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!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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

1An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.

So begins the small prophecy known in our Bibles as “Nahum”. The book is one of the twelve prophecies making up what we call the Minor Prophets. This group is referred to as “minor” not because they are less important than other Scriptures but because they are smaller in size than prophecies such as Jeremiah.

“An oracle” is the Hebrew word “massa” and means “burden”. The entire book is a proclamation of the coming destruction on the city of Nineveh. For an Israelite such as Nahum, Nineveh’s destruction would be a blessing, not a burden. However, as anyone who has ever preached on judgment from the Word of God, such a message is a heavy load for the speaker to deliver. Such messages are a burden not only to the listener but also to the preacher. For this prophet of God, he has a very heavy message to share.

Furthermore, this message revolves around the city of Nineveh. Nineveh is the capital of the Assyrian empire, the dominant power in the Middle East. About one-hundred years earlier, God sent a prophet from the Northern Kingdom by the name of Jonah to this same city. Reluctantly, Jonah proclaimed the demise of Nineveh only to see the Ninevites repent of their sin. God stayed His hand of judgment at that time much to Jonah’s dismay.

But Assyria return to their wicked ways. Fifty years after Jonah, Assyria defeated the Northern Kingdom of Israel, taking captives and dispersing them throughout their kingdom. Assyria acted wickedly to those living in Judah and grew in power and evil. God had not forgotten His people. Nineveh had been warned once and heeded that warning. But they returned to their wicked ways and there were no more warnings coming from the Lord. Judgment, not mercy, awaited those in the city.

Nahum indicates he received these words in a divine vision. This was not some ecstatic, wild nightmare type of vision. Rather, it was a clear and reasonable word given by God to this chosen servant. The prophet, whose name means “consoler” or “comforter”, would prove to be a comfort not to Nineveh but to Judah. The long Assyrian oppression against the Southern Kingdom was about to end.

The prophet Nahum is a man like us. He is from Elkosh, an unknown village in the Middle East, likely a small village. If God uses obscure people from obscure places to proclaim His Word, He can use us to do the same!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Well, What Do You Know and How Do You Do!

A major league batter hits a hard ground ball down the third base line. The third baseman, in desperation to prevent an extra base hit, sticks out his glove and, to his amazement, the ball comes to rest in it. Quickly, he stands up and throws the runner out at first. The crowd leaps to their feet and applauds his great effort.

I read that one infielder (I believe it was Don Hoak) referred to such a play as the "well, what do you know and how do you do" play. The ball is a certain hit and the third baseman is the most surprised person on the diamond to find that ball stuck in his glove ("well, what do you know"). Realizing he has an opportunity to change the outcome of the play from a hit to an out ("and how do you do"), he throws the ball to first. What was a sure thing only moments earlier (a hit) has now been radically changed (an out).

Ephesians 2 has a similar "well, what do you know and how do you do" play. Paul begins the chapter reminding his readers (and us) who we are. He writes:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

What a horrific picture of who we really are! Spiritually dead creatures, forever following the world, the Devil, and our flesh, doing what WE wanted to do, doing what WE thought was right. In a nutshell, we are children of wrath, we are guilty before our Almighty Creator, doomed for eternal damnation. Our path is clear. Instead of a ball shooting its way into left field, we are souls shooting our way into Hell. That's our certain destination.

Then comes God's "well, what do you know and how do you do" play. Oh, He knows what He's doing. He knows the end from the beginning. However, for those of us whose destiny is leading us to eternal destruction, God comes out of nowhere to make a radical, life-changing play.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

That simple conjunction "but" is the surprising play of the infielder. No one expected it. Nothing and no one, not even ourselves, could prevent us from entering Hell. But God could. God, not with a glove but with His mercy and His grace, reached out in Jesus Christ and changed our course. Instead of rolling into Hell, He saved us and raised us up and seated us with Christ! Our change of course in life is His doing, not ours. What was a sure eternal home in Hell has been exchanged for a sure eternal home in Heaven.

Has God made such a play in your life? Have you repented of your sin and trusted Jesus for the keeping of your soul? Has the Spirit regenerated your soul, restoring its spiritual life? God and God alone can prevent you from rolling into the Devil's outfield. Trust Him.

For those of us who are trusting Christ, just like the crowd stands and applauds the third baseman for such a play, let us stand and applaud our Heavenly Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for showing us the "immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness".