by Christopher Noone, Moderator, Bread of Life Fellowship.
An end to the drought and for repentance and renewal.
Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh… ‘Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it.
~ Jonah 3:3-9 & 10
The Ninevites were evil people. Ancient sources outside the Bible, Herodotus and Aristotle, both attest to it. Why does God send Jonah to such an undeserving and cruel people? Why does God hear these Godless people at all?
We know that God answers prayer, but there are certain things in which He delights when we pray: one of those things is when we pray in unity; another is when we humble ourselves and fast.
Prayer is OK, but why fasting? What is so special about fasting? Why does going without food have to do with reaching God’s ear?
Fasting is more than going hungry, it is a means of humbling ourselves. It could be said that our prayer reaches His ear, but humbling ourselves, through fasting, reaches His heart.
It’s not something we can explain completely. Fasting is a mystery. Fasting is something we do because God decrees it. Fasting is a faith response, a heart cry to a desperate situation we know only God can change.
Jonah’s message produced faith and acknowledgement of sin. ‘And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.’ Jonah’s message was simple but resulted in what might today be called a ‘Revival.’ In fact, Jonah is perhaps one of the most successful revivalists in the bible.
But before we give Jonah too much credit, it wasn’t just the message that changed their hearts. The message simply provoked a response. It was their humble action that changed God’s heart and their own hearts, and disaster was averted.
We can expect the same. As Christians, we also fast, as an act of faith. We do it out of obedience, knowing that God’s word obeyed is never in vain. Fasting produces results beyond any natural ability. It reaches God’s heart, changes our own hearts and averts disaster.
Father of Mercy, we appeal to You to end this physical and spiritual drought. As You spared Nineveh from disaster, so we appeal to You in this time of national calamity to spare us, most particularly our farmers. May all hearts be turned back to You as we humble ourselves this month in prayer and fasting. We acknowledge our desperate need before You. We acknowledge that only You can save us. Grace us as we fast and pray, that Your mercy may have its way.