Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Old Testament Book of Nahum

Chapter 2

Judah was oppressed by the Assyrians whose capitol was Nineveh.  God promised in chapter 1 that His people would be set free.  In chapter 2, considered to be the second oracle of Nahum, the destruction of Nineveh is further detailed.

Again, I urge you to open your Bible and read the scriptures for yourself.  Pray for guidance in His word and let the Holy Spirit lead you.

Verse 1:

If we look at the first verse, the people of Judah are being instructed on how to handle the situation.  He told Judah to be prepared mentally and physically for the events that were going to unfold before their very eyes.  Being oppressed by Nineveh meant that some of the people were going to see the destruction first hand. Nahum communicated to the people that they should be on guard. (As we look through out the chapters of Nahum, we will also realize that this was a sort of taunt to the people of Ninevhe as well.  They would see these images and experience them however, they would not be able to guard themsleves.  The Assyrians could take the military stance of fortifying their walls, but they would fail.) They should be on the lookout for the Medo-Babylonian army.  Nahum told them to fortify meaning they should protect the center from the outer edges.  While the Lord was not sending the Babylonians to destroy Judah, they still needed to hold their position while the destruction of Nineveh took place.

For us today, we stand by while battles go on around us. Some of them are spiritual. Some of them are physical. Some of them are psychological.  We have the ability to follow the instructions in verse one by staying in the word of God, prayer, and obedience.  Judah had to trust the words of the Lord sent through Nahum and follow the instructions.  We have to trust the words of the Lord preserved in the Bible and follow His instructions.

The Lord does not leave His people unprepared.  He has given us a complete preserved copy of His word to study and seek guidance in. He gave Judah prophets to look to for guidance.  Unfortunately, the leaders (kings) often chose to follow the desires of the people and the changing times instead of sticking with the commandments of God.  If we look back at all the pre-monarchy leaders and the kings of Israel and Judah, we see that wherever the leader failed, the people failed as well.  If we are to follow the Lord our God as He has commanded, our leaders must follow as closely or even more closely than we do.  A mistake we make in today is looking at a leader as being an elected political official.  Leaders are parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, Sunday school teachers, older siblings, and the list could go on and on.  If there is someone younger or older than you who looks to you for advise or looks to you as an example, you are a leader. How you lead that person can either help root them firmly in God’s word or cause them to faulter.  This is exactly how God’s chosen repeatedly ended up in oppression.

Judah and Israel as a whole, did not suddenly wake up one day and say, “I’m going to mingle with the people of the land that I have been told to avoid.” Or “I’m going to go over there to that party where the people are worshipping a false god.”  No, it was gradual.  God’s chosen people would see that others were having a good time doing something. Much like Christians today, a mother or father would say, “Well, I don’t want my child to miss out on the fun. It will be okay to let little Percy go over there and hang out with those guys.  I am a good father and I will remind him that they are doing some things wrong.”  And maybe that worked for a little while. But, over time, more and more people did the same.  They began attending things they were supposed to avoid lying to themselves about the dangers.  God had told them they were to be set apart. He told them to keep themselves pure, not because God was mean but because He knows the heart of every man. As much as we like to think we won’t fall into sin because we are strong enough, we are not.  Eventually, generations of God’s chosen people forgot His statutes. They forgot why they were set apart. They began to worship idols.

Why are we talking about this? Because it is important to understand why God’s children were in this predicament to begin with.  They had become people who worship God in name only.  Maybe they went to the designated meeting place once in a while. They didn’t do it because they loved God. They did it because it was a tradition. Even traditions can become idols in our hearts.  They spent more time living worldly than they did living for God.  Unfortunately, that is where many Christians stand today.  We justify worldly choices by saying we don’t want our children to feel left out.  We justify worldly choices by saying we want to see and enjoy all that God has created.  Truthfully, we are thinking about ourselves and not about God’s mission for us.  Before long, worldly things take away from our time with God.  I assure you when we all stand before God, dance, eating at a new restaurant every week, sports, movies, hiking, biking, swimming, the best selling novel we are reading, all the hours at the gym trying to look like the people on the cover of that novel or the movie star in your favorite show, all the hours we spent at work to make money to pay for the things that remove us from a relationship with God will not matter.  The children of Israel had fallen into the same “modern” worldly traps for their time.  They had limited or completely severed their relationship with the one true God.  Now they would stand in horror looking over a great battle.

Verse 2:

Because of their unfaithfulness to the Lord, He had allowed Israel, or Judah in this particular book, to fall before an enemy.  Nineveh had been allowed to take control over them.  Although some may have hated that, some blended in with the new customs and practices adding to their sin.  At the end of verse 2, Nahum says their vine branches were marred.  Nineveh had further cut off the relationship with God.

Verses 3-6:

Nahum described the images God’s people would see.  If we look back to Exodus, God had protected His children from the horrors of war by leading them around warring cities and nations even though it would have been a shorter distance into the promised land.  God said that He did not wish for His chosen to see that. Now, they are forced to see these horrors in person.  The Babylonians are described as being dressed in red with red shields.  Some say these shields were painted red while some suggest the shields were covered in the blood of the fallen.  Either way, it was a sight to behold and not one easily forgotten.  Imagine if you saw an army with flaming torches approaching.  We tend to think of biblical scenes with a caveman concept.  These weren’t cavemen.  These people had the most modern weapons for their time.  These societies were sophisticated for their time.  They were organized, well-equipped, and well-trained.  This was not a bunch of villagers who grabbed the pitch fork from the barn and decided to stampede town hall.

Nahum predicted that God’s people would see the storming of the walls of Nineveh. Unlike today, cities were fortified with walls in that day.  The Babylonians would use Nineveh’s own water system to bring them down.  Yes, they had an intricate fresh water system and waste water system.  Their own streets and homes would be flooded in order to bring them down.  God used Nineveh’s own progress to bring them to utter destruction.

Verses 7-9

Nahum continued with the vivid description of Nineveh’s upcoming destruction.  His descriptions were meant not only to prepare Judah, but also to bring them some comfort.  They would soon be out of the control of the Assyrians.  Verse 7 says Huzzub shall be led away captive.  There is debate on who or what this refers to. Going by the text itself, one can assume that it is a queen in Nineveh. She is led away with her maids crying out.  The general opinion of many scholars is that Huzzub is the queen. However, Huzzub has the potential to be a pagan goddess, the city itself, or an unknown region east of the Tigris River.  This is one of those things that does not necessarily change the meaning of the text.  If Huzzub is a pagan goddess, then the attackers would take any idols and statues, likely being made of valuable metals, as spoils of war. The maids would be a picture of the false prophets and followers.  Regardless of how we chose to view it, this adds to the picture of the fall of Nineveh.  From this, the people of Judah could take some comfort knowing they were about to be free from the oppression of Assyria.

The people of Nineveh were a brutally selfish people.  What do I mean by that?  If the Assyrians wanted something, they took it.  They were no strangers to conquests.  If they wanted a land, they took it.  They were more concerned with “owning” things than they were even with imaginary gods.  Their idols were the things they “owned.”  The life of another human being was not precious to them.  They stole, killed, maimed, and destroyed to achieve their goals.  Verse 9 speaks of the spoil of silver and gold.  It tells that their possessions were great when it states, “there is none end of the store and glory…”

Remember that we are studying with the intent to learn and apply to our own lives. I am sad to say that we, here in this great nation, value possessions and experiences more than value serving and worshiping our Lord and Savior. We value our time more than the soul of the dying lost standing next to us in the checkout line.  No, I am not saying we live in modern day Nineveh.  But, what is keeping us from reaching their extremes? What motive do I personally have for every decision I make? Is it pure?

Verses 10-12

Verse 10 shows a waste land of death and despair.  Nineveh would end much the same way as it had ended other societies.  The lion was a symbol for many in that day and time as something fierce that won and conquered.  It is believed that the lion was the national symbol of Nineveh. Verses 11 and 12 describes the brutality and selfishness of Nineveh.  The “lion” destroyed any thing in its path to provide for itself and its family without regard for the lives it was destroying. A lion typically hunts only when it is hungry.  The lion mentioned here was filling its cave for later. Many people died at the hands of the Assyrians.

Verse 13

God reiterated his promise to Judah.  He said he would burn her chariots, the young lions would die by the sword, their messengers would cease to proclaim.  The oppressors of Judah would not just be scattered to the wind to later regroup and rebuild.  The Lord would allow them to be defeated to the point that they would never again rise up against His people or any other people.

As said yesterday in chapter 1, we try to handle things ourselves when we should allow God to do so.  We serve the one true, living, all powerful, mighty God and we try to plan, scheme, and handle life alone.  Judah should have turned to God the moment they saw trouble. Actually, they should have never forsaken their relationship with God.  They had to be in complete despair to learn their lesson. We can get so far from God that we have to experience some horrible sights before we come back.  We can look at this and hopefully evaluate ourselves and our relationship with God. I pray that we all seek to have the best relationship with God possible.