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Nahun

June 24th, 2012 by Vic

Nahum

June 24, 2012

“God is good. God is God”

 

The first words of satan in the garden suggested that God is not good.  “Has God said…?  He must have ulterior motives, and He is not all powerful.”  Satan is the father of lies.  This past week God has been showing you that He is all powerful and He is good to those who trust Him.  Do you remember seeing those events?  Has your life been too noisy to hear God?  Have your eyes been too dirty to see God?

 

This week I found 45 sermons on Nahum, but I only found 2 that looked at the book as a whole.  Most writers focused on 1:7 that says God is good.  Nancy suggested I read Eugene Peterson’s introduction to Nahum in the “Message”.  Listen to what he writes.

 

“The stage of history is large.  Larger-than-life figures appear on this stage from time to time, swaggering about, brandishing weapons and money, terrorizing and bullying.  These figures are not, as they suppose themselves to be, at the center of the stage—not, in fact, anywhere near the center.  But they make a lot of noise and are able to call attention to themselves.  They often manage to get a significant number of people watching and even admiring: big nation, huge armies, important people.  At any given moment a few superpower nations and their rulers dominate the daily news…

 

The danger is that the noise of these pretenders to power will distract us from what is going on quietly at the center of the stage in the person and action of God…

From time to time, God assigns someone to pay attention to one or another of these persons or nations or movements just long enough to get the rest of us to quit paying so much attention to them and get back to the main action: God!  Nahum drew that assignment in the seventh century b.c.  Assyria had the whole world terrorized…  A world free of Assyrian domination was unimaginable…  The effect of Nahum is not to foment religious hate against the enemy but to say, ‘Don’t admire or be intimidated by this enemy.  They are going to be judged by the very same standards applied to us.’” (Peterson, “The Message”)

 

Nahum reminds us that life is about God and not us.  There is a quiet power ruling in this world like the power of a seed coming up through dry hard ground.  Nahum writes a message of doom to Nineveh.  100 years earlier Jonah told the people of Nineveh they had 40 days to repent or God was going to destroy the city.  The people repented.  God relented and then in 722 b.c. God used Assyria to punish the Jews in Israel.

 

But now about 100 years later Nahum delivers a message of judgment to Nineveh because the people forgot God and had lapsed into their old ways.  They did not take Nahum seriously.  At this time in history they were ruling the whole known world.  They didn’t need God.  They were in control.  They did not repent.  They were destroyed in 612 b.c.

 

The ruins of Nineveh are across the river from Mosel in Iraq.  The tall wall that surrounded the city was 100’ high and 50’ wide at the top.  It was 60 miles long with 1500 towers that were 200’ tall.  There was also a smaller double wall in some places.  This is like having a wall from here to Donald to Tigard to Oregon City to Liberal.  There were aqueducts and vegetable gardens within the city.  They had collected the wealth of all nations.  I imagine it was like the cities the Arabs are building with our oil money.  They were rich and famous.  But they failed to honor God and give thanks.

 

It seems that all our news is focused on the noisy people involved in finances, elections and wars.  There is not much said about God, at least not the God we serve.  Nahum says God is all powerful and good to those who trust Him.

 

1:1-7

Nahum received a revelation from God (1).  God ‘reserves wrath’.  The consequences of our sin are not always immediate like the consequences of jumping off a bridge.  It may appear that you are prospering and that God is OK with what you are doing (2), but He hates sin.  Judgment is coming.  The Lord is slow to anger.  He does not act on impulse.  He is not powerless.  Like a horse and chariot stir up the dust, God can stir up the clouds when He moves (3).  He is all powerful over nature.  In one night, one of His angels killed 185,000 Assyrians who were attacking Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35).  He controls the waters flowing through your city (4).  He controls the dirt under your feet (5).

 

Who can stand against such a powerful God?  We have recently seen the futility of trying to stop a wild fire in Colorado.  God’s wrath against sin is like a raging fire pushed by a high wind.  It is so hot it splits rocks (6).  It is burning up dead trees, the effects of disease.  Good healthy trees also are burned.

 

This Almighty, all powerful God who controls all nature is good!  Judgment is coming because God is good (7).  The righteous are defended because God is good.  The nation will be destroyed because God is good.  Satan told Eve that God was not good because He would not let them eat from the tree.  God knows what is good for us when we don’t know.  Jesus promised that Christians who follow in His steps will suffer.  Paul reminds us God works all things together for good (Rom 8:28).  David said God is good to those with a pure heart (Ps 73:1; 145:9).

 

God is a stronghold in the day of trouble.  He is better than a fortress.  He is a stronghold.  We are safe if we stay in the stronghold.  In a fortress you fight.  In a stronghold you rest.  Don’t open the door to strangers.  Be careful what you listen to or look at.  (Ps 61:4; 62:6-7)  Our stronghold is in God.  When the NT talks of living in faith or in Christ Jesus, the preposition means ‘in the sphere of’.  We can live in a stronghold.

 

God knows and cares for those who trust in Him.  The word ‘know’ is the word for a relationship kind of knowing.  The God who has power to punish also provides protection for those who trust Him.  He knows what is good for us.

 

1:8-15

God is a sweeping flood.  The destruction of Nineveh is described.  The destruction is certain and will be final.  The Medes and Babylonians surrounded the city for 3 years, but could not breach the walls.  God sent a storm.  The armies did not fight during a storm so King Esarhaddon II planned a drunken orgy in the temple of his god.  The rains kept coming.  A flash flood began to eat away at some of the walls (8).  There was an ancient oracle that said the city would never be taken until the river became its enemy.  The king heard what was happening, remembered the oracle, and locked himself and his nobles in the temple of his god and set it on fire.  They were burned alive before day break.  (It is interesting that when Babylon was defeated 100 years later, the Persians entered that city on a dry river bed while the king was having a drinking party.)

 

Nineveh will not have to be destroyed a second time (9).  All that was left of these self-proclaimed powerful leaders was ashes (10).  In one night Assyria was changed from a powerful empire to powerless rubble.  The wicked counselors will perish (11).  For more than 100 years Judah had paid tribute to Assyria.  Nahum announces that the Jews will be free from that obligation when God destroys Assyria (13).

 

God says the king will have no more descendants.  Ishtar, the goddess of war, will be destroyed and God will have to bury the king because no one else will (14).  It was an unmarked grave!  To those with ears to hear and eyes to see, this has already happened.  The fulfillment of God’s word is inevitable.  Judah is free to celebrate now.  We are free to celebrate now.  Jesus is on the throne.  The enemy is defeated.  Justice will be served.

 

2:1-13

The defeat of Nineveh is described.  Nineveh is helpless in spite of her great reputation and wealth.  God will avenge the wrongs done to Judah.  The people of Nineveh are terrified.  They are running for their lives (6).  All efforts to save the city are in vain.

 

Red was the color of the shields of the invading army.  Nahum sees the conquerors in the city (9) about 20 years before the actual time they came.  There was wealth of every kind including magnificent furniture.  There are 3 similar sounding words in verse 10, each with and additional syllable.  They could be translated as desolation, devastation, destruction or empty, ransacked, wasted.

 

The lion was the national symbol of Assyria.  All nations were afraid of them.  Rabshakeh had taunted Hezekiah in Jerusalem (Is 36:4-20) when Sennacherib was attacking the city.  Where is this lion now?  Where are your messengers now?

 

3:1-19

The defeat of Nineveh is due to her sins (1-4).  Immorality, violence, and lies are everywhere.

 

The Lord will uncover her shame and show the world how weak she is (5-7).  They flaunted their promiscuity, witchcraft, and drugs.

 

Nineveh is no better than Thebes (8-11).  The greatness and fall of Thebes was legendary in Nahum’s time.  The ruins of Thebes are still recognizable today.  Nineveh was flattened.  The ruins were not recognized till recently.  You are naïve and stupid to think God will treat you differently than other religious pretenders, politicians or the Portlanders.

 

Her strength and wealth will not save her (12-18).  Ripe figs drop with the slightest shaking.  With the sign of the flood, all the fortresses were abandoned.  Your troops are like women (13).  Your shopping malls will be destroyed too (16).  Trade agreements will be voided (16).  The merchants from India will no longer bring their goods.  You will have nothing to trade.  When the rains stop and the sun shines, the locusts will come out to devour what is left.  Your pastors and farmers have lost their work ethic (18).

 

Her end has come (19).  If you would repent, God would forgive you.  But you are too set in your ways to repent.  Your wound is incurable.  Nineveh is incurably sick.  A city 60 miles in circumference with 100’ high walls that were wide enough on top for 3 chariots to race around was to become rubble.

 

100 years earlier, God had used Assyria for His own purposes of judgment against the sins of Samaria and Israel.  Assyria became merciless and cruel.  God became unhappy with Assyria.  God does not excuse a guilty nation just because they had obeyed Him in the past.  The US was also a God-fearing nation 100 years ago.  If God does not punish the US for their sins, He will have to apologize to Sodom, Gomorrah, Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon.

 

When Nahum wrote, Nineveh was still great from man’s point of view.  The people felt very secure.  Nahum’s preaching did not affect them.  Only the Holy Spirit can convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment.  God wants our lives to demonstrate His holiness.  We can be as salt and light in a dark and dirty world.

 

What about our nation?  What about Portland?  Portland is becoming a Sodom and Gomorrah.  Can God be good if He does not punish sin?  God is good.  He is punishing sin and will punish sin.  We may have to suffer because of other people’s sin, but God is good to those who trust Him.  It is important for us to pray for our nation.  Maybe God will ask you to proclaim His message.  God hates sin.  God knows and cares for those who trust Him.  God is good.  God is just.  God is holy.

 

 

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