Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:15) - Good News!

15  Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
    who brings good news,
    who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
    fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;
    he is utterly cut off.

There is a hospital in our area where committed medical personnel treat children who have various forms of cancer and other diseases. Happily, there are many cases when a child is cured of the ailment by God’s hand through this wonderful staff. On such an occasion, the staff throws the child a party and the child rings a bell announcing the deliverance they now have over their life-threatening illness.

What great news this is especially to those in bondage to some disease! Surely such a pronouncement is worthy of celebration. Who among us would not also rejoice over such great news?

That is what we have in verse 15 (chapter 2, verse 1 in the Hebrew Bible). Nahum has repeatedly pronounced the coming judgment upon Nineveh and the Assyrians. For centuries, this evil empire has dominated the middle east bringing destruction to many and hopelessness to others. The northern kingdom of Israel was overthrown by them. They also held sway over the southern kingdom of Judah as a constant threat of their destruction as well. But now, God, through His prophet, has announced that is about to end!

The verse begins with words almost identical to those found in Isaiah 42:7 (we aren’t sure who wrote them first). Essentially, these two verses say the same thing: a messenger has appeared on the mountains surrounding Judah and that messenger announces the “good news” that the enemy of Judah has been defeated and the people have been delivered from their bondage. Peace has come. Ring the bell!

This terrific news of peace is followed by two commands: “keep your feasts” and “fulfill your vows”. The first is likely a reference to three annual feasts of Israel: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Passover is a remembrance and celebration of God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people from their bondage to Egypt. Pentecost is a celebration of the newness of life given to God’s redeemed. Tabernacles celebrates the continual abundance of God’s provision for His people. With the defeat of the enemy, Judah may celebrate!

“Fulfill your vows” is a reminder to the people to fulfill the commitments they have made to God. To turn from your vow would be sin. In other words, Judah must consecrate themselves to serve and obey God.

Why should they celebrate? Why should they consecrate? “For never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off.” Your enemy is through. Your slave master has been forever defeated! Assyria will never again trouble Judah!

But this verse not only provides good news for Judah and the Old Covenant people. It also provides good news for the Church and the New Covenant people of God. Paul quotes the similar verse from Isaiah in Romans 10:15 and interprets it has the good news proclaimed by Gospel preachers. What great news such ministers deliver! Ring the bell! We are sinners in bondage to sin and Satan. But Christ has provided the deliverance from our sin and the devil. That’s good news! So, what should we do?

First, let us celebrate our deliverance! Let us celebrate with the Lord’s Supper, the New Covenant counterpart to Passover. Let us celebrate the coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the counterpart to Pentecost. Let us celebrate the daily provision of our Lord until He comes, the counterpart to Tabernacles. Celebrate your deliverance, believer!

Second, let us consecrate our lives to serve and obey our Deliverer. What God commands us, let us do gladly. He has given us freedom and brought us peace.

And, just like Assyria, the enemy of God’s people Judah, would never defeat and control Judah again, Satan/sin will never defeat and control us again! God will preserve His people and protect them until the day He comes!

Celebrate! Consecrate! Ring the bell for deliverance provided by God’s Son the Lord Jesus Christ has arrived!

Have you been delivered? Have you repented of your sins and put your trust in Christ for the keeping of your soul? The message has arrived. Have you received it?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum: 1:14) - You Will be Cut Off

14 The Lord has given commandment about you:
    “No more shall your name be perpetuated;
from the house of your gods I will cut off
    the carved image and the metal image.
I will make your grave, for you are vile.”

Perhaps I have unfairly judged certain individuals I have encountered over the years, but I must confess there have been a few people with whom I avoid every possible association. Over time I have found these specific people to by liars who can never be trusted. Often their worldview is completely opposite, and they are so rigid in that worldview they refuse to listen to any argument you might present against it. They worship their jobs, money, fame, or others and they tend to promote themselves rather than help those in need. I have no desire to be their friend or to associate with them. To me, I have cut them off.

After pronouncing judgment upon Nineveh/Assyria, Nahum now quotes Yahweh on the matter. It is the LORD who has charged you, not merely a man or a prophet. And, unlike man, the Lord’s judgment of every individual is just and righteous.

What is that charge he brings against the Assyrian empire? “No more shall your name be perpetuated”. Literally, “God will no longer sow from your seed.” Assyria has been a might kingdom and Nineveh a mighty capital. But no more. The name of Assyria will be forgotten, not feared. For us today, that is so true. Apart from a study of history, Assyria has vanished.

The Assyrians were religious people. The empire was a religious empire. They didn’t have just one god but many (which violates the first commandment). They didn’t worship they god in spirit and in truth but with graven images and idols (which violates the second commandment). And, of course, worship of any god other than Yahweh is false worship.

Being a religious person/nation is irrelevant if that religion is not true religion. Yahweh demands we worship Him. He is the one true God. And, like the Assyrians, if you have other “things” in your life more important than Yahweh, you have broken the first commandment. At some point, you will be “cut off” from your false gods. If its your job, you’ll lose it. If its your money, you’ll lose it. False gods are of no valuable once death overtakes you.

God tells the Assyrians they are “vile” (or contemptible). So is anyone who worships false gods with their false religion. There is only one name given among men whereby we must be saved, the name Jesus Christ.

If your religion is not centered on Christ, you will be cut off. If your worship is not directed to Christ, you will be cut off. Nineveh and Assyria are a lesson to us. Do not place your faith and hope in the wrong place.

Trust Jesus.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:12-13) - Breaking Yokes, Bursting Bonds

12 Thus says the Lord,
“Though they are at full strength and many,
    they will be cut down and pass away.
Though I have afflicted you,
    I will afflict you no more.
13 And now I will break his yoke from off you
    and will burst your bonds apart.”

Often we feel as though we are slaves of others. Individuals working for an unreasonable employer has that sense. Students in a class taught by a fearful instructor also has the sense. People living under the political rule of a corrupt monarchy are in a similar position. Each of us, at one time or another and to one degree or another, feel as though we are slaves of someone or something. We long for freedom from our bondage and judgment against our oppressor.

Assyria has been a powerful nation in the Middle East for some time. They have fought against the Hebrews, defeated the northern Kingdom of Israel, and scattered many of them across their empire. Even at the time of Nahum’s prophecy, they were a great, powerful nation, full of strength, with no end in sight. No end except that foretold by Nahum in this proclamation against the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh. Assyria, though powerful and many, will be cut down. They will pass away. And, indeed, this came true.

Now Yahweh enters the picture for the first and only time in the prophecy: “Thus says Yahweh”. The creator, sovereign ruler of the universe confirms the words of His prophet.

The Lord had used the Assyrians to afflict His people just as He had used the Egyptians during the time of Moses. Israel had sinned against Him with their idol worship and God’s punishment was provided through the Assyrians. Now God assures His people this affliction has come to an end. No more will the Assyrians be His instrument for disciplining His people.

And, by defeating this powerful nation, Yahweh breaks the bondage of His people (including those in the southern Kingdom) and has set them free. God and God alone delivers them from their servitude.

You are I are also in bondage and under affliction due to sin. We are captives of our nature and our own disobedience. We are slaves to sin. Sin must be punished, and it will be. God will judge and punish the sinner with eternal judgment and that judgment will place Him in Hell forever. Unless God delivers you from your sin, this is your fate. You will forever be sin’s slave.

Jesus Christ lived without sin and sacrificed His life to ransom those whom God had given to Him. In a sense, God has defeated the enemy (sin) and we can escape eternal affliction by trusting Christ. Will you turn from your sin today and trust the Lord for the salvation of your soul?

If you will then God will deliver you. He will break the yoke and burst the bonds of sin just as He delivered His people.

"Scripture and Cosmology" by Kyle Greenwood

My review of "Scripture and Cosmology" by Kyle Greenwood may be found here.

Bottom line: Find another book on the subject.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:11) - Worthless Counselors

11 From you came one
    who plotted evil against the Lord,
    a worthless counselor.

Can there be anything worse than a “worthless counselor”? Something you are have seen or heard or experienced has greatly disturbed you. Why has this happened? What should I do? How do I handle it? You need some help, some guidance.

So, you find someone who professes to be a counselor to assist you in sorting out these disturbances in your life. However, your advisor leads you down the wrong path. He gives you a bad interpretation of your situation. You gladly accept his counsel only to find out (much later!), his advice has only created more turmoil for your life. Now, you are worse off than you were.

What a horrible thought! Yet, this happens all the time in our society. People are confused and/or disturbed. They are running to their relatives, friends, government officials, or therapists for help. But, what they receive does nothing to resolve their problems. In fact, their counsel only makes things worse.

Perhaps something similar happened in Nineveh. Destruction is coming, cries the prophet of God. What do we do? How should we live? Some “wicked advisor” (perhaps the king?) appears and offers counsel. However, his counsel is against God’s counsel. His advice is merely an evil rebellion of God’s advice.

Being quite literal, the translation of this one verse would read something like this: “From you one comes out thinking against YAHWEH evil, one advising wickedness.”

Is this not our society today?

“I’m single and pregnant. What should I do?” Our “counselors” tell us “Get an abortion”.

“I’m a woman who loves another woman. What should I do?” “Accept your sexuality. Enjoy your partner. If possible, get married.”

“My parents want me to go to church. But the church is full of hypocrites. What should I do?” “Your parents are from another time and just don’t understand. If you want to hear a preacher, just turn on the TV and listen from home.”

“I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body. What should I do?” “Take any and all steps you need to take in order to live your life as you wish to live it.”

“I’m so bored and depressed with life. I’m useless. What do I do?” “Here are some pills that will help you cope.”

“I’m in love with a woman who is not my wife. What should I do?” “Divorce your present wife so your life can be happy living with your new love.”

On and on it goes in twenty-first century America. Counselors are everywhere offering advice that contradicts the counsel of God. Anyone who offers such counsel is plotting evil against the one true God. They are a worthless counselor.

Have you pursued the wicked counsel of such counselors? Are you listening to society’s advice instead of God’s? The Word of the Lord provides us with the wisdom and guidance we need to live this life. Why seek advice from those who oppose the Lord? Where is the wisdom in such behavior?

God has revealed that each of us is a sinner. We stand condemned in our rebellion against God. Judgment is coming upon us as it did upon Nineveh. We cannot escape that judgment. Heeding the counsel of the wicked will not alter that fact.

But Jesus Christ can change your future! Repent of your sins (turn from them) and trust Jesus and you will be spared from future judgment. Study God’s Word and strive to live your life daily for Christ. God has the solutions for our problems.

And leave the godless counselors behind.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:10) - Thorns, Drunkards, Stubble

10 For they are like entangled thorns,
    like drunkards as they drink;
    they are consumed like stubble fully dried.

Practical jokes were a common feature of college life. This was especially true for those of us living in the dorms. Our dorm-mates, including our roommates, were constantly plotting harmless pranks against one another. You see, you wanted to pull off the prank but have some way to give yourself an alibi. This way, you could repeat the prank at various times without your victim knowing who was responsible.

Thus, it is with schemers. Some in Nineveh were developing the plans against Yahweh. When His judgment fell, they believed they would, somehow, deceive the Lord and not receive the punishment.

Nahum disagrees. They will not escape. To prove his point, he describes such plotters using three illustrations of such individuals.

First, they are “entangled thorns”. Such thorns are sharp and painful on all sides. No matter how you grab them, they hurt. The contrivers are like that. They are evil, wicked, angry, furious, outspoken at ever turn. Every characteristic of their behavior is like that of a thorn.

Second, they are “drinking drunkards”. A drunkard has already lost all self-control. They can’t even walk across a room in a straight line. Furthermore, they are oblivious to their surroundings. And those in Nineveh devising their plans against the Lord have not only lost self-control and awareness, they continue to drink!

Lastly, they are fully dried stubble. Such matter catches fire quickly and burns completely. It will be fully consumed.

To believe you can escape the Lord’s judgment by some ill-devised plan is foolishness. You may be as wicked (or even more so) than the entangled thorns of the Assyrians, yet you will be consumed. You may have lost all self-control and awareness of your eternal state, but that will not excuse you on that last day. Your thorns and your drunken stupor place you in the condition of fully dried stubble. When God’s judgment falls, you will be consumed.

Some of us are like those in Nineveh. We live our lives every day, oblivious to God and His Word. We do what we want to do and, at times, are aware what we do is wrong or even wicked. Each of us is like a ball of entangled thorns.

From day to day, we stumble through life as though we are drinking drunkards. We are unaware of God, His Word, and His coming judgment. We have lost all self-control and the ability to change our behavior and our future.

If we would look at our lives from God’s perspective, we would see ourselves as fully dried stubble. All that awaits our consummation is a match! That match, God’s fire, is coming. We will burn. We will be punished. We will be destroyed throughout eternity.

Praise God, He has provided us with a way out! Jesus has lived and died for sinners. He has borne the punishment for every sin committed by those given to Him by the Father. Now, He calls on us to repent (turn from our wicked ways) and believe (trust) in Him.

Will you call upon Jesus this day?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:9) - Provoking the Lord

What do you plot against the Lord?
    He will make a complete end;
    trouble will not rise up a second time.

Most of us who have reached adulthood can recall specific individuals who, in one form or another, plotted against another and go away with it. Perhaps it was a classmate who wanted to skip class, so they made up an excuse about being sick or a dying grandmother. Or maybe that classmate failed to study for an exam and came up with the idea of sneaking in a cheat sheet.

Maybe we knew of a friend who was given a traffic ticket, took it to court, and used some lame excuse to have the ticket reduced or even dismissed. Maybe it was a more serious matter such as a friend to whom we provided an excuse for their extra marital activities.

Man enjoys devising schemes to enable them to sin and get away with it. Some men become so good at it that their entire life is a lie consisting of such plots.

The warning has been given to Nineveh for their sin. But there are probably some who are already plotting some excuse for their behavior. They are devising a scheme in order to fool their accuser. Nahum asks the rhetorical question, “What do you plot against the Lord?” “Plot” or “contrive” indicates their intent. They might get away with such schemes when standing before men. But do they really think they can devise some plot against YAHWEH?

Oh, how many of us are already plotting our schemes for escaping that final judgment to be given by our God? We have sinned and realize punishment awaits us. But, we are fast talkers, we are clever cheaters, we can get away with anything. True, if we are fast talking or cleverly cheating another man. However, do you honestly believe you will escape the God of the universe? What a fool you are if you truly believe that.

Nahum, for a second time, says, “He will make a complete end.” Observe two clear revealed truths in this phrase. First, “complete end” is “destruction”. Nineveh is the capital of the great Assyrian empire which conquered the entire Middle East. But their destruction is certain. Second, it is “He”, Yahweh, who will bring that destruction. No, Nineveh, you can’t fast talk this God.

“Well, if I can scheme against God, I still have hope. Remember, God is a good God, a kind God, a merciful God. Perhaps, as He did in the days of Jonah, He will provide a stay of execution.”

“Trouble will not rise up a second time.” No, there time has come and gone. The extent of God’s patience towards Nineveh and Assyria has reached its limit. There will be no reprieve, only destruction.

Make no mistake, reader, your end has been foretold by God. If you are a sinner, your end is your eternal destruction. Perhaps God will be patient with you and provide you another opportunity. Perhaps not. As the writer says, “Today is the day of salvation.”

Do not scheme against God. It will not save you. Turn to Christ while the opportunity remains.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:8) - Good News, Bad News

    But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries, 
    and will pursue his enemies into darkness.

“I’ve got good news and bad news.”

I suspect most of us, at one time or another, has heard this statement. The speaker is preparing us for some bad news yet wants to do so in a more pleasant manner. So, first they share something good and positive: anything! Then we receive the bad news.

In verse 7, Nahum informs his readers of the goodness of Yahweh. He is our fortress of solitude in the time of trouble. And, for the listener in Nineveh, Nahum’s words in verses 1-6 sure sound like trouble! How good verse 7 must have sounded to those just threatened for destruction.

Now, however, Nahum delivers the bad news. Verse 7 is for those who are trusting God, for His people. For those in Nineveh, “an overflowing flood” is coming. Of course, a flood is already an overflow of water. So, to have an “overflowing flood” is to have a catastrophic flood! For those of us in Missouri, it reminds us of the 500-year flood of 1993!

This flood will bring the “complete end” (destruction) of the Lord’s adversaries (i.e., Nineveh and the Assyrians). The flood bringing this destruction is not likely a physical flood. Rather, it is a flood of armies. Over a century before, Isaiah had used similar words to describe the Assyrians overrunning Israel. Now, they will be overrun by invaders.

God will not allow his enemies to go unpunished. Nahum predicts He will follow them into darkness. He doesn’t simply mean a place without light. Darkness is isolation, fear, stress, mourning, perplexing, even terror! The Bible reveals the enemies of God will be cast into eternal darkness, the very fire of Hell. The flames will punish the flesh; the darkness will punish the soul.

Woe to those who are His adversaries! The Lord is good to those who take refuge in Him. But, to those who are His enemies, He is an overwhelming flood, bringing total darkness.

Which one are you?  

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:7) - The LORD is Good

The Lord is good,
    a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.

When a parent disciplines a child, the form of punishment is not what causes the deepest pain in the recipient. Rather, it is the knowledge that your parent is the one executing the discipline. The person to whom you are the closest, who loves you the most of anyone on the earth, is punishing you. At such a moment, you may believe your mother or father is the most wicked person who has ever lived. But, after the discipline has been given, you see the big picture. You remember the true nature of your parent, the depths of their love for you, the desire of wanting the best for you. Furthermore, you understand the discipline you just received is to help you understand a bad choice you have made, and, hopefully, to divert you from making similar mistakes in the future.

Nahum has emphasized the approaching judgment coming upon Nineveh by the God who granted their ancestors a reprieve. It would be quite easy to assume that our God is a vindictive, harsh judge who cares little for those under His rule. But Nahum now assures his readers that is not the case. For Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, is “good”.

His discipline is for correction and prevention. His punishment is satisfaction for His justice. Our God, by nature, is a “good” God, not wicked. He is not vindictive, only just.

Furthermore, God is a “stronghold in the day of trouble”. “Stronghold” refers to a fortress. When I hear that word, my thoughts run to the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”. In God, we find security. In God is our hope. The “day of trouble” may be any day or every day. Nevertheless, our God is good and there is safety in Him for those who flee to Him.

“He knows those who take refuge in Him”. He KNOWS means not only He intellectually knows them, but that He also loves them and cares for them. And the ones whom He knows, loves, and cares for are those taking “refuge” in Him. Literally, it is those who are trusting in Him.

When Jonah proclaimed judgment upon Nineveh for their sin, the citizens of the trusted God and fled to His side. He protected them by not executing punishment at that time. But now their descendants find themselves once more engaged in sinful acts. Judgment is coming this time. There will be no reprieve. Punishment comes not because our God is evil but because He is good. The wicked will be destroyed. For those who trust in Him, He provides them safety and love.

Will you flee to God by trusting Christ for your salvation? If so, then you will discover God is good and a fortress for those who trust Him. If not, you will receive the punishment your sin deserves.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:6) - Who Can Stand?

Who can stand before his indignation?
    Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
    and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.

While playing baseball in my early high school days, there were times where it was apparent early in the game that this would not be our team’s day. The pitcher was on, throwing fast balls we couldn’t hit or breaking balls completing fooling us. At the same time, their offense was hitting our pitchers all over the field. Perhaps athletes should remain optimistic until the end of the game, but most of us were very realistic. The differences between our athletic ability and our opponents made it clear we would lose the game that day.

Far too many of us go through this life doing whatever we want to do, whatever we believe is right. Perhaps we sense a twinge of guilt over our actions; perhaps not. Those who do not believe there is a God have little worries. But, unfortunately, there are many who do believe in a God and, yet, believe that somehow they will escape His judgment. They will answer God’s charges cleverly, and they will avoid the punishment. Perhaps they think they can lie to God and escape. In some ways, when Judgment Day arrives, they will slip by the judge and into the heavenly kingdom. They are the athletes who are totally outclassed and outplayed  by their opponent.

I have no idea how many of those living in Nineveh during Nahum’s day still believed in the God proclaimed by Jonah. But, assuming there were some, I suspect a few believed they would get away with their sinful deeds. Besides, they weren’t nearly as bad as that neighbor of theirs. God would punish the neighbor but permit them to go free. They would find some way to escape this Sovereign opponent.

However, Nahum informs these deluded individuals that will not be the case and he does so with two rhetorical questions. “Who can stand before His indignation?” God’s fury rages over the sins of His creatures. No one escapes, no one gets by. Sin demands punishment and someone must pay. “Who can endure the heat of His anger?” And when that judgment is pronounced and punishment delivered, no one will remain standing. You in Nineveh: you will NOT escape God’s hand.

Neither will any sinner including those living in the twenty-first century. Do not fool yourself. You cannot outwit God and you cannot outplay God. If we sin, we will be judged. And when we are judged, God will “pour out” His wrath upon us as His punishment against our sin. There will be no escape. Those who are clever with their words will not fool this judge. When you stand before God, you will stand only long enough to hear your punishment. Sin must be punished; you will pay.

But there will be some to whom the judge will proclaim, “not guilty”. Their acquittal will not be the result of any clever trick or for living a perfect life. Their acquittal is the result of the work of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life and then died an obedient death, taking the punishment for His people. If you are one of God’s chosen ones, your punishment has already been endured for every sin you have (and will) commit! Praise the Lord!

But, are you one of God’s chosen ones? You can know. God’s Word calls upon you to turn from your sins (repent) and believe (trust) Christ alone for your salvation. The chosen of God will obey His saving call. Have you? Or will you suffer the wrath of God on that Judgment day?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:4-5)

He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
    he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
    the bloom of Lebanon withers.
The mountains quake before him;
    the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
    the world and all who dwell in it.

As I write this morning, our area has been inundated with several inches of rain over a short period of time. When such events occur, we encounter episodes of flash flooding. The news today played a video of a car being swept away by the rapidly rising waters. I’m sure if there was a driver in the car at the time, they felt helpless as their vehicle drifted away. Who can stop the water at such times?

Also last week, a report was produced stating the danger of a volcanic eruption within Yellowstone Park. If this were to occur, the report indicates the damage would not be isolated to the park. Rather, the entire world would suffer the consequences of such an explosion. Who can stop the volcanoes of the world from spewing the molten rock beneath them into the atmosphere?

The prophet Nahum has made it clear that Nineveh will be judged. God has said it and that judgment is coming. The guilt of that city must be paid, and it is God who will exact the payment. Furthermore, the Sovereign Judge is fully capable of executing such judgment. In these two verses, Nahum continues his illustration of God’s power to do exactly what He says He will do.

No one on the earth can halt the seas and the rivers from their course. But God can. The flowers bloom as He commands and permits. Mountains quake (volcanoes and earthquakes) and even collapse under the pressure of His little finger. The entire world and everyone on it are shaken by His judgment.

Nineveh must understand that there is no mistake. God will judge and God has the power to punish. Nothing and no one can alter that destiny.

You and I are like those in Nineveh. God will judge our sin, that is certain. He has the power (and right) to do so, and nothing we do can alter that destiny. Sin must be paid. And, apart from a substitutionary sacrifice, that payment will be made by us: an eternal punishment for our sin committed against an eternal God.

Praise our Heavenly Father for providing us with such a substitute, namely, Jesus Christ. May each of us repent of our sin and trust Him for our deliverance!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:3b)

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
    and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

In my younger days, I did make a few enemies, especially during my early college days. A few of those enemies would, on occasion, threaten me with remarks such as, “You’re going to get yours” and “I’ll beat the ???? out of you!” Being over six-feet tall and weighing in much more than two hundred pounds made for a good defense. If the enemy making such a threat was a shorter or lighter individual, I would laugh off his warning. But, if that enemy possessed larger dimensions than me, well, I took their words much more to heart!

Nineveh will be destroyed. God has proclaimed its downfall. And Nahum has assured the residents of that city that God will not merely dismiss the charges against them. In other words, Yahweh has threatened Nineveh with serious judgment and punishment. Should such a threat be taken seriously? The prophet of God says yes!

When God is our enemy, we cannot look at His dimensions and decide whether to fear His warning or to dismiss it for our God can not be described by dimensions. Nahum proceeds to provide several illustrations to demonstrate the character of God and to emphasize the seriousness of his warning.

First, “His way is in whirlwind and storm”. Make no mistake, citizens of Nineveh! Yahweh controls the elements of the world. He uses them to accomplish His purposes and sometimes that purpose includes judgment. Mother Nature does not exist. It is the Sovereign Creator exercising His domain over His creation. Make no mistake: Yahweh has the power and the control to bring the judgment He has declared.

Second, “the clouds are the dust of his feet”. When we move from one place to another on dusty ground, we stir up the dust where we move. When Yahweh acts, the clouds are the dust! Certainly, this image speaks of His transcendence. He is above, apart from His creation. What could stay His hand when He chooses to move? Also, God does not move in one place. He moves through the dust of the clouds, in other words, throughout the entire world. He is working everywhere. Nineveh, you cannot hide from Him. Nineveh, you cannot prevent Him from executing His discipline.
Nor can we. We are sinners, under God’s condemnation, awaiting His judgment and punishment. God controls the elements of the world and may use them in pouring out His wrath. God has the power to send our soul to an eternal Hell. And God will judge the entire earth; none will escape.

Our God is the Creator. He has all power not only over the elements but also over us. He has promised judgment and is fully capable to carry out that judgment. Let us cry out to Him for forgiveness, turning from our sins, and trusting Jesus for the salvation we so desperately need.

Woe is he who is God’s enemy!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:3a)

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
    and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

As a young child who has done something wrong, you realize your father has enough power to punish you with some serious discipline. However, you hope he takes his time in exacting judgment and, in doing so, might just forget about your offense altogether! Unfortunately, that is usually not the case. Father responds quickly and judgment is delivered with appropriate force.

To Nineveh, Nahum has predicted the coming wrath of the Almighty against them. Between the time of his prophecy until the great city fell to the Babylonians, over thirty years would pass. I suspect many of those living in the city believed they had escaped the judgment. Nahum must have been a false prophet. Nineveh continued to exist, and the Assyrians continued to dominate the area.

But Yahweh had not forgotten the judgment due. He “by no means clear the guilty”. All offenses must be paid by someone. And so, Nineveh was destroyed.

When the judgment fell, it came with great power. Virtually overnight, Assyria tumbled from the dominant power of the Middle East to nothing. Over the next three verses, Nahum will illustrate the power of the omnipotent God.

Thankfully, our God is also a patient God, one who is “long in the nose”. The guilty will be punished, that’s a certainty. But God will deliver that punishment in His way and in His time. For Nineveh, he waited thirty years. Yet, His judgment did fall upon the city.

God’s judgment will fall upon you as well. For now, you may feel invincible living in your rebellion against God. Nothing bad is happening to you. Perhaps God has forgotten your sin or maybe He doesn’t even know you’re a sinner. You get the idea that you have, in your superiority, fooled God and gotten away with your wicked acts. Be warned, sinner! You have not escaped the eye of the Almighty. He is fully aware of your sinful nature, your sinful ways, and your sinful deeds. Nothing you think, do, or say escapes His eye. You will not be forgotten, and your sin will not be acquitted. SOMEONE must make restitution for that sin. One day, your end WILL come, and you WILL stand before God, and you WILL give an account for each sinful act. Then God, in His omnipotent power, WILL bring His judgment. You WILL pay for your sin.

Unless, of course, you permit someone else to provide that redemption. This someone must be a human. This someone must be a human who has never, ever rebelled or sinned against our God. And there is only ONE someone who meats such a criterion: Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a sinless life and died on the cross for sinners. His life and death accomplished redemption for the sinner. He bears the punishment for the sinner’s sins. He takes the guilt for the sinner and God clears the guilty by punishing His Son in the sinner’s stead.

You ask, “When Jesus died on the cross, did He die for MY sins? Has God punished Him in my stead? How can I know?” Well, have you cried out to Jesus for that provision? Have you repented of your sins? Are you trusting Christ and Christ alone for the salvation of your soul?

God will not clear the guilty. He will punish in His power. Either Christ takes that punishment for you or you must bear it alone. Turn from your sins and turn to Christ today. Now is the day of salvation!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Nahum: A Prophet of Doom (Nahum 1:2)

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
    the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
    and keeps wrath for his enemies.

If his readers were expecting the prophet to begin his message with some modern-day teaching on the love of God, they would have been greatly disappointed. Too often in our society, we think of God only in terms of His love or His grace. There is much more to God than those two attributes.

As a husband, I am jealous for my wife. I want to be her one and only. I do not want her desiring other men, only me. I want her to obey my words, not the words of others. God’s jealousy is much like that. He desires we worship Him and Him alone. He calls on His to obey His voice, not the voice of the world, flesh, or devil. He is righteous and His commands are righteous. He is a jealous God, jealous for people to exalt and follow only Him.

To those who discard God and follow the ways of the world, God is not pleased. The citizens of Nineveh have displayed their unrighteousness by flaunting the Word of God given to them by Jonah and afflicting His people, Judah. Nahum proclaims the jealous God will avenge. Such individuals will not go unpunished for Yahweh is also an avenging God, demanding justice for His enemies. That justice will come by His wrath, His righteous anger reserved for those who live in unrighteousness.

God’s wrath is not an attribute of our great Sovereign we enjoy discussing. Love is much more appealing. But God’s love of Himself and His holy character must be expressed by His wrath against those who do not love Him or heed Him. John 3:36 tells us that each of us, born in sin, are under God’s wrath while we do not surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. His wrath presently abides upon us. We are but one breath, one heartbeat from experiencing that infinite wrath!

We live in a world where evil abounds and where justice appears thwarted. Why do the evil flourish? Why do they get away with their wickedness? Why doesn’t God do something? Make no mistake, Nahum says. Yahweh takes vengeance on His enemies. He guards or keeps His wrath reserved for them.

Judgment is coming, Nineveh! You have turned from God. You have ignored His Word. You have trespassed His law. You have rejected your Creator. God is a jealous God, an avenging God. Your unrighteousness must be punished. His wrath is coming!

But the same must be said to each of us born of woman. Our natures are corrupted by sin and we are conceived under condemnation resulting from Adam’s sin. His wrath is upon us, being kept there until the hour He chooses to exact vengeance upon us.

Oh, sinner, turn to Christ while you may! Now is the time while God’s hand is stayed! Repent of your sins and trust Jesus for your salvation. He has fulfilled the righteous demands of God. Only He provides our redemption from and our propitiation for our sin. Salvation is found in Him alone!