The story of Jonah is a true story that happened 8 centuries Before Christ. And Jonah was one of the Old Testament’s prophets, and there’s a book in the bible under his name. But this book doesn’t contain any prophesies as much as the test that Jonah faced in his life with God that lasted approximately 100 years in which he served God in many years, but this test was the most important test that Jonah faced in his life. We all love Jonah’s story, and the story with all its drama and all its events is influential. And we find that Jonah was the only prophet that our lord likened himself to, especially in the events of crucifixion and resurrection.
Jonah’s fast is three days, which presents for us three lessons that helps in improving our spiritual lives. First lesson is fear of God, the second is obedience, and the third is repentance. And these three lessons are our ways of life, and it is the way of finding out whether you’re living your life in a faithful way or not.
First lesson is fear: God asked Jonah for a mission, and Jonah accepted the request. But in his heart Jonah didn’t want to obey that request. But only accepted in his tongue but not his heart, because he didn’t have the fear of God in his heart because he used to depend on his thoughts and his visions in life. A person might be of great responsibility in his job, but there is no fear in his heart, he might be a father or a mother in a family and there would be no fear in their hearts. Firstly there should be the fear of God in our hearts, which is the presence of God in our hearts at all times. God shouldn’t be absent from your conscious or your thoughts or your vision. Jonah thought of escaping in any boat, and Jonah did escape: but Jonah would you really escape from God? And we find that Jonah was convinced on running away from God because he didn’t have the fear of god in his heart. And when He got on the boat and asked where the boat was navigating to, and the answer was to “Tarshish”, he was happy because it was the opposite direction to the will of God “Ninevah”. And Jonah wanted to escape even more so he decided to go to the abdomen of the ship, and he fell into a deep sleep, this is an evidence that he wanted to escape from himself. But if he had the fear of God in his heart he wouldn’t be able to escape. The fear of God that is found in a person’s heart is what makes him a righteous person, whether it was in a family or a service or responsibility. Therefore my brethren, in this fast we ask of God to fill our fasts and our houses with the fear of God, and whenever you stand to pray and read the gospel ask the lord to grant you the fear in your heart.
Second lesson is obedience: Jonah complained, and disobeyed and escaped, and God arranged in wisdom for the whale to come in that specific time to swallow Jonah, and you would imagine what would happen if that whale was late a minute or a second, what would have happened to Jonah? We read in the bible: “and God arranged a big fish”. i.e. arranged the whale by the side of the boat, and in a certain moment to open its mouth and receive Jonah, and keep him in its belly for three days, and protect him from the dangers of the sea, and this whale resemble an altar or a moving church. And did Jonah realise that the whale was more obedient than him the sane human being? And my brethren the Holy Bible talks about obedience: “behold to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). The person that doesn’t obey and doesn’t accept loses a lot in their life just like Jonah, Jonah while being in the whale’s belly started knowing the way of God, so what did you do Jonah? It says: he said I’ll change the whale’s belly into prayer, and he started praying eagerly. Therefore look for the obedience in your heart, and say to the lord, teach me how to obey your commandment, and to live by you, teach me lord that my heart would be full of fear firstly and with obedience secondly, so it may be acceptable before you at all times.
Third lesson is repentance: And Jonah went to Nineveh, and started wandering around for one day, and Nineveh in fact was a great city, we find its buildings covered in gold, and all its streets are surrounded by gardens, the green and gold colours occupies the whole great city. When Jonah went to preach in Nineveh, he expected that they would not listen to him or accept his word since they’re far from Israel, and there was the surprise! So when Jonah told the message to the Ninevites, they were all terrified, from the king till the infants, even animals, they all offered repentance to the lord, which is considered the greatest repentance in history. And everyone men and women, young and old, even animals, fasted, put on sackcloth and sit on the dust, and humiliate themselves in front of God, and to raise prayers, and offer fasts, and over all that they offered repented hearts, and the great surprise that the whole population of Nineveh repented! When the church decides a fast, the intention is to start the fast and end the fast as a new person that his life has just changed, the fast should remove from us the nonbeneficial acts, so we fast not only to abstain ourselves from food and drink and talking, but from anything else that would waste our time and lead us to a path away from God. We can’t learn how to repent if we don’t live the first two lessons (fear & obedience). Then you will repent and truly humiliate yourself before the lord and to have a different approach of life.
Lastly: where am I in the book of Jonah? Am I like Jonah, or the whale, or the people in the boat, or like the ninevites, or like the plant? Look for yourself and your life, and let your days be full with the spirit of fear and the spirit of obedience and the spirit of repentance.
May the lord accept our lives in front of him, and give us this fear in our everyday lives, in our service, and in our responsibilities, and may He give us the obedience to listen to his words and live with it in our everyday lives and to offer repentance from our evil and foolish acts. Glory be to God forever Amen.