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Daily Bible thoughts 804: Monday 2nd February 2015: Nahum 3

Nahum 3 (click here for todays passage)

‘’ ‘’I am against you,’’ declares the LORD Almighty.’’ (5a)

‘’What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?’’ (Romans 8:31).

We can know God as our enemy, as this chapter (and book in general) shows. Or we can have Him as our Friend. It is a terrible thing to have God be ‘’against’’ you; but it is wonderful to know that He is ‘’for’’ you. God is always ‘for’ Jesus, His perfect Son, and He is ‘for’ all who are in Jesus by trust in Him (See Nahum 1:7, 8).

The vivid picture of the judgment of Nineveh continues (1-4). You can hear the noise of the battle as well as see it. It is a portrait of shame and disgrace as well as one of death (5-7). The punishment described in (5) was a common one for prostitutes and adulteresses in Bible times. Such women were publicly put to shame. Did the Ninevites (Assyrians) have any true friends anywhere in the world? If they did, they were ‘conspicuous by their absence’. There was no queue to comfort this once brutal, now fallen, people (7). The Assyrians were among the cruellest people of their time and there was applause all round when they went down (19). They didn’t just spill copious amounts of blood, but also tortured people before killing them. Pride is a perennial problem of the human condition. The people of Nineveh were full of it. They thought they were standing, but they were going to have a great fall. They were not better than ‘’Thebes’’, another great city swept away in a tide of divine judgment (8-11). They had not learned the lesson of this disaster. Thebes was the chief city of Upper (southern) Egypt. For centuries it was one of the leading cities of the Middle East. But it was eventually captured and came to ruin. Its magnificent ruins can still be seen today. The Babylonians were going to find a vulnerable, wide-open people (12, 13), ‘’ripe’’ for the picking. Work as they might (14-17) the Assyrians will not be able to protect themselves. Their ‘’merchants’’ and ‘’guards’’ will let them down, making off with whatever they can take. When the time for judgment comes there is no adequate defence that can be constructed. You can’t keep God out! Here was a nation that was past the point of no return. It was too late for healing (18, 19). Her condition was terminal, and everyone standing round the ‘bedside’ was uproariously happy.

‘’When the story of your fate gets out, the whole world will applaud and cry ‘’Encore!’’ Your cruel evil has seeped into every nook and cranny of the world. Everyone has felt it and suffered.’’ The Message. When you watch the news this week, you may well hear disturbing things; alarming things – similar to the atrocities carried out by the Assyrians. I’m sure you don’t need me to make the connections between Nahum’s world and ours. The message remains the same. God will have the final say.

‘’Nahum’s message to Nineveh has been proven true by history: evil will be punished. But Nahum’s message to Judah (and to us) has also been proven true: The LORD is …a refuge in times of trouble (Nahum 1:7). The book of Nahum is thus a book of judgment and of comfort – judgment for the wicked and comfort for the righteous. For us, may Nahum be a prophet of comfort.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1275.

Prayer: ‘’Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.’’

Daily Bible thoughts 803: Friday 30th January 2015: Nahum 2

Nahum 2
A few years ago the B.B.C. ran a fascinating series on the restoration of old buildings. In each programme several were introduced to the viewers, and people got to vote on which one they most wanted to see renewed. This led to some remarkable transformations. I confess I never realised that restoration could be such a wonderfully riveting subject.
God is in the restoration business! ‘’The LORD will restore the splendour of Jacob, like the splendour of Israel, though destroyers have laid them waste and have ruined their vines.’’ (2).
In chapters 2 and 3 of ‘Nahum’, the judgment announced in the first chapter is described in graphic detail. For example, look at verse 6. Historians have confirmed that Nineveh’s wall was breached by the force of backed-up canal water. In these chapters we see the Babylonians overthrowing the city of Nineveh. We are left asking, ‘’So, what happened to the famous and fierce Assyrian lion And all those cute Assyrian cubs? To the lion and lioness Cozy with their cubs, fierce and fearless? To the lion who always returned from the hunt with fresh kills for lioness and cubs, The lion lair heaped with bloody meat, blood and bones for the royal lion feast? ‘’ The Message. The lion, and his den were overthrown. Nineveh was totally silenced; completely destroyed. In fact its ruins lay undiscovered for more than two thousand years. They lay buried in sand, but were finally discovered in 1845. God’s Word, through Nahum, came to pass. And God launched this attack on the Assyrians in order to restore the ‘’splendour’’ of Israel (both northern and southern kingdoms). The Assyrians had destroyed Israel’s glory. ‘’Israel’s lived through hard times. He’s been to hell and back.’’ The Message. God was now going to destroy Assyria.
It is good to know that the Lord is able to restore people:
• He is able to restore broken-down lives. The image of God in people is now defaced because sin, but God restores the glory of that image in those who turn to Christ (Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:9, 10). He can so change people that we no longer see the waste and ruination of sin, but simply the shining light of His own reflection;
• He is able to restore prodigals to the Father. It may be that there is someone reading these words, and you know that you are not where you once were spiritually. You are in the ‘far country’ and you are eating pig food. But such a welcome awaits you back ‘home’ at the Father’s table. He will throw a party for you if only you will turn back to Him. He longs to see you on the horizon, and He will run to welcome you;
• He is able to restore Christians and churches to their first love (Revelation 2:4, 5). It will entail repentance; a painful recognition of where we now are compared to where we once were; and a deliberate turning back. But don’t doubt that the Lord can restore you;
• He is able to restore good times to those who have been through bad times. In fact, they often find themselves in even better times than they ever knew. This is the sheer goodness of God. He regularly saves the best wine for later.
God’s purpose in restoration is that we should shine as lights in this dark world. He clothes us with His beauty for His glory (Isaiah 60:21).
Prayer: Thank you for going to work on this old wreck of a life. May everything you do in me bring all honour to you.

Daily Bible thoughts 802: Nahum 1:9-15

Nahum 1: 9-15 click here for passage
‘’Whatever they plot against the Lord he will bring to an end.’’ (9).
These words have relevance for us. We are seeing an explosion of wickedness in the world, with the blood almost daily splattering onto the TV screens of our lives. It’s certainly not true regarding all of it, but it is a fact about much of it, that it is anti-Christian in nature. So here is ‘’good news’’ for us, just as there was for Judah in Isaiah’s day, when the southern kingdom was on the verge of extinction (15); compare with Isaiah’s similar announcement about deliverance from Babylon (Isaiah 52:7). Here are some reasons to take heart:
• All evil is ‘on a metre’. The clock is ticking. It will eventually run out of ‘sand’. There will be ‘’an end’’ to it. Evil people also (for they are the ones causing it) are on borrowed time. Of course, we are all ‘’evil’’ in the sense that we have a sinful nature (L uke 11:13), but we are thinking especially here of the evil of plotting against God and His people; that violent (and futile) commitment to His and their destruction.
• Evil people will bring evil on themselves (10). As we sow, so shall we reap. Wickedness has a ‘boomerang’-like quality, and it often seems bigger on its return journey!
• God is not scared of any of the frightening people who terrify us. He is not afraid of their plots ‘’against’’ Him. They pose Him no threat at all. He knows that He will deal with them, how He will deal with them, and when. When the time is ripe for judgment, no human help will avail those the Lord moves against (12). Big numbers on the enemy’s side won’t bother God. He has bigger boots! ‘’In Nahum’s time, Assyria was the greatest power on earth; that It could be destroyed so quickly was beyond anyone’s belief. But Nahum, inspired by God, did believe it; and his little book shows us once again that godless and wicked nations cannot last…In 612 B.C., about twenty years after Nahum spoke these words, an invading army of Babylonians and their allies attacked Nineveh and destroyed it…Assyria had dominated the known world for four hundred years. The northern kingdom of Israel had been swallowed up; the southern kingdom (Judah) was on the verge of collapse…Nahum teaches us that the final word of history will come from God…’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, pp.1272-1274. ‘’And GOD has something to say about all this: ‘’Even though you’re on top of the world, With all the applause and all the votes, you’ll be mowed down flat.’’ ‘’The Message.
• There are plots that get past the watching eyes of the best security networks, but not so with the Lord. That’s one good reason to trust Him (7).
• The cross is the ultimate demonstration of this principle enunciated in (9). Terrible plots have been launched, (and are still getting off the launch pad) ‘’against the Lord’’. But Calvary was the worst to an immeasurable degree. Yet God brought it all to an end swiftly and turned it into a glorious resurrection and ascension. As someone said, when you move against the Lord, it’s like playing chess against a Grand Master. Even your moves against Him He will use to defeat you! No wonder ‘’The One enthroned in heaven laughs…’’ Psalm 2:4a.
Prayer: Thank you Lord. I take heart from this. Help me to view the news through this Biblical ‘lens’.

Daily Bible thoughts 801: Wednesday 28th January 2015: Nahum 1:1-8

Nahum 1:1-8 (click on Nahum for passage)

‘’The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away.’’ (5a)

Here are firm, steadfast things; things that endure, that remain: ‘’…mountains…and…hills…’’. Later this year, God-willing, Jilly and I will be travelling to Saas Fee in the ‘Valais’ region of Switzerland, and then we hope to move on to Wilderswil in the ‘Bernese Oberland.’ It is some twenty six years since I was last there, but I don’t expect much to have changed; at least not in the physical features of the landscape. The towns and places nestling at the foot of these ‘mountains’ and ‘hills’ will have altered somewhat, but I expect the mighty peaks to look the same. So we can say that things that don’t change, or don’t change quickly or perceptibly, can change by God’s presence and power. He is ‘’great in power’’ (3a). God can deal radically with our longstanding problems and immoveable difficulties.

There are things in life that we can’t change. There are big things we can’t alter. They are much bigger than us and tower over us, leaving us in their dark shadows. ‘Mountains’ may represent the larger difficulties, but ‘hills’ can still be sizeable. It’s an awesome sight to be in Grindelwald and look up to see the snow-capped ‘Eiger’, ‘Monch’ and ‘Jungfrau’. They cause you to feel dwarfed. But I can also feel little when I’m driving down the road from Skipton to Kendal, and I see Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent to my right. But God can deal with these big realities that are too big for us. The words ‘’quake’’ and ‘’melt’’ speak of powerful action. (Look also at the language used in verses 4, 5b, 6b and 8). God can do what we can’t. He is able.

But although it is consistent with the teaching of Jesus that mountainous obstacles can be moved in response to faith (Mark 11:22-25), and I feel it right to emphasize this truth, we must not miss the main point that the passage is about God’s judgment on Nineveh. Great cities, empires, power structures in this world will not last forever. In due course all that opposes God will be defeated. The only way of escape is to take ‘’refuge’’ in Jesus (7).

GOD is serious business. He won’t be trifled with…He’s powerful, but it’s a patient power. Still, no one gets by with anything. Sooner or later, everyone pays.’’ The Message. God’s patience should not be confused with indulgence (3).

‘’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 centre of the stage – not, in fact, anywhere near the centre…At any given moment a few superpower nations and their rulers dominate the daily news. Every century a few of these names are left carved on its park benches, marking rather futile, and in retrospect pitiable, attempts at immortality. The danger is that the noise of these pretenders to power will distract us from what is going on quietly at the centre of the stage in the person and action of God. God’s characteristic way of working is in quietness and through prayer.’’ Eugene Peterson: Introduction to ‘Nahum’ in ‘The Message’, p.1684. In Nahum’s day, Assyria, with its capital Nineveh, seemed invincible. A world free from Assyrian terror was unimaginable. But Nahum was sent to announce that such a thing would come about. It did!

Prayer: Lord God, I thank you that you do have the ‘whole world’ in your hands. There isn’t a mountain or hill that you can’t move.

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