The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. Jonah 3:5 (NLT)
Wendy’s brothers have all served in the military. Her youngest brother just went through the rigor of basic training a year or so ago. Since my side of the family has, for the most part, never been big on military service I have found it interesting to observe. I’ve been knocked out by the transformation in Wendy’s young sibling. The methodical process of discipline and denial has had visible benefits that go beyond the mere physical.
It is, perhaps, a bit of synchronicity that today’s chapter comes on the day after Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Lent is the season of “preparation” before the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection which lasts for 40 days. The number 40 is not insignificant. The number appears throughout God’s Message and history:
- 40 days of rain in the flood
- 40 days Moses was on the mountain before God gave him the law
- 40 years of wandering in the wilderness for Moses and his followers
- 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness
- 40 days after the resurrection Jesus was seen publicly before his ascension
These are just a few of the examples, along with the example in today’s chapter in which the people of Nineveh fasted and repented for 40 days to seek God’s mercy.
There is no magic in “fasting” or the act of denying yourself of something, but there is a process of spiritual formation that takes place. When, for a period of time, we deny ourselves and focus our hearts and minds on the things of God it becomes like spring training for our souls. It is spiritual boot camp and, like Wendy’s brother, you never emerge from boot camp unchanged in some way.