The Jonah Fast

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“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 3:9,10

This week, Wahid and I fasted, along with over ten million Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt and Syria, for three days. The days were February 22, 23, and 24.

This fast is called the Nineveh fast, also known as the Fast of Jonah, which marks the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the fish as punishment for his disobedience to God. The fast also commemorates the fast of repentance observed by the sinful city of Nineveh. 

The fast is observed yearly two weeks before Lent.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem explains that “When we examine the story of Jonah, great is the resemblance between Jonah and Jesus. Jesus was sent to preach repentance; Jonah was also sent to preach repentance. The one fled, the other came willingly to give salvation. Jonah slept on the ship, snoring amidst the stormy sea. Jesus also slept. The sea began to rise, to show the authority of Him who slept. To Jonah, the sailors said, “Why are you sleeping? Arise, call on your God, that God may save us.” Unto the Master, the disciples said, “Lord, save us.” Jonah said, Take me, and cast me into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you. On the other hand, Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”

As Wahid and I fasted the Nineveh fast as we prefer to call it, we devoted each morning to reading together the book of Jonah. 

We pleaded for God’s mercy on us, our families, our cities, and our country.

 We repented for the many times we have sinned like Jonah and have not loved strangers or those who are different from us.

We repented of the times we thought that certain people are not worthy of God’s grace or that they are too far away to be saved.

We grieved for the many times God told us to go one way, and we went the opposite way.

We repented for the times we went only one day’s walk when the city is a three-day walk (Jonah 3:3)

We repented for the times the Lord gave us a forceful message. Yet, out of fear and social pressure, we mulled down the message to be socially acceptable and politically correct.

Fasting allows us to examine our lives and true motives. It gives us a chance to repent for our disobedience.

Let us strive to follow in the footsteps of the people of Nineveh who at the first warning repented.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7.14

 Dr. Laila Wahba 

Update on Elder Said, leader of Sudan Ministry.

Thank you for all the prayers you sent to Elder Said. They touched his heart and lifted up his spirit.

He is doing much better and is back in Egypt. Pray that he would not have post-COVID fatigue so he can continue to minister in fullness of health. 

Thank you for your support.

We love you.

 “They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned . . . strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” -Acts 14:21-22

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