2019-09-13 - Two Tales of a City
Originally published on 2013-09-27
A few years ago, a student asked me why we never studied some books of The Bible. His question convicted me, and I asked him to pick one he never heard. It was Haggai, so that week, I prayed over that small book. The next week, I preached on Haggai. That message began our group on a journey of identity, which landed us with the name PYRO and everything that name entails.
This week, I got to thinking about that question again. If the entire Bible is there for our benefit, why don’t we preach on all of it? Am I guilty of saying one thing and doing something else? Do I shy away from passages and not preach the whole word? So I picked another minor prophet and read it. I selected Obadiah, but as I studied it, I realized that I had covered that one just a year or so ago, as well, so I went looking for another that I had not yet covered. And that is where Nahum entered the picture.
I searched a website I often use to see what others have preached on a passage, and while for John 1:1 I got 534 hits, I got only one tenth of that for the entire book of Nahum.
The tale of Nahum is really a tale of Nineveh. This is the same Nineveh that, one hundred fifty years earlier, had been called to repentance by the less-than-willing Jonah. Nahum is a not a story of repentance, but a book of judgment. Evidently, as the years became decades, and those became centuries, the Ninevites turned away and became wicked, once more. As such, the book it is mostly doom and gloom, with a few positive nuggets scattered in it like Nahum 1:7
Nahum 1:7 (NASB) - The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him. We see three things about God here. We see God's personality. He is good. We also know God's power. He is a stronghold in times of trouble. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day. We can also see God's perceptiveness. He knows who take refuge in him, those who trust him. But just as he knows who is with him, he knows who is against him.
Nahum 1:8,12 (NASB) 8 But with an overflowing flood
Verse eight reveals God's pursuit, as he chases his enemies into the darkness. Verse 12 shows the fearful side of God's power. Yes, he can protect those who trust in him as a stronghold, but here, his power goes against others that are at full strength - and they are cut off and pass away. God will safely keep what we give him, or will destroy what we try to keep for ourselves. In Jonah’s time period, the citizens of Nineveh gave themselves to God, and they were spared. In Nahum’s period, they decided to serve themselves and were destroyed. God is not just a little bit against sin. He is big-time against sin, and yes against the sinners. Look at what he, himself, says in Nahum's prophetic tale.
Nahum 2:13 (NASB) – "Behold, I am against you," declares the Lord of hosts. "I will burn up her chariots in smoke, a sword will devour your young lions; I will cut off your prey from the land, and no longer will the voice of your messengers be heard.”BEHOLD, I AM AGAINST YOU! Wow! God is against people! I thought God loved everybody and wants everyone to come to Heaven, and live with him in the land of unicorns and flowers. What is up with this? Maybe Nahum misunderstood God, and he was against their actions - but surely the God of love wouldn't be against people. I wouldn't be so sure. Check out the Psalms.
Psalm 5:5-6 (NASB)
Did we just read those verses right? Read them again. In fact, go look them up in your own Bible, just to spot-check me. God is supposed to hate sin, but love the sinner. But these passages say he hates doers of iniquity, not just the iniquities they do. He abhors deceitful, murderous people. Jesus said if we hate people, we murder them in our hearts, so that includes most of us. He hates not just violence, but the people who love violence. Yeah, it seems God is pretty decisive, and not all unicorns and roses after all. You see, God takes sin seriously.
Jonah showed God's mercy and grace toward sinners, if they will repent. Nahum 1:3 tells us God is patient. The New Testament echoes this:
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NASB)God is patiently slow, not willing that any perish, but at some point, judgment comes. And when it does, it comes without mercy. Nahum shows us God's justice and wrath.
When we turn away from God and reject authority and accountability, we in effect become our own gods. What is God’s response to this lawlessness? He becomes against us. We choose to live somewhere before either Jonah or Nahum. We can see God's providence in providing the ultimate sacrifice for us, or we can see God's punishments in eternal separation from him.
Which tale are you in? That is my question for you. The Ninevites of Jonah’s day were sinners, just as those in Nahum’s day were. In fact, we are all sinners. Romans 3:23 says we have all sinned. There is no doubt that we live in a city of sin, and that we are in fact sinners. We know the city; it's just a matter of which tale we are in. Romans 6:23 says we all face the penalty of death. But, and this is a great big and magnificent but, but Jesus made a way.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NASB) If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10 NASB)
Until next time …
All scripture references from KJV unless otherwise noted