“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned!” ~Jonah 3:4
You’ve gotta have a sense of humor to read Jonah. There’s so much hyperbole and exaggeration, sarcasm and irony, embedded in almost every paragraph, I think you’ll miss the main points of the tale if you don’t break out into a huge smile and maybe even a giggle or two as you read it. It’s funny that Jonah’s message is that God is going to “overturn” Nineveh. Because that’s exactly what God does. He turns Nineveh completely upside down.
The people proclaim a fast before the king does. Declarations like that usually begin at the top and work their way down. But this one starts in the streets and then reaches the palace.
The king leaves his throne and takes off his royal robes. The throne is empty, it’s wide open now for the Lord to reign in Nineveh. The king is sitting in dust with the least of the common people. This is definitely an overturned king! And his proclamation demands that everyone call urgently on the God of Israel. These mighty Assyrians are now just like the sailors in the first part of the story — crying out to YHWH for their very lives.
In just two short verses, Nineveh has been overturned — not destroyed, but turned upside down in every way possible. It’s a supernatural event. Nobody saw this coming. It goes far beyond what anybody could perceive as normal. Come on, even the goats and cows are fasting and wearing sackcloth!
God does this in order to save the city. He turns it upside down in order to save it. And he’ll do the same for you. Or for your family. Or for your church. Or your town.
Our God will go to whatever lengths are necessary, he’ll do whatever it takes, he will not give up on saving his people. Even when we resist, he keeps on pursuing. Even when we rebel, he keeps on forgiving. Even when we run away, he keeps chasing. He used a violent storm and the weak witness of a runaway prophet to save the pagan sailors. He created and commanded the giant fish to rescue his rebellious servant. And he put five Hebrew words into the hearts of a wicked people and turned an entire nation upside down.
And he’s tracking you, too. He’s chasing you. You know it. You feel it.
What’s God doing right now to get your attention? How’s he working in your life to draw you to him? Is he sending the storms? Is he putting people in your path? Is he piercing your heart with an unforgettable phrase or a particularly haunting verse of Scripture? Is it just a feeling, maybe, that you can’t shake? Is it a person who cares deeply for you and hurts with God’s own compassion for you? How is God getting to you? You may as well start thinking about it, because he’s not going to stop.