“If you’re going to San Francisco…” You’re probably hearing that old hippie song right now, in your head.”
Jonah walked to the San Francisco of his time. Now, I’ve spent a lot of time in San Francisco, working there for a large health plan. I often walked to work while staying at Fisherman’s Wharf but working downtown on Market Street. That’s a two-mile walk, uphill both ways (yes, it really is) going through North Beach and the Financial District. You could walk a whole day in San Francisco, never entering the same neighborhood twice, and still not reach the middle of the city. New York, London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong are the same; I imagine any megalopolis is. So, I understand that it’s plausible when today’s verse says that it would take three days to walk through a city, especially if you walked through small alleys and backstreets.
While there, was Jonah like the man who wears a breadboard and screams, “REPENT OR DIE?” We don’t know, but that isn’t how I picture him. Instead, I picture him walking up to strangers and softly but confidently proclaiming God’s message, not ranting it. “Hello, I’m Jonah. What’s your name? Our God sent me here to tell you that He is with you, that He loves you, and wants to bless you.” It was a message the Ninevites would not have previously known but would have made them want to know more. An in-your-face-you-dirty-sinner tactic wouldn’t have worked out too well.
When you think about it: it doesn’t work in our world, either. If you went to San Francisco and told people there that God was judging them and they were toast if they didn’t repent, you might not make it out alive. But if you were honest, and earnestly talked with people about God’s qualities and Him in your life, it would make it easier to then say, “and, by the way, He sent me with a message that’s going to be tough to hear.” They might just listen.
Especially since Jonah would have walked far to get there. The verse doesn’t say if he stopped to clean up, so he may very well have still been covered in dry fish slime. Maybe that added to the shock factor; “do I have your attention yet?” And when the fishy-smelling stranger talked about the miracles he had endured, and about how God had protected him, the people of Ninevah would likely have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Imagine hearing THAT tune in San Francisco today.
For further reading: Jonah 3:4
Forgiving God, thank You for Your love, for Jonah’s message, and for opportunities to share Your hope.
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