“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me” (Jonah 2:2).
It was good for Jonah to be swallowed by the fish. Rarely will a person reach out for God as earnestly as when he is afflicted. There is something about the “comfortable” life that will lull us to sleep. When all is smooth and pleasant, the spiritual faculties hibernate; the sense of one’s desperate need for God cools. But when we are thrown upon the storms of life, the crack of each wave against our face brings us back to our senses. That is why God out of His love does not let us go too long without some hardship to endure, without some difficulty to overcome. Jonah in this respect is the story of us all.
Jonah tried to escape when God spoke. He intentionally closed his ears; and during those days of escape, he probably slept and awoke each day without uttering a single prayer. Only the awful experience of the fish’s belly could have turned Jonah around to utter a prayer so sincere in heart, so earnest to reach God, and so certain of His mercies. It is surely one of the greatest poems of the Bible. And its greatness is due to the fact that every person who reads it may say that it expresses quite accurately the distress of a heart in dire trouble. It is as great as the Psalms indeed it is very probably a personal adaptation of several Psalms Jonah had memorized as a young Israelite boy.
The sense of having waters drowning the soul and of weeds wrapped around the head (Jonah 2:5), of being buried under mountains and imprisoned under the earth (Jonah 2:6), expresses the ultimate depths of human woe.
Yet as soon as it feels buried, the soul looks upward for its salvation is near. While Jonah enumerates his pains, there is yet a sense of hope, a faithful conviction that God has already answered his plea for help even as still in the belly of the fish. “You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God” (Jonah 2:6). It was a deep, dark pit, in which Jonah lay immobilized three days, from which he uttered prayers of the heart, since prayers of the voice were impossible. Yet spiritual light shone in that deep darkness. The black void was penetrated by an inner radiance from heaven. Though Jonah tried to flee from God, he knew God was now by his side.
Have you ever ask yourself when & how to start your relationship with the God? Have you ever think how the people of Nineveh received mercy of God after fasting and praying? How ever struggled in life & couldn’t know where to start?
Let’s start together while we are fasting & praying as Jonah, during the holy three days of Jonah’s fast.
How many days exactly did the people of Nineveh fast? Is this fast the same as Jonah’s fast?
What many people today, call “Jonah’s fast”, can also be called “Nineveh’s fast” because we don’t commemorate only Jonah in the belly of the whale, but we also commemorate the repentance of the people of Nineveh.
The Holy Bible does not tell us exactly how many days the people of Nineveh fasted. But the reason three is written in the midnight praises is because it is taken from the Septuagint version which states that the city will be overthrown in three instead of the forty days mentioned in the other versions.
“And Jonah began to enter into the city about a day’s journey, and he proclaimed, and said, yet three days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).
In the Holy Book of Jonah 3:7, it is mentioned that they did not eat nor drink even water, which makes fasting three days more acceptable than 40 days.
Please note that the Hebrew text is the one followed by all the ancient versions, except the Septuagint. On the other side the justification for the 40 days is: God gave them time to think, reject, take counsel, and return to him. It is clear that every Ninevite, who had heard the message of Jonah, repented and started fasting even before the news had reached the king and before he had published his decree “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh” (Jonah 3:5-7).