says eight words, he has only one point to make, and he does not even elaborate on it with any jokes or illustrations! Had he been in my Homiletics class at Phillips University, he never would have passed! So, obviously it was not Jonah’s great preaching abilities that produced repentance in120,000 people including even their king. So, what was it then?
Some have speculated that word of what happened to Jonah had preceded him to Nineveh and that the people were already starting to repent before he even arrived. Others say that his appearance after being in the belly of the fish for three days was enough to cause people to repent! Well, he probably was quite a sight: hair and skin bleached by stomach acids, perhaps some blisters on his face and hands, smelling like vomit! But, come on now; this was Nineveh! These were a fierce and greatly feared warlike people; not easily moved by what they saw and heard. So what caused them to repent so quickly and fully?
It must have been something about the presence of God on Jonah! As we see throughout Scripture, whenever God’s presence shows up, the first thing that happens is that people become aware of their sin --- His light exposes it. Then people either choose to run (like Jonah did the first time) or they fall on their faces before Him and repent. No wonder He’s always saying, “Fear not!” It was obviously God’s presence there with Jonah that affected the people so dramatically.
So, what did Jonah do to merit God’s presence with him so strongly? How did he earn it? The truth is, he didn’t! We cannot merit or earn God’s presence. When Jonah repented and obeyed, he began to walk in the anointing of God’s presence. It didn’t matter how eloquent he was or how he looked, God’s presence was all that was needed to touch a city!
And you know what? The same is true for each of us. When we are confronted with and touched by His presence, and we choose to repent and obey Him in whatever He wants from us, we may discover that the anointing of His presence is with us, also! Try it; you’ll like it!
Next: Part 6