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.